Yesterday, I roasted my last home-grown butternut squash. I had two left, but the smaller one started to get soft on one side and developed some kind of scar-like growth. So, I decided to cut the soft side and discard it and roast the rest with thyme and olive oil. I froze it for soup in the near future.
We are in that slow time between Christmas and New Year’s when people reminisce about the year that was and make plans for the year to come. Time for me to recap 2019 in my garden.
Tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, eggplant: I had a good (not great) and long run of tomatoes from my 6 plants. I loved the varieties I selected (in particular the new-to-me Pineapple tasted delicious) and will plant the same or similar ones next year. Mixing early (Paul Robeson, Cosmonaut), mid-season (Dr. Wychee Yellow) and late varieties (Pineapple, 2 Green Zebras) worked well. In hindsight, I think the home-grown Paul Robeson (labeled Poll Robson by Sand Hill Preservation Center as they were not sure) was a different tomato as it produced heavily but only small and very even fruit, so I think it was some sort of hybrid. The porch tomato (true Paul Robeson) sadly died because I think I over-fertilized. The blossoms just shriveled and fell off. I got a total of two tomatoes of it. I had one plant each of pickling and slicing cucumbers. They both did very well, the slicer more so than the pickling. Sadly, I never got around to pickle them and we just ate them like is. I will need to rethink my preserving goals for next year. The peppers in my plot did not do very well (I think they were shaded out by the tomatoes), the Jedi jalapenos on my porch on the other hand took off. I will either need to plant peppers in a fully sunny spot in my plot or plant them only on the porch. The baby eggplant on my porch did very well. I’d like to repeat that next year with a not-so-baby variety such as Ping Tung.
Potatoes: Super disappointing. For two years in the row now, I harvested only a couple of handfuls of potatoes. My back porch experiment failed as well. I had high hopes for that one as there are no pests in the soil that I could have blamed for a meager harvest.
Squash: Exceptional! One plant of butternut squash gave me 14 (34 pounds total of) squash. A great side effect was that the squash foliage completely covered the soil inhibiting weeds without hindering the growth of the other well-established plants. A great success.
Legumes: Great year for pole beans. I also planted them late, which was a good idea as I was able to harvest well into the fall and the beans did grow a bit slower, which prevented them from ripening to fast. The bush beans were okay. I just don’t like the flavor as much and will not grow them again next year. Peas did well.
Greens: I had a great harvest of butterhead lettuce. The leaf lettuce did not do as well and my fall greens mix was sown too late so I did not get to enjoy the greens. I had a great Swiss chard harvest despite the leaf miner problem. No kale this year, which will need to change in 2020.
Root vegetables: This year, I planted radishes, carrots and golden beets. The beets were great, the radishes were eaten by something. They showed a lot of bite marks and were woody, the carrots were an absolute no-show. Very disappointing.
Alliums: Good but not great garlic harvest. I harvested a total of about 40 heads, half of them softnecks (Transsylvania), which I braided and the other half hardnecks (Red Russian). Such a difference compared to store-bought garlic. They are very fresh and juicy and have a much stronger taste. The leeks stayed small this year. I think they did not have enough sun, as I planted them too lose to the chard. I decided to overwinter them. I still had volunteer onions and shallots all over the garden and enjoyed them throughout the year.
Brassicas: I planted purple cauliflower but it bolted and had bug issues so I sadly had to compost them. Never had much luck with brassicas.
Herbs: In my plot, I planted parsley and basil. The parsley died and the basil never took off for some reason. It stayed tiny. I heard from other gardeners that they had a very bad basil year as well. I also had a ton of volunteer mint and lemon balm. The herbs on my porch did much better except the basil, which also never took off. The parsley was great as was the sage. The thyme was great in the beginning and then grew leggy and dry despite watering. I also had mint, lavender and rosemary on my porch.
Perennials: My rhubarb looked very weak and small and I did not harvest any this year allowing the plant to recover from whatever ailment it is suffering. The asparagus did well given the small amount of plants I have in my plot.
Porch containers: This year I grew potatoes, mini eggplant, tomato, lettuce, jalapeno, chard and herbs on my porch. The eggplant did very well, the tomato did flower but did not set fruit (I probably over-fertilized), the lettuce and jalapeno did great. The chard was sown too late I think and the container too small, so it stayed small. I harvested almost no potatoes. The grapefruit had a lot of health issues from a mealy bug infestation to black spots on the leaves. I decided to get rid of it.
Flowers: Of the four (or three?) dahlias I planted, only one flowered. Luckily it was my favorite one. On the porch, I grew Astilbe, osteospermum, lavender and mums. It is nice to have flowers on the porch, definitely will do more of it next year.
