Yesterday, I harvested about three cups of red currants. This hardly made a dent in this year’s bounty. The bush in our backyard has grown a lot over the past couple of years. This morning, I decided to make these red currant crumb bars for breakfast. They came out perfect.
My gardening year 2022 started late because I had COVID, which kept me unable to do much for most of the spring. So, I did not start planting until the very end of April. We had a very dry and hot summer, which was great for tomatoes, but terrible for cucumbers and many other crops. Like last year, I did not mulch with hay, trying to get the pill bugs under control. They appeared to have been reduced in numbers, so hopefully next year, they will be even less of a problem.
I noticed in general that many plants were kind of stunted and did not grow very tall this year. I think I have to seriously amend my soil early next season to replenish nutrients. It may be time for another soil test. We did have both community garden work days in person this year, which was very nice. It was great to tackle some bigger projects, such as replacing some rotted timber borders, together as a group.
Fruiting crops (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants) It was an amazing year for tomatoes. The dry hot summer provided perfect conditions. I had planted 13 tomato plants (10 different varieties total). My favorites were Ananas Noire, Dr. Wyche Yellow, Green Zebra, Striped German, and Black Prince. The Black Strawberry looked amazing and was one of the earlier varieties, but I did not find the taste very interesting, and the skin was kind of tough. I had a ton of tomatoes. To preserve them, I did several rounds of oven-roasting them together with garlic and herbs. I packed them in jars covered with olive oil and stored them in the freezer for use all throughout the winter and spring. The cucumbers did well until early August when they all shriveled up and died. It was just too hot for them. I only got a few slicers and a handful of pickling cucumbers, just enough to make two jars of refrigerator pickles. Peppers were planted only on the porch this year. The Jalapeno did really well, but the Thai hot pepper plant stayed kind of small compared to last year and also produced small fruit, not enough to make more sriracha. The eggplants were pathetic. They never grew, and while they set fruit, they were too small to harvest.
Squash. I had planted three varieties of winter squash: Butternut, Delicata and Honeynut. All three plants looked healthy and well in the beginning of the season and set fruit, but then simply disappeared. The same with the zucchini plant. It had set fruit looking good, but then the fruit stopped growing and the plant died. I did not notice any pests or mildew. Other gardeners had nice big squash, so I am not sure what is going on.
Root vegetables. I planted beets, carrots and radishes. I think I did a bad job thinning the beets, as I only harvested a few handfuls and they were small. The carrots did well, especially the fall carrots. The porch radishes were great as usual. It is always great to harvest fresh home-grown vegetables early in the season.
Brassicas. I only planted kale this year. Three plants, which was plenty. They stayed small like most other plants, and I did not have the bounty I was hoping for. They also had aphids later in the season, so I pulled them.
Greens and lettuce. I planted chard and lettuces in the plot; arugula, chard and lettuces on the porch. The chard in the plot stayed small until it perked up in the fall. I had a smaller harvest than I hoped. The container rainbow chard did very well, and I got a pretty good harvest out if it. Plus, it looked very pretty. The lettuces did great, I wish I had planted them earlier. The porch arugula was great as well.
Legumes. I planted peas and Kentucky Wonder pole beans this year. Both did great. As usual, I planted the beans not until late July and had a bountiful harvest until mid-October.
Alliums. It was a good year for garlic. I harvested 57 heads total (of 60 planted the previous fall); 27 heads of hardnecks (Red Russian) and 30 heads of softnecks (Transylvania). In November, I planted only 36 cloves, as I am anticipating much less cooking in 2023 with two kids in college next fall. I did not harvest the leeks as they were kind of small, but mulched them well. I hope they will make it through the winter.
Corn. I loved the glass gem corn so much that I planted it again this year. The plants did not grow as tall as last year, and the ears stayed small. I also planted King Philip corn, which I was very excited about. Unfortunately, the rats completely raided the King Philip corn. I did not harvest a single ear. They had left the glass gem corn alone last year, but this year not so much. So, I had to harvest the ears that were left a lot sooner than planned, and they were small and not as pretty as last year’s.
Flowers. 2022 was an amazing year for flowers. The Zinnias and cosmos had a late start as I did not sow them until early June, but I had so many beautiful flowers all the way until late November. I also had planted marigolds as companion plants to the tomatoes and dahlias. Those were single-flower dahlias, which I did not like quite as much.
Herbs. In the plot, I planted basil and parsley this year. Both did exceptionally well. I made a ton of basil pesto and harvested the parsley all throughout the year. The porch herbs did great as usual, and I got to make several batches of Thai basil pesto. My new favorite. The kids and I love to use the pesto in this recipe. I had basil on the porch as well but forgot to plant a second round of porch basil later in the season (July) like I did last year.
Perennials. The rhubarb is still doing very poorly. I bought another plant from the Neighborhood Farm, but I might have ripped it out accidentally while cleaning out the plot for winter. Oops! I guess, we will see in the spring. The asparagus definitely was slowing down. I divided it in November and hope that this will reinvigorate its growth.
Porch. I grew mostly herbs and flowers on the porch this year. I grew two cherry tomato plants: one Black Strawberry (grown from seed) and one Super Sweet 100 (given to me by a friend), and they did okay. I really should stop growing tomatoes on containers as there are better uses of my space. I also grew three pepper plants: Thai, Jalapeno and Sweet Pickle. All of them did okay with the Jalapeno being the most productive. The herbs were the stars as usual: basil, rosemary, sage, mint, thyme, chives, Thai basil, cilantro, parsley. The Thai basil did especially well. I got three batches of pesto out of two “plants” (each of them the result of a batch-sowing of four or five seeds). The Swiss Chard did really well. I will do that again next year but in an even bigger pot. The salad greens (May Queen and Salanova Mix) did well.
Plans for 2022. I will need to rethink what and how much I grow next season as both my kids will be off to college next fall. The amounts my household will eat will be very different. I had 13 tomato plants, which was great as both my kids were home this summer helping me consume them. Next summer, only my son will be home as my daughter is studying abroad in the spring and summer. So, I will reduce the number to eight to ten plants. Still more than I can eat, so I will make sure to stagger early, mid-season and late tomatoes. I will continue to preserve them by oven-roasting. I will plant hot peppers again, likely only on the porch. Two plants, one Thai and one Jalapeno. If I plant eggplants again, I might buy seedlings. I somehow have not had much luck with home-grown eggplant seedlings. They just stay small. I will probably plant an Asian variety. I will definitely grow cucumbers again, three pickling cucumber plants and two slicers. I will try to grow winter squash again, Delicata and Butternut. Perhaps a Honeynut. I will probably skip zucchini next year. I will plant radishes on the porch in early spring, and carrots and beets in the plot, this year making sure I thin them properly. I will have three or four curly kale plants, but probably no other brassicas. A for greens, I will grow lettuce on my porch and in the plot and plant rainbow Swiss chard in the plot, four to five plants. I am not sure I will grow arugula this year, but definitely a fall greens mix. I will grow snap peas and pole beans again, the latter again later in the season. I will succession-plant those, as this has worked very well for me these past couple of years. The garlic is already in the ground, and I will grow leeks again. The corn harvest was discouraging. I might take a break from corn this year. I will definitely grow many flowers. They were such a joy. I will direct-sow zinnias and cosmos, and get a few dahlia tubers in the ground as well. Those will be for cutting. I also as always will grow nasturtiums and marigolds for pest control. For herbs, I will continue to plant my kitchen container garden on my back porch (basil, Thai basil, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, mint), and will only have basil and parsley in the plot. As for perennials, I hope that dividing the asparagus has re-invigorated it, and that I did not accidentally pull the new rhubarb. The porch will have herbs, hot peppers and flowers. No tomatoes (just not worth it), but rainbow chard (a larger pot this time), lettuces and radishes. I am looking forward to 2023.
I made red currant jam. I picked 500 g from our red currant bush and made jam by adding 250 g of sugar and a bit of vanilla extract. I also added Gelierfix, a pectin-based gelling agent, according to the instructions to help the jam set. I canned the jam in a water bath for ten minutes, so it is shelf-stable. Looking forward to eating the jam for breakfast or using it for baking in the winter months.
First peas, first strawberries, first garlic scapes. Much more to come. Lettuce is winding down after our five day-heatwave. Plus a few sprigs of mint. Big salad for dinner tonight.
We went apple picking yesterday. We always go to Honey Pot Hill Orchard. It was super nice and since it was a Monday afternoon, not crowded at all. We came home with half a bushel of apples (Cortland and Mutsu only, as these are the kids’ favorites). The sandwiches we had at the orchard were delicious (I used the homemade pickled green tomatoes I made yesterday). It was baguette spread with salted butter and grainy mustard, topped with sharp cheddar, apple slices (from just harvested apples), pickled tomatoes and lettuce. So good! Sadly, I forgot to take a picture.
Today’s harvest: first pickling cucumbers (they are big!), last peas, and Swiss chard. Also, the first real red currant harvest. I had planted a bush in our backyard in the fall two years ago. Last summer, the plant was tiny and we got only a handful of currants. This year, I harvested a good amount. Pictured are about two thirds, maybe.