Casaubon's Book

Garden Wrap-Up

Last night was our official first frost, right about at our new average (official last frost date is about October 7 here, but the last 9 years have been increasingly late). I was wholly unprepared – I forgot to check, and had meant to harvest the last batch of Tulsi. Ah well. Green tomato pickles are definitely the order of the day!

We’ll be eating out of our garden for a long time yet – with season extension, probably until late December or January, but frost is a marker of change, and it seems as good a time as any to evaluate this year’s garden.

In general, it was a banner year for anything that ordinarily finds our climate too cool and wet. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, etc… loved this year. I got more red peppers than I’ve ever had, and if it weren’t for Eli spending large chunks of his days grazing the tomatoes, we would have had the best harvest ever.

It was a tough year for the stuff that ordinarily does well for me – the broccoli was eaten by goats when one of this kids left the garden gate open, the peas did ok but got a little tough in the heat. Fava beans fried, mustard greens bolted and for the first time ever, I found I couldn’t successfully grow lettuce through the whole summer. I realize that’s normal for everyone else, but not here.

The biggest negative, besides the goat-chomped broccoli, was the fall garden. We had an extended period of heat and dry weather, and it just didn’t germinate as well as usual. The other one was that I picked this year to start an agricultural business in wetland plants – on the hottest, dryest year I’ve ever seen. They did ok, but it is just a good reminder never to get complacent and assume you know how your world works.

Ok, reports from the field, folks – how did your gardens do?

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Don
    October 13, 2010

    My fall garden didn’t germinate well, either, for the same reason yours didn’t. The pea plants are still small; I probably won’t get an autumn crop before the frost kills them off. A few lettuce and arugula plants germinated, but no spinach or radishes. I might replant the latter since they ripen so quickly. On the positive side, we’ve had kale all through the summer, and there’s plenty out there now. Same with Swiss chard, despite the hot, humid weather in June and July.

    Tomatoes are still ripening, but sweet peppers seem to be done; we only had a few. I need to pick the eggplants. Unfortunately, the beans were done a long time ago because some unknown insect ate them up. Poor luck with basil this year, also.

  2. #2 Stephen B.
    October 13, 2010

    Most things went pretty well. One thing that didn’t, like yours, was the fall broccoli. It never made decent heads and instead sent up lots of random buds that quickly flowered in the heat.

    The apples and peaches that survived the tricky frost during bloom last spring were excellent due to the lack of disease-spreading wet weather.

    The potatoes were a bust, however due to more blight. I *thought* I had only saved disease-free ones from last year, but it’s pretty clear that I failed in that effort. In the future, if I have any serious blight from the year before, I’ll leave the seed potato saving to the pros.

    I did manage to get lettuce all summer long, but that’s probably because I get to plan on hot weather around here and do a few things such as switch to “summer” varieties like “Nevada” and “Magenta” crisp heads from Johnny’s that always do well for me, along with inter-planting the late May to late June plantings among taller crops for shade. I also water the summer lettuce more than I water most other stuff.

    Getting my fall garden carrots to germinate in July heat is usually a pain for me, so I’ve learned to mulch the newly seeded carrots with a light grass clipping mulch and water that area pretty religiously for a week or so too which works pretty well because carrots aren’t a large area planting anyhow.

    I got so busy in September with other things, I didn’t have my winter wheat area prepped for planting when I should have and didn’t get the wheat seeded until Oct. 1st, right as the cool weather started. I have therefore put Agrobon row cover over the wheat (I don’t have a lot of wheat while I do have some big rolls of Agrobon) to help get it germinated and otherwise caught up before the weather really shuts down the season. (Wheat needs a certain amount of growth before winter or else it doesn’t make it through.)

    All in all it was a better than average year and if only I was better at selecting clean potatoes to plant and if I had done more extensive spring bloom frost protection with sprinklers on more apples trees, it would have been the best year ever. The fact that I now have a water pump and now use some local surface water for irrigation rather than town water also helped greatly as I did do more watering this year than I usually have to do in the heavy clay soil that underlies my neighborhood. (Clay is unusual around here in eastern MA, but my neighborhood is built on an old gravel pit that completely reworked the ground profile.)

    As for my school, work garden… There just was NO interest there last spring. I had coordinated a 3000+ sq ft. veggie garden over there every year since 2002 when I started work there and this year was the first year we didn’t do a garden. Some people missed it. I did stick a few tomato, pepper, and eggplant plants in the ground over there, leftover seedlings from my home garden, but it wasn’t a tenth of what we usually do. Some coworkers and students seemed to miss the garden, especially the public relations end of it, but nobody really seemed to want to help with the work. I don’t know yet what happens next season over there.