My plans for 2020: Tomatoes: I am going for 6 heirloom plants, a mix of early (such as Paul Robeson) mid-season (Dr. Wychee Yellow) and late (Pineapple, Green Zebra). I will likely also plant two hybrid tomatoes and make to prepare and monitor the soil better this year. Cucumbers: One plant of slicers is enough for my family, and I will rethink the pickling cucumber. Peppers: I will plant hot peppers on the back porch again, maybe two different varieties – a jalapeno type and a Thai hot pepper. I may plant a bell pepper as well. Eggplant: An Asian variety on the back porch. I will likely not be able to grow any of the fruiting plants from seed so I will keep my fingers crossed for the Neighborhood Farm seedlings from our farmers market come May. Potatoes: None in 2020. Squash: Two types, butternut and delicata. Legumes: I will plant pole beans again late in the season. No bush beans but I will definitely plant peas again. Greens: Mix of head lettuces and leaf lettuces. No spring greens, no arugula etc. because of the flea beetles. Maybe fall greens. Definitely two or three kale plants (I missed having kale this year) and a row of rainbow chard. Root vegetables: I will order different carrot seeds and/or test my existing seeds. I had not a single seed germinate in the soil, so there may have been an issue with my seed batch. I will plant golden beets again (more than one row), but probably no radishes. Alliums: I will plant a couple of rows of leeks again. I planted 2 rows of hardneck garlic (saved from my biggest heads of Red Russians of 2019) and 4 rows of softneck garlic (Inchelium Red from Johnny’s). I will definitely plant garlic in the fall again and maybe shallots. Brassicas: Not sure if I will grow cauliflower again this year. Herbs: In my plot, I will plant parsley and basil. I will also very likely have some mint and lemon balm. On the porch, I will have parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender. Perennials: I will monitor the rhubarb hoping it will make a recovery. Fingers crossed. Porch: Hot peppers, one eggplant, one cherry (or small-fruiting) tomato, one or two pots with lettuce, plus herbs and flowers. Flowers: More in the plot and more on the porch. For the plot, I will go with dahlias and try sunflowers and Zinnias again. On the porch, I will have one or two flower pots. Let’s see if the lavender comes back.
We got our first snow of the season today. The kids had a snow day, the earliest I can remember. I did not make it to the community garden today, instead here is a picture of our back porch with some pots in the front (the sad looking plant is/was my parsley).
I am still incorporating vegetables from my garden into our dinners. Here are a few from last week. I made this delicious spaghetti with brown butter and butternut squash, for which I used squash and garlic from my garden plus sage and parsley from my back porch. I adapted the recipe and roasted the squash to bring out its sweetness.
We also had our DIY salad bar, where the last cucumber of the season found its end. Other ingredients were tomatoes, roasted carrots, hard-boiled eggs, leftover chicken, avocado, cheeses and lettuce, all topped with a creamy white balsamic vinaigrette. The garlic ciabatta was made with garlic from my garden.
I made a veggie pizza where I used up roasted broccoli, carrots and onions from another meal. These veggies were nestled on a bed of sauteed garlicky Swiss chard (the last of the season) and topped with cheeses. Chard and garlic came from my garden. I always make the pizza dough according to this recipe.
I also made quesadillas that were filled with sauteed peppers from the garden (plus onions and fresh tomatoes), another batch of butternut squash soup, and rice & beans with garlic from the garden and the last home-grown bell peppers.
The season of home-grown meals is coming to an end. I now only have butternut squash, shallots and garlic in my pantry and leeks in my garden as well as herbs.
Yesterday, I dug up the two dahlias. I had planted four originally, but two of them never grew despite the tubers have nice eyes. We had one hard frost a couple of days ago, so I hope they will be alright. I will store them in semi-moist peat moss in the basement.
The plot is ready for winter. Only the Swiss chard is still growing (much of it surprisingly undamaged by the frost), as are leeks, onions and winter greens. I will overwinter the onions and some of the leeks. The garlic is covered with a nice big layer of field hay and should be good until spring.
I spent three hours in the community garden today harvesting the last five squash (a total of 12 lbs. 2 oz., bringing the squash total to 34 lbs. 1 oz.!!!), (green) tomatoes, peppers and cucumber (!), and weeding, pulling lemon balm and mint, and spreading hay. I also planted a few tulips and more garlic. I think this might be the earliest I have ever gotten my plot ready for winter. The only thing still growing is Swiss chard, leeks and onions (I will likely overwinter both of those), and some fall greens.
I also cleaned our back porch and harvested the last jalapenos.
I went to Agricultural Hall yesterday afternoon and had a nice little chat with Bill about garlic, bees and apple cider. I got half a bale of field hay to spread on my garlic. It has been very rainy in the past few days and it is supposed to be a wet week. I hope the garlic I planted three days ago will be okay with all the water.
I still have quite a few things going on in my plot: squash, chard, leeks, onions, fall greens (mostly arugula and mustard greens), some last tomatoes, herbs and still some dahlias.
Yesterday, I harvested four more squash. They now cure in our back hallway. The night before – a very rainy and windy Sunday that my poor 17-year-old daughter spent outdoors at the last rowing regatta of the season on the Merrimack river – I had roasted three of the five previously harvested squash and turned half of the roasted pulp into a very tasty butternut squash soup with fried sage and cheese, adapted from this recipe. The soup was the perfect ending to a wet and raw day. I froze the other half of the pulp for future use.
All in all, I have harvested nine butternut squash so far. They weighed in at a total of 21 pounds and 15 ounces. I gave two of them to my neighbor and five are still on the vine – a total of 14.