I went to the garden this morning to water, and I harvested peas and garlic scapes. The garden is looking good, everything is growing nicely except the kale, which has become victim to some nibbler. If I am lucky, I will have one surviving plant. Other than that, everything looks great. The corn is coming up (I think, unless I mistook some weeds for it) and the dahlias (that I had stored in the basement since the fall under complete neglect) are also growing. I am excited.
I will have the peas for lunch (in a salad most likely) and will make pesto with the garlic scapes.
It is the end of December and time to review the past gardening season, what worked well and what did not. We had another year of COVID, but this spring, summer and fall were eased by the introduction of vaccines until omicron hit just a couple of weeks ago. In the community garden, life was back to almost normal, except that we did not have any gatherings or communal work days. Everybody logged their communal work hours individually.
I did not mulch with hay this season (except the garlic) to get rid of the pill bugs and I seemed to have some success. The downside of course was that I had many more weeds than in other years, especially early in the season, when things had not filled in yet. So, I will go another year without hay.
Fruiting crops (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants) It was a good year for tomatoes in the community garden. I had a really good harvest and could not keep up with eating them fresh, so I had to roast some of them. Yum! It is so nice to use your home-grown vegetables in the middle of winter. I had planted a total of ten tomatoes: one each Striped Roman, Paul Robson, Black Krim, Valencia, Break O’ Day, Poll Robson Angolan and two each Green Zebra and Baker Family Heirloom. Unfortunately, the labels fell off, and I could not identify them all in the end. The central stake/garden velcro method worked well for me. I will not go back to cages for tomatoes. I had good luck with pickling cucumbers this year (pickled twice) and the slicers did okay. Definitely better than last year. I think, I had powdery mildew but it did not hit until late. I shall investigate. I only grew hot peppers this year, a Thai pepper on the porch, which did very well, and Jalapeno on the porch which also did well. The Jalapeno in the plot also did well. Eggplants were not great this year. They stayed tiny and never ripened. Not sure what the problem was.
Squash. I had planted three varieties of winter squash: Butternut, Delicata and Lakota. Only the Butternut really took off, the two others were measly, the Delicata died early and the Lakota had one tennis ball-size fruit in the end. The Butternut had five fruit, one of which mysteriously developed soft spots and mold and I had to toss it. Four squash was just the right amount for this winter. I planted one zucchini this year. Strangely, it did not produce as well we in previous years but I had a few zucchinis.
Root vegetables. I planted beets, carrots and radishes. The porch radishes were great. The plot radishes were eaten by something and very woody. I am not going to bother again. The carrots were delicious as were the beets, but they were small this year. Perhaps I did not thin well enough.
Brassicas. I only planted kale this year. Three plants, which was plenty. They stayed small though and I suspect it is because they were shaded by the corn and tomatoes. Next year, I will plant them so that they get more sun.
Greens and lettuce. I planted chard and lettuces. The Chard had the same issue like the kale, I had planted it partly shaded by corn or tomatoes, so it stayed smallish. This will need to change next year. Lettuces did great in the spring, as usual, and the fall greens did well too. I just harvested some mustard greens last week and there are still greens in the ground.
Legumes. I planted peas and pole beans this year. The peas did well. I had a decent harvest and no loss due to birds. The beans had a hard time growing and I had to resow twice. The harvest was good, but I did not have enough plants to make it worthwhile. I will need to plant more next year.
Alliums. It was a good year for garlic. 64 heads pulled from the ground. Later in the fall, I noticed that I had onion maggots. Some of the hardneck bulbs were infested. I cleaned them all up (separated the cloves and discarded the diseased ones) and it seems to be fine now. I will need to look into it for next year. Hopefully the eggs do not overwinter. I planted the new crop as far away form the old site as possible.
Corn. For the first time in years, I dared to plant corn. I planted it in early June. Such a delightful crop. It’s a surprise. You don’t know what the colors are until you “unwrap” it. I just loved it. The rodents seemed not to be interested and I harvested around a dozen ears from six plants in the plot. I also planted some on the porch but those plants stayed small. I saved seeds for the plot for next year!
Flowers. A great year for flowers. I had this giant sunflower, which made me so happy. Lots of Zinnias and dahlias as well. I planted camomile, but it got leggy and eventually died. Also marigolds for the tomatoes. I loved the Zinnias. I harvested them well into October. I will plant even more next year.
Herbs. In the plot, I planted basil and parsley this year. The basil did well, but I don’t think I made traditional pesto this year other than garlic scape pesto early in the season. Next year for sure. The Thai basil did great and I made Thai basil pesto, which was delicious. (We served it over fish). More basil next year. I had plenty of basil for garnishes from my porch herb garden. I replanted basil on August 15, both on the porch and in the plot, and that was a great idea. The basil never bolted and I had fresh basil until well into October. Basil succession it will be from now on!
Perennials. I grow asparagus and rhubarb. The rhubarb is still sickly. I am not sure what the issue is. I might just have to pull it and plant a new one. I love rhubarb and I miss it. The asparagus did well. It has gotten kind of clumpy and I think, I will divide it in early spring.