  3. #3 Glenn
    October 13, 2010

    Here in Western Washington we had the opposite. It was a lousy summer for summer crops and a decent one for spring crops. Peas, beans, cauliflower and broccoli did okay. Tomatoes did poorly, we only got three zuchs, both pumpkins split (yes, only two set fruit) and the rest of the squash never set fruit despite our two hives of bees. The Jalapenos _inside_ the greenhouse did well though.

    So what gives? We had three days in a row over 90 and set a three day heat record! But, and it’s a big but. We had only 50 days over 70 F as opposed to the usual 77 days over 70 F according to our local (University of Washington) climate professor, Cliff Mass. So despite the aberrant heat record, it was generally a cool, damp summer here on the Olympic Peninsula.

    Glenn,
    Marrowstone Island

  4. #4 Glenn
    October 13, 2010

    Also, corn never got more than knee high, and we got less then half a dozen edible ears.

    Glenn,
    Marrowstone Island

  5. #5 Lee Borden
    October 13, 2010

    Here in Alabama we had a hot, dry summer, and we’re on our way to a hot, dry fall. The few tomatoes that set quickly found themselves food for the hornworms. The potatoes were a bust, as was the corn. Okra did great, although it’s slowly petering out. Ditto the late-season summer squash. And the winter squash and lima beans are just gorgeous.

    The fall lettuce we planted on schedule (early September) quickly bolted. The brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and collards we planted under row cover (shielding them from the voracious Carolina grasshoppers) are doing well and promise a good harvest later in the fall.

  6. #6 Tegan
    October 13, 2010

    I wound up not being able to plant due to moving/crazy ex-roommates/life. But, I found a lot of foraging this year. I got tons of rose hips, grapes, and made pickles for the first time from my mother’s garden. So I would not call this year a bust! :-P

  7. #7 Claire
    October 13, 2010

    Here in the St. Louis, MO area, it was a tough year for tomatoes because of extended conditions of 90sF highs and high humidity, lasting all summer long (set a new record for highest average overnight low in summer). Lots of plants got diseases earlier than usual. This year I had bad anthracnose on my pepper plants as well; over half the plants died from it. Still got a decent amount of sweet peppers and serrano hot peppers, but only because I’d put in something like 36 plants. Usually tomatoes and peppers do very well here so that was unexpected. Squash bugs have lowered the squash harvest, but the birdhouse gourds are doing great.

    My spring garden was excellent, ranking among the best ever, because of plenty of rain – almost but not quite too much – and warm but not overly hot conditions. I harvested over 120 pounds of potatoes and they are storing very well. Had very good garlic and onion harvests too. The fall garden, on the other hand, is mixed. Bok choy plants are now ready to harvest. Excellent mustard greens, tatsoi, and arugula from late-summer seed sowings. The storage radish crop, however, is pretty much a failure, and three separate lettuce sowings have produced only a few small plants. (Fall lettuce is dicey here anyway, but the radishes have done well before.) The spring cabbage was very good, fall cabbage failed to grow; spring-planted kale melted out by late summer as usual (but was delicious in June); spring-planted collards have, as usual, thrived in the heat and are big and beautiful. The corn and green and dry beans I planted very late (July 20!) are doing well; we’re eating green beans, the dry beans are ready to be harvested, the corn (a flour type) probably needs another week or two and should get it. Excellent edamame (green soybean) harvest too. Both summer and fall raspberries did well, still picking the fall crop. Lots of peaches, some apples, but squirrels got them all before they ripened. Harvested the first chestnuts this fall!

    No frost yet; our first frost date is usually about the last week of October. Last year we didn’t have our first frost till about Thanksgiving.

    I’m getting ready to plant garlic and multiplier onions for next year, then a small crop of winter wheat after that. It can get wheat in the ground as late as the first week of November here.

    We should be able to get collards, if nothing else, out of the garden well into December, maybe even early January. Lack of snow cover combined with lows around 0F at some point is the biggest problem to survival of collards and kale over the winter in this area. Maybe I’ll try row cover this year, see if that helps.

  8. #8 Ewan R
    October 13, 2010

    This was my first year gardening – and as such has very much been a learning experience.

