2015 Garden Post-Mortem

This past gardening season we tripled the size of our garden. Except for some layout tweaks and usability optimizations, we now have effectively all possible land on our property in cultivation that isn’t used for entertaining space, play space, or is simply too shady. While there was a lot of work early in the season cutting the new beds, by the end of the season the garden was very low maintenance outside of harvesting. Due to timing and crop failure, we don’t have much of a fall garden, so with the first frost killing our tender annuals, the 2015 season is effectively over.

Asparagus 

We planted 1-year crowns so could not harvest. I’ve never grown asparagus before, but the two small patches seem happy and weren’t very hard to keep weed free.

Broccoli – 7 pounds

I planted two varieties this year. Arcadia was a return from 2014’s garden and continues to impress. The healthiest plants survived all the way through the season and are still giving side shoots if I remember to pick them (a few plants I missed hidden ones that went to bloom). Green Magic was supposed to be a heat-tolerant variety but was somewhat unimpressive. I’ll trial it again in 2016 in case it was a siting or fertility issue.

While I love the taste of fresh-picked broccoli (<1 hour from ‘field’ to pan) it’s not a space-efficient crop. In future years I may decide to outsource it.

Cucumbers – 21 cukes

I trialed Shuyo Long and Spacemaster 80 this year. Both were quite tasty but I picked lousy spots for them which led to very disappointing yields.

Green Beans – 52 pounds

Purple Velour was deemed a delicacy by the rabbits and never made it. Provider was a high-yielding bean that tasted fantastic and sustained minimal pest damage even outside of the fenced garden. I’ve never been able to buy a bean – even at the farmer’s market – that tasted as good as our homegrown beans. Yield would have been higher if I had replanted the first patch with a late sowing, but I was curious how many flushes the variety would give. By the time yield was too poor to bother picking, it was too close to our first frost date to sow. Next year I’m planning 3 plantings instead of this year’s 2 to keep the beans flowing into late September.

Kale

Our Tuscan kale has seemed happy this year but I’ve discovered I have zero appetite for it right now. I’ve given away some to friends.

Kohlrabi – 4 bulbs

I had some old seed that didn’t grow very vigorously, but kohlrabi is cheap enough to buy here that this wasn’t a major loss. Deciding whether it’s worth devoting space to or buying at market.

Lettuce (Mesclun) – 2.75 pounds

Between our homegrown lettuce and the CSA box, I hit salad fatigue really early in the season and basically gave up managing our greens. Next year I won’t be making the mistake of buying a CSA share, so I’ll probably do small sowings of mesclun. It’s a really easy crop to grow as long as you give it the right amount of moisture for germination.

Peas (Snap) – 6 pounds

Sugar Daddy is a fully stringless variety but the vines are so short that it’s not particularly worth the space. I’ve learned a few things about peas from Carol Deppe’s Tao of Vegetable Gardening that I’ll apply to the pea patch next year (namely planting at continues 2″ spacing with “rows” at least 24″ wide, instead of the single row I thought was correct). I overbought seed, so I may just use up what I have instead of trying a new variety (seed budget for 2016 will be quite limited), but I doubt this variety will be a long-term favorite.

Potatoes – 18 pounds

I planted 3 pounds of Yukon Gold seed tubers. A 1:6 yield is rather disappointing. After some research, I think it was a mixture of too-heavy soil and not hilling up enough. Considering the price I can get excellent local potatoes at, I’m not going to do this again until I have considerably more space.

Rhubarb

Yield was negligible. The crown I’d transplanted isn’t thriving and half the crowns I’d purchased failed outright. I think I need to be more aggressive when doing site prep.

Strawberries

Also negligible yield. I wasn’t expecting much out of our first-year June-bearing berries, but the ‘everbearing’ variety we planted was decidedly not everbearing, coming to a complete halt past July. I need to do some more research, but for the everbearing variety I may need to provide more fertility. Fresh garden strawberries are nice, but keeping animals away from the berries and foliage is quite annoying. These may get scrapped after next year, or considerably reworked.