Porch. I grew mostly herbs on the porch this year, which I find to be the best use of the space. I also grew one hot Thai pepper plant that did very well and yielded a lot of fruit, which I turned into homemade Sriracha, it is so flavorful and spicy that it will likely last the whole year. I am definitely doing that again next year. I also had baby eggplant, one tomato plant, none of which did very well. In the spring I planted lettuces, which did well followed by corn, not so much. The cucumber also did not do well. I think lettuces, herbs, hot peppers (I also grew a jalapeno that did great) is what I will do next year. Lots of parsley and basil. And flowers.
Plans for 2022. I had ten tomato plants, which was a great number and I probably will grow the same amount or maybe scale it back to 8 next year. Key again will be to do a mix of early, mid and late tomatoes, so I have a steady harvest from late July to late October. The hot peppers did great, I will definitely plant a Thai pepper for homemade Sriracha and a Jalapeno again on the porch. Probably not in the plot. No bell pepper though. Eggplants: I just love them. Next year, I might try a couple of traditional Italian eggplants or the slender Asian variety. The dwarf varieties just do not seem to work well for me. As for cucumbers, I will plant two or three pickling and perhaps two slicers. I feel the pickling cucumbers are of greater value for me because we all love them and they keep for a while. I sometimes feel I am too late harvesting the slicers in time and then they are too big. I will plant carrots and radishes again, but radishes on the porch only and not in the plot. I will plant one zucchini and make sure it has plenty of space and sun. One winter squash will be plenty for next year as I am the only one eating them. Maybe I will try Delicata again, because I love it so much. Or honeynut. Peas and beans again. For beans, only pole beans and more next year. Peas for snacking only, so I will plant a ton for early harvesting in the spring. I will plant lettuces from seed again, different varieties. Perhaps I will manage to succession plant this year, that would be great, so I could have a steady supply in late spring and early summer and then again in the fall. I want more Swiss chard for next year, perhaps three or four big healthy plants. Also three kale plants. No other brassicas, I think, because of the aphids and because I just have had not much luck with cauliflower or Brussels sprouts. I will grow leeks next year, I really missed them this year. The garlic went into the ground in early November. As for flowers, I will plant more Zinnias and dahlias. I really loved the Zinnias. And I loved the giant sunflower, even though it took up space and shaded some of my crops. Maybe cosmos again, and nasturtium, and of course marigolds to keep the tomatoes good company. For herbs, I will have my little kitchen garden on the porch again, with basil, (a lot of) parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, mint and more. In the plot, it will be basil and parsley. This year I will make a lot of basil pesto for sure. I also loved the Thai basil pesto, so I will grow Thai basil on the porch again. As for the perennials, I will divide the asparagus and hope for the best for the rhubarb, although I might just have to replace it. On the porch next season, I will grow my herbs, hot peppers and perhaps some flowers. And lettuce and radishes in the spring.
I planted about 60 cloves of garlic this afternoon, half and half softnecks and hardnecks. I noticed that some of the hardneck garlic in my pantry was infested with onion flies, I could see the maggots inside the base of the bulbs. So I took all the heads apart to check and tossed the affected ones. Now I have a big wooden bowl with mostly single cloves and some quarter and half-heads. I hope they will not rot prematurely.
I am not sure where the onion flies came from. Probably from the plot. So I picked the farthest spot away from this year’s garlic to plant next year’s crop. I mulched the garlic with salt marsh hay. This will be the only hay I use over the winter into next season as I am still trying to get rid of the pill bug infestation. I had to do much more weeding this year but it did seem to have worked to reduce the pest.
I finally harvested my Thai peppers today. I had one plant in a container on my back porch and it gave me two cups of hot peppers. Most of them were red, some (about a third of them total) still green. I cut off the entire plant and then picked the peppers to make hot sauce. I followed this recipe for Thai hot sauce but I lowered the amount of vinegar because I wanted it thicker. I also do not have a food mill, so it is just hot sauce, seeds and all. It is super spicy and I am looking forward to using it instead of store-bought Sriracha sauce and Chili garlic sauce.
Today, I finished the garlic preparation for the this year’s harvest. I cleaned and braided 26 softnecks (and had another 11 heads that were split or not braidable) and also cleaned and destemmed 26 hardnecks. So overall, I harvested 63 heads. That should last me well into next year. However, I just realized that I forgot to save the biggest heads for planting this fall, so I need to cut four large heads from the braid prematurely. I will also save the four largest hardnecks.
I spent some time in the garden today weeding the spot where I pulled the garlic a few days ago. I planted carrots and beets there and saved some space for fall greens that will go in the ground in a few weeks. I also sowed more pole beans, as some of the plants had been chewed down to their little stems by, I suspect, a rabbit. My harvest: a couple of pickling cucumbers and flowers.
I also cleaned the garlic today and hung it in our back stairwell to cure. In about two to three weeks, I will braid the softnecks and destem the hardnecks and store them for the long-term.
I finally pulled the garlic yesterday. I pulled a total of 64 heads (37 softneck and 27 hardneck). I was pleasantly surprised about their size as I had planted them a bit too close together and the stems were not very strong in many cases, the latter is probably a result of all the rain we had lately. They are now drying on the porch for a couple of days and then will be cleaned and hung to dry for three weeks or so in our back hallway. Here is to another great harvest. I still have two heads from last year’s harvest in my pantry.