    Learned that when people say plant after the last frost they really mean it – lost all cucumbers, 10 tomato plants and a bunch of other stuff which now evades my memory due to early year excitement (I think we had a moderately warm week and I transplanted everything maybe 2-3 weeks early)

    Got a decent crop of peas before the summer heat kicked in, and the most awesome lettuce I’ve ever experienced (this stuff literally would not go bad – lasted the better part of 2 months refrigerated) – due to early mistakes my summer crop plants all failed miserably as the extreme heat stomped their ability to do anything other than survive – garden full of tomato plants and broccoli doing nothing was a tad depressing – however now the temps have dropped I have an abundance of ripening tomatoes (next year I’ll be avoiding Black Krim as anything other than a side show due to its propensity to split and look awful) and surprisingly a ton of broccoli coming in – it all survived the summer and now temps have dropped is producing like crazy. Fall crops planted – cabbage, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach and some more peas – all germinated really well other than the peas – now a race against frost to see if I get anything out other than looks of confusion from the neighbors.

    My one summer success was canteloupe – despite planting 3 way too close in a tiny garden (silly idea) I got more canteloupes than I could reasonably deal with and they all tasted awesome – bar the first one of the season which I harvested when its consistency was akin to concrete.

    If time allows this fall I’ll be expanding the garden by at least 100% (wife will not allow whole back yard to be turned over to hobby agriculture just yet… but once I get those beets up I’m hoping she’ll change her mind) – which frankly is still a sad attempt, 8′x8′ will become maybe 16′x16′ (although I’ll be putting in a couple of 8′x4′ beds rather than another 8×8 – my plan is to sneak in a couple of rows of corn while the wife ain’t looking also, but this may fall by the wayside.

  9. #9 darwinsdog
    October 13, 2010

    Mean first frost date here in northwestern New Mexico is tomorrow (10-14) but it’s going to be late this year. Probably not before early next week, at the earliest. This makes up for the late spring frosts that meant no fruit this year. We had fruit in ’06 & ’09, none in ’07, ’08 & ’10. Before ’06 I don’t remember. I wish it’d hurry up & frost so the irrigation could go off & weeds be done.

    Not much of a garden this year. Younger son has moved out & wife has been very ill. Without help & company I’m not very motivated to garden. Grew nothing in commercial quantities. Had tomatos & Mirasol chilis. Saved seed. Had some sweet corn, melons, cucumbers & squash, and potatos will be harvested soon. Chickens on the loose have been a nuisance.

    Granddaughter is visiting this week. When her mom takes her home her grandmother & dog are going with them and I’ll be alone. May be years or may be never before wife returns. All depends on if & when she receives a transplant. Well, I won’t be completely alone since I brought home a Beagle puppy from the pound. Him & the cat will keep me company & hopefully he will learn to keep watch for predators like the old dog has done. Older son’s girlfriend is due to deliver my grandson in about a month. Second grandchild, nearly 13 years after my daughter gave me the first. I hope to go see him around T’giving but not sure I can make the trip. Have critters to tend & vehicle may not be up to a long road trip.

  10. #10 NM
    October 13, 2010

    DD, I am so sorry. Please don’t neglect your care of yourself – you need good, nourishing food, and exercise to maintain your own health. I hope the puppy and cat will help provide comfort, along with the reports of the new grandbaby, even if you can’t see him or her in person. Best wishes to you and your family.

    Ewan,
    I keep trying to quietly make the garden bigger, when husband isn’t looking, too. : D
    Have you thought about enlarging it and then making it really gorgeous? … Sunflowers, marigolds, calendula, cosmos, asters, bachelor buttons, nasturtiums, Heavenly Blue morning glories … some will take over if you aren’t careful, but boy, can they make a garden beautiful. Plus, the sunflowers draw in the bees like crazy, the nasturtium petals are edible and the pods can be pickled, calendula has medicinal uses …
    Nasturtiums are thugs, though; they might do best trailing down from a few hanging pots scattered around. I know of no use for bachelor buttons, asters or cosmos; just love ‘em — and a little corner of them does wonders for providing color.

  11. #11 Ewan R
    October 13, 2010

    NM – I’m a bit of a lazy picky utilitarian when it comes to my garden – if I don’t like it, I can’t eat it fresh out the garden or it requires any amount of work to keep it in check then I’m essentially out – any flowers that don’t produce fruit are anathema (and for bee attraction I found that canteloupes work pretty well)

    Wife requires empty space for spawn to run around in (once he can run around) – my angle now is to extol the value of edumacating the spawn in back yard agriculture – I only have to hope she doesn’t realize that to educate the boy I’d actually require some sort of knowledge of what I’m doing rather than just mucking about to see what works (although I have a good few years to figure out via playing what is and is not the right thing to do!)