Tomatoes (Cherry) – 25 pounds

After many raving recommendations about SunGold cherry tomatoes, I grew them as our cherry variety this year. I like the flavor, but I’m not a huge raw tomato person. The Alchemist definitely ate a few handfuls here and there. For most part we’ve enjoyed the sweetness they’ve lent (when used in moderation) to sauce. I’ll probably plant fewer plants next year as they’re overly prolific for how we use them.

Tomatoes (Paste) – 31 pounds

I planted two varieties, Mariana (a pepper-shaped tomato) and Opalka (a Roma-shaped tomato) for paste. Both were rather underwhelming, susceptible to blossom-end rot and very slow to ripen. Despite being determinate varieties, they also did not ripen over a concentrated period of time – certainly no more concentrated in their ripening than the other tomatoes we planted. I’ve got other varieties slated to replace them for next year.

Tomatoes (Slicing) – 59 pounds

Even as a non-tomato lover, I liked the flavor of the few Cosmonaut Volkovs I did slice into. What I also appreciated about this Russian heirloom was vigorous growth, few issues with BER or other blemishes, and a flesh that’s not too watery to be effectively used in sauce. The yield was achieved using the same amount of bed space as the other two types of tomatoes. This is almost certainly returning in 2016’s garden.

Winter Squash (Acorn) – 16 pounds

We grew Sweet REBA, which is a “bush” type that’s supposed to be quite disease resistant. Growing winter squash here is tough for lack of a large continuous space to let vines run, nor terribly great places to put trellises without shading out other beds. The yield here was ok for the amount of plants I used. I’ll grow this variety again but am actively looking for other compact winter squashes.

Winter Squash (Kabocha) – 29 pounds

I had a few spaces where I could let large vines roam. Carol Deppe praises Sunshine in her books but the fruit quality we’ve eaten so far has been only moderate. I may plant this again next year, I may not.

Zucchini – 105 pounds

I grew three summer squash varieties. Two, Benning’s Green Tint (pattypan) and Alexandria (a pale green quasi-melon shape) were underwhelming in vigor and taste. The heirloom Costata Romanesco was vigorous, produced enormous yields (particularly from one particular site), and had amazing flavor used in sautee, drying as chips, or shredded for use in tacos and breads. If you’ve never tried this, you simply must grow it. It’s unlike any zucchini variety I’ve tried. It is not advertised as PM resistant but in my garden, this season, it showed the fewest mildew problems of all the squash varieties I grew.

Concluding Thoughts

I had very few expectations coming into this year, hence hedging my bets on local veggie supply by purchasing a (in hindsight, considerably overpriced) CSA share. I tripled the available garden space, which was considerable work in and of itself. Budget constraints prevented much of any soil amendments. Some of the varieties were failures in growing, others in taste. Space can be used considerably more efficiently.

With all of these caveats, I pegged the total fair market value at $700. The yield and taste of the crops which did succeed blew me away. There’s no way we should have bought the CSA share, and have ended up sharing (no pun intended) much of it out because we can’t eat it, or it includes things we’re not particularly fond of. Next year I’ll just use the farmer’s markets here to fill in gaps for everyday consumption. The layout for next year’s garden is mostly planned, but those plans have a way of revising themselves in the face of shiny new seed catalogs that arrive in the dead of winter.

How did your garden do this season? What lessons did it teach you for next year?

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2 Comments on “2015 Garden Post-Mortem”

  1. Well, I managed to kill rosemary. I thought rosemary was supposed to be super-hardy. I killed TWO rosemary plants! And one of them was in one of the planters that gets watered from the swamp cooler, so it was not totally neglected.

    On the other hand, my basil had a great yield for two plants. (There was another but–you see this coming, right?–I killed it.) I think I can freeze one more batch of pesto before it dies off. I’m out of pine nuts and romano, so it will be use-in-soup pesto.

    I also planted the white bottoms of some green onions I bought at the store and had way more green onions than I could possibly eat, since I’m the only one who likes them. They are still growing like crazy.

    I know not everything succeeded, but in the aggregate, it seems like you did awesome for your first year with a much bigger space. And learned a ton!

  2. Alexandria is a terrible _cooked_ squash, but it is the unique squash I enjoy as a raw squash (!!). I generally find raw squash to be abominable, but Alexandria is the unique amount of nuttiness and crispness to be tasty. If you still have any, try it without cooking!!


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