2019 Review

Garden plot on August 1

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.

Tomato harvest, August 25

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.

Porch fingerling potato harvest, September 15

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.

Butternut squash, August 24

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.

Pole beans “Kentucky Wonder”, September 25

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.

Lettuce, June 7

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.

Golden beets, harvested August 24

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.

Garlic, harvested July 26, braided August 22

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.

Thyme on my porch

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.

Grapefruit, mini eggplant, parsley and basil, chard, August 30

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.

Spring Planting

Garden plot May 24
left side (from front): peas, spinach, onion, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, butternut squash, pepper, flowers
right side: radishes, Swiss Chard, head lettuce, cauliflower, beets, leeks, garlic, potatoes, onions, asparagus, rhubarb, flowers

Here are my actual spring planting dates for this season.

Indoors:

  • March 16: started eggplant (Fairy Tale) and hot Thai pepper from seed indoors
  • March 23: started eggplant (Ping Tung), tomatoes (Break O’Day, Paul Robeson, Dr. Wychee Yellow, Green Zebra, Baker Family Heirloom), curly kale (seeds from 2017) and head lettuce (Kagran Summer) from seed
  • March 30: basil (sweet Italian) – six compartments in egg carton from seed
  • April 8: shipment of seed potatoes arrived. I put them out to sprout.
  • April 20: repotted tomatoes and some of the lettuce
  • April 21: I lost most of my seedlings tonight. I still have some tomatoes (one each Break O’Day, Dr. Wychee, Green Zebra) and the basil. I re-sowed one pot each of pickling cucumber, and slicer cucumber as well as one Paul Robeson tomato. No home-grown eggplant or peppers this year. It is too late to reseed. I also still have some head lettuce and kale.
“Hot Thai” pepper and “Fairy Tale” eggplant seedlings, 2 weeks old (March 30)

Outdoors

  • March 19: started mâche in a big flat on our back porch
  • March 31: sowed two rows of sugar snap peas, one row of spinach in between in plot; also two rows of carrots (Bolero) and one row of radishes in between (French breakfast)
  • April 6: the mâche did not germinate. I sowed arugula and spring greens in the same big flat
  • April 28: resowed carrots (rainbow) and sowed lettuce (Kagran Summer and Bronze Beauty) and some more peas in plot
  • April 28: sowed Swiss chard and leaf lettuce “Great Salad Bowl” in two separate pots on the back porch
  • May 7: trip to Allendale Farm. I purchased herbs for the plot and the back porch (basil, parsley, sage, thyme), cauliflower, head lettuce, lavender, dahlias and Osteospermum plus fertilizer and other supplies. I potted up the flowers, sage, thyme, 2 lettuce plants, 1 parsley and two basil cells for the back porch. The rest will go in the plot in the next couple of days.
  • May 11: planted fingerling potatoes and sowed more carrots, Swiss chard and peas as well as sunflowers, zinnias and cosmos in plot. Also planted dahlia tubers (only 3, they were supposed to be two each, but one bag only had one bit tuber in it). Transplanted the 6 cauliflower plants, 4 lettuce plants and the parsley I bought a few days ago.
  • May 18: planted eggplant (Fairy Tale), one tomato (Paul Robeson) and hot pepper (Jedi Jalapeno) in pots on the back porch
  • May 23: planted potatoes in grow bags on the back porch
  • May 24: transplanted seedlings into the plot: 6 tomatoes, 1 pepper, 2 cucumbers (1 pickling, 1 slicer), 1 butternut squash and a six-pack each of golden beets and leeks
  • June 15: transplanted two cucumber plants (Marketmore, a slicer and Little Lemon, a pickling cucumber) into the plot
Tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, basil seedlings on April 20

Porch Update

The plants on my back porch are doing well. I am growing tomatoes (Paul Robeson), eggplant (Fairy Tale), hot pepper (Jedi Jalapeño), cut lettuce, butter lettuce, potatoes, Swiss Chard and herbs (mint, sage, thyme, rosemary, basil and parsley). Also on the porch are our grapefruit “tree”, our palm – both are indoor plants during the colder months – and several potted perennials: lavender, Osteospermum and Dianthus.

herbs
butter lettuce
tomato
mint
thyme
sage

Porch Arugula Fail

I planted arugula on my porch on April 6. It had been so cold and wet these past weeks that those little guys had a hard time growing. Finally, on May 6, spring seemed to have started at last.

May 7 – tiny plants after a month

Not much happened during the month of May. The plants stayed tiny because it was still wet and cold (there was even snow one day in Central Massachusetts!). I thinned the bed on May 25th.

May 25 – thinning after the first couple of warmer days.

At the end of May, the temperatures started to steadily stay in the upper sixties / low seventies during the day. The plants did not like the sudden heat on my southwest-facing porch and bolted.

June 8 – leggy and bolting

I composted the whole lot. Well, at least I got a delicious lunch out of it. Maybe if I try it again next year, I will grow them in a shadier cooler spot to prevent bolting. And I sure hope for a “normal” spring.

Peas and Lettuce

Pea flower

The peas are flowering and the butter lettuce is bulking up nicely. This morning, I hilled the potatoes (both in the plot and on my porch) and harvested more asparagus. I sprinkled Epsom salt around the tomatoes (they love magnesium). Sadly, no sign of any flowers, including the dahlias. Very strange. I will put the green beans in soon and transplant the kale.

Today’s Harvest – Early June

Radishes, spinach, asparagus and two early volunteer onions

I spent an hour in the garden weeding and spreading compost today. I also harvested a few veggies. I noticed that some critter had completely decimated my two cucumber seedlings :(. Also, no signs of carrots and/or any flowers. I will reseed carrots soon.

Garlic is looking great, peas are coming in. All other seedlings are still small – the weather has been so strange. Overall we had a very cold wet and long spring and only recently had a few days where temperatures reached into the low seventies. Everything seems to be late and slow this year.

(Trans)planting

Today, I transplanted most of my seedlings: 6 tomatoes, 1 pepper, 2 cucumbers (1 pickling, 1 slicer), 1 butternut squash and a six-pack each of golden beets and leeks.

I also thinned the radishes and harvested two huge overwintered leeks that were in the way. All lettuce and the cauliflower plants have chew holes but the inner leaves look healthy. The spinach is looking good, not too much pest damage. The peas are coming along and the garlic is looking strong. The carrots are a no-show again. Not sure what the problem is. I will wait a couple more weeks and then resow.