Friday, November 5, 2010

2010 Garden Review

The main gardens have been taken down, and we have spread as much mulch as we have had time for to date (we use pine needles or shredded leaves, depending on supply and location).  So, I thought it would be fun to wrap up the week with a success/failure analysis of the 2010 gardening year. 

Note:  I am gardening in southwest Ohio, which is on the border of zones 5 and 6.  I have always counted myself a zone 5 person, but after a couple of years of extended seasons, I'm going to start following zone 6 Almanac dates next year.

The Disappointments:
  • The rabbits were killing me this year.  At one point, I nicknamed two of them Roundup and Napalm, so good were they at removing vegetation.  I watched the rabbits eat every bean seedling from two different plantings this year, so no beans.  They also wiped out an entire dill crop.  Sadly, they also ate most of three plantings of carrots, so that we have had only a few homegrown carrots this year and about a pint to freeze.
  • Erratic weather made the tomatoes behave badly.  I loved the big Oxheart tomatoes that weighed in at between one and two pounds each, but I didn't get as many all at once as I wanted, so I didn't get to can as much as I usually do.  The best performing tomato plant out of the 30 or so in the garden was, as always, a volunteer that came up and gave me sweet, juicy, golf ball-sized tomatoes for weeks.
  • When I wasn't cursing rabbits, I was cursing zucchini.  I got beautiful large plants that flowered for weeks.  Unfortunately, all the flowers were male, so I couldn't even go out there and help them pollinate.  I ended the year without a single zucchini.  Next year, we plan to put the zucchini in a new bed that has less rich soil than the main garden.
  • The birds took every single blueberry from the first cropping year of our bushes. The lesson:  the day you think, "oh, those will be ready tomorrow," either go ahead and pick them, or make sure you have impenetrable bird netting.
The Triumphs
  • This was definitely the year for herbs, starting in early spring.  The cilantro reseeded itself so that I had an abundance by April.  The sage also came back and threatened to take over the herb bed (as you see above).  Basil (particularly common and Thai) also did very well.
  • My experiment growing feverfew to help my headaches was a roaring success.  The feverfew cut my headaches so dramatically that my husband commented that the entire cost of the new herb bed in which it grows was completely worth it just in quality of life improvement.  I agree.  (As always, if you are contemplating trying a medicinal herb, don't do it solely because you are reading this or any other blog.  Do your own research; it is your body.)
  • For that matter, the front herb bed was a huge success.  I saw lots of people slow down and look, and when I was out with it I waved and said "hi" to more neighbors than any other year.
  • Potatoes were a huge success.  I cellared four pounds of them!  Yeah, I know, laugh it up, but I only put a few seed potatoes in the ground to see what would happen, and I would say I got an eight-fold yield back.  Plus, I discovered how much I love to dig potatoes; it is like an Easter egg hunt!  Next year, there will be many more potatoes. 
  • This was also the first year for garlic, and it was amazingly successful.  Out of a narrow, rocky bed that was never good for anything else, I got 33 head of garlic to cellar.  The heads are a little on the small side, but the flavor is amazing.
  • This was an expanded year for leeks, and they may be one of my new favorite veggies.  Although my leeks didn't get super-fat like the ones you see already trimmed and wrapped in plastic and foam (yuck!) in the grocery, they were crisp, juicy, and mild.  We had them in soups, casseroles, and on pizza for about three whole months.
  • The cucumber trellis continues to be the only way to grow cukes.  For the second straight year, I grew so many that not only did I put up some pickles, I also had cucumbers for lunch and dinner literally every single day for over two months.  Before the fence, my harvest season would max out at six weeks.  This year, I finally relented and sent the last of the cukes to work with my husband, since we had made as many pickles as we would use, and my digestion was in full revolt from eating that much water and fiber for that long.  (OK, gardener's TMI; sorry.)
What Continues
  • In the new sunroom (I owe you all a post on that project), we still have baby Simpson lettuce and romaine growing to extend our veggie season.  I just used some last night to add some freshness to a veggie sauce.  (Bonus tip:  throw some coarsely chopped greens into a tomato sauce at the last minute before serving.  It adds crispness and vitamins.)
  • Also in the sunroom is mojito mint and rosemary, both doing fine at the moment.
  • In the dining room, cozied up to the south-facing window, we have the "orchard" -- the key lime and nectarine trees.  The key lime is covered with little limes, and I expect we will be harvesting some before Christmas.
  • Finally, I have a big planter of thyme in my foyer (where we dragged it before the first frost).  It may wind up with the "orchard," but either way it seems to be healthy.
Growing your own vegetables:  Fast, Cheap, and Good!
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