  12. #12 Lisa
    October 13, 2010

    The year has been a strange one – a recurring theme I’m noticing here. In southern Minnesota (zone 4/5), we still have not had a frost. Average first frost is Mid-September and it looks a long ways off. So, we harvested melon from the garden last weekend – unheard of in these parts. The tomatoes are still coming, peppers growing and green beans not even thinking of quitting!

    Perhaps this makes up for the complete failure of fall crops to germinate in the scorching heat. We have a few radishes, no lettuce and no spinach to fill our plates this fall. This was going to be our best fall garden ever but that’ll have to be next year. Well, the zucchinni are still growing so we’ll make the best of it, eh?

    We had to contact a farmer three hours away to buy apples since the more local crop was devastated by a late frost and two summer hail storms.

    We’ve put up more food than ever canning this year and are learning more about foraging – gathering black walnuts, especially, for some of our nut supply. And perhaps we will get serious about the “weeds” – and use the abundant purslane and lambs quarters in our salad to surprise our Thanksgiving guests.

  13. #13 Joel
    October 13, 2010

    I had written off tomatoes due to an unusually mild summer, but it’s been a hot enough fall to ripen a few. Go figure.

    Borage has proven to be a tremendously good companion crop (tomato plant growing tangled with it is at least 3x the size of the others), and a volunteer curcubit of some sort (melon?) has thrived in conditions that I wouldn’t have expected, so I plan to plant something good there next year.

    Not many potatoes in the summer here, because of a reliably dry 6 months plus, but I’m better prepared to plant some for this winter, and am greatly expanding the garlic and favas (I’m in zone 10).

  14. #14 Christina
    October 13, 2010

    Sharon, re China/dryers post, I read an excellent article (if you can abide the initial lice theme!) today: http://shareable.net/blog/braids

  15. #15 stripey_cat
    October 13, 2010

    My gardening tends to be very erratic (depression issues!), and this year was no different. Things that thrived on neglect in a hot, droughty year did nicely; things that needed weeding and watering, not so much. Garlic and shallots were a glowing success on a patch of light soil, except where I let them get overshadowed by other plants. The one squash plant the slugs spared is still ripening fruit for me (I’ve had two small squash off it already, and more to come if the frost holds off – given that it’s fifty-fifty whether any ripen in a particular year, this is pretty nice). Cucumbers did alright too, but not courgettes; all three relatives suffered badly from powdery mildew, which I think is down to water stress. Also, leaf beet is always an old stalwart, and chicories seem to like my soil so I’m trying to overwinter some (I suspect the deep taproot helps with drought). Brassicas, other soft greens, and peas were a total washout (no more than a few salad leaves of anything!), and I failed to sow tall beans in time; a catch-crop of dwarf french beans died in the worst of the drought. Potatoes all died in early summer – no sign of blight, and some are starting to resprout healthily now, so I think it may just have been drought (the soil was dust or bricks for feet down in places). Tomatoes did better, but I failed to pick the fruit as it ripened; I do have plenty of chillies that need processing before the frost gets them! English marigolds (the petals are delightful in salads, but the main purpose was to attract pollinators) are proving down-right invasive if left to self-seed. This crowded out quite a few things, and I really must be more ruthless about weeding out unwanted seedlings. On a related note, if anyone in Didcot needs marigold plants, I suspect I’ll be having them germinate every time I touch my soil for years to come.

    Fruit was a bit of a disaster – I’ve lost a sapling apple tree, a white currant, about a quarter of my rhubarb crowns, several raspberry plants, and most of my strawberries. All to persistent drought when I was unable to get out regularly to water them. Bizarrely, the young cherry trees (four-year-olds on Colt rootstock) appear to have enjoyed the weather and set a respectable crop (although the blackbirds got most of it); they’re still in leaf and looking very healthy. The surviving apple trees are very stressed, although they’ve fruited OK for their age; one decided it was going to flower again in September, even as it ripened half-a-dozen apples.

    Even the herbs suffered – I’ve lost a lovely icterine sage, and my mints are distinctly the worse for wear. On the plus side clary (biannual, but I’ve saved a lot of seed, and got a good crop of dried leaves), ordinary green sages, thymes and several new lavender plants have all established well, and my rosemaries and older lavenders have recovered nicely from the killer winter (snow broke shrub branches, as well as cold about 5C lower than normal). In the little patