Saturday, 28 January 2017

2016: My Year In The Vegetable Garden

Happy New Year!  A bit late, for sure, but then I am a bit late in sharing this post.

Nevertheless I wanted to share my results from last season in the vegetable garden as I am already underway with 2017 plans.  I have worked my way through the seed packets I have on hand and have flipping through the variety of catalogues that have arrived in the mail.

I am excited that my overall harvest for 2016 at 218.9 pounds was an increase over the 186.4 pounds in 2015 (a 17% increase)!  And it was mostly thanks to my huge harvest of peppers - a very successful year with 36 pounds of mostly sweet peppers (Xanthia, Gypsy and Feher Ozon being the largest yields).

It was also a slightly better year for cucurbits - mostly winter squash in my case.  I had moved my squash patch to the other side of the property in the hopes of escaping the mass of squash bugs from the previous year.  I also treated the plants with neem oil more often than the previous year plus switched to some different varieties that were supposed to be vigorous growers in the hopes they would be sufficiently mature and sturdy by the time the bugs found them. I definitely had less problems with pests, but I still only managed 13 pounds more than 2015.  Still, a positive result and I'll rotate that crop to yet another area this year to confuse the critters again.  :)

This was my second year weighing and tracking my harvests.  More importantly, I had started in 2015 to note the date when I first started seeds, where they were started (indoor, direct seed into garden, in greenhouse) and so was able to simply replicate the timing in 2016 or adjust for those that needed some scheduling change.

And here's an example of some of the other pieces of information I keep to help with planning each year ... sometimes I forget to fill in all of the blanks!

As far as new crops for 2016, I had some successes and failures with the following coming to top of mind:

Crystal Apple Cucumber:  I grew these in the greenhouse, and they were not overly productive.  I also found them bitter in taste.  I read somewhere that too much heat can produce bitterness, but ... what the heck ... I thought cukes loved the heat?  Not sure if I'll bother with these again.

Sweet Potatoes:  This was my first attempt and I had found a short season variety that is commonly grown in my area.  I did manage to grow some, maybe about 20 in total from 4 plants.  So not great yield and they were quite small.  I loved the taste and equally love the idea of growing these myself, but they were a tremendous amount of work with developing the slips indoors.  I doubt I'll do these again, but if I run across the same producer at the Seedy Saturday this spring, well, I might be convinced to give them another go.

Hale's Best Melon:  I had fantastic results with this muskmelon and was giving it away to friends as I had so many. I also chunked some up and froze it - actually just ate some tonight!  However, I think this was a function of the great weather I had here last year with high temperatures and just enough rain to keep things going with a bit of help now and then.  I will definitely grow them again, but I believe my success was more luck than skill.

Croatian Chard:  A friend gave me some seeds for what he calls "Blitva" - from what I can tell, it's a Croatian version of Swiss Chard.  It grew like a weed and was delicious!  I have some seeds left from the batch he gave me, but he's going to have to hook me up with his supplier next season because this crop is a keeper for sure.

Fingerling Potatoes:  OK, well, fingerling potatoes are definitely not a new crop for me but I have discovered two new favourites that were new this year: Linzer and Pink Fir Apple.  I found these seed potatoes at the Ottawa Seedy Saturday and hope to find more again this spring.

Feher Ozon Peppers: And I've already mentioned my success with peppers above including the pricier Xanthia (well worth it) and Gypsy peppers from West Coast Seeds.  But I was thrilled with the Feher Ozon which were dried and ground into paprika.  They also had a very large yield although, again, this is likely a function of the very good weather I had last season.

I had some other new crops that I was so-so about such as collards which I enjoyed but didn't love and the mustard greens which kept bolting and I never really had a chance to eat any.  But I think I'll try both of those one more year and see how it goes.

So I hope my next post won't be so late as this one has been, but I'll catch up next when I've got my seasonal seed order in place and will share my plans for this coming year.

And I'll leave this off with a picture of another new favourite experience from last season - I absolutely adore my new dehydrator and the many things I was able to do with it!!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Harvest Monday: December 5, 2016

Well, we've had some wonderful weather this past week but I am not going to be duped - I fully expect a nasty winter here!  I just wish it would contain itself to a shorter period of time!  And it started again last night with a few inches of snow.

I was driving back from the shops yesterday and saw a woman clipping dogwood branches along the ditches near my house.  And I thought, wow, I have lots of those in my yard, what a great idea!  So I snipped a few.  And grabbed a few berries from the yard for extra colour ... which I think are holly??

Feel free to speculate otherwise, I'm terrible with knowing what's what around here - I've moved a lot over the years and always getting used to local flora takes a while (Canada, you are beautiful everywhere!).

Anyway, on to the harvest.  My final harvest for the season are these Brussels sprouts.  I do have some greens hanging out in the greenhouse (arugula and spinach) but there has been very little sunshine.  And the rutabaga in the ground is not maturing well so I'll see how it looks in the spring (along with the parsnip which I am intentionally leaving).  In the picture below, you will see a rosemary plant that I am overwintering inside as well as the one remaining "mystery" squash (yes, OK, we know now it's basically just a spaghetti squash)  I've left it upstairs to use first instead of the properly matured squash stored in my cold room.

Although this is the last harvest from my garden for the season, I have all sorts of plans for things I've already harvested and will share anything of interest over the winter.  And now I will pop over to Our Happy Acres to see what other gardeners are doing this week with the Harvest Monday collection.  Wishing a happy and fruitful week to all!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Harvest Monday: November 14, 2016

This is my first harvest of Palla Rossa Bella radicchio - it has such wonderful colours!  As far as I know, it is supposed to form a head but has not done so at this point (or at least is just starting to). Some of these were in a container since the summer but really weren't sizing up at all due to insufficient space.  And some were in a raised garden but only for a couple of months now (with more to come in that bed).  So it's not much but enough for a meal or two.

And I've pulled some more parsnips.  And at the bottom right of the photo, you'll see some immature rutabagas - I thought I'd see what they looked like and they are definitely not ready yet.  They haven't sized up well considering they've been in a raised bed since July - I don't have high hopes.  If they aren't big enough to make use of within the next few weeks, I might just leave them and see if they will overwinter (I suspect so, but not sure about my very cold winter temperatures).

And Mom, since you were just asking about this (does anyone else remember the mystery FrankenSquash - to coin Dave's term for it - growing out of my compost heap)?  I knew it was not a summer squash early enough on from the tough skin.

And was it ever hard ... I needed a cleaver (with a couple of drops onto the counter) to crack it open, hence the uneven split in the two halves. It resembled spaghetti squash although I had never seen (and certainly not grown) any variety with such dark green skin.  And that is exactly what it turned out to be although the flesh didn't come away quite as stringy as regular spaghetti squash.

Please stop by the Harvest Monday collection at Our Happy Acres to see what other gardeners are doing this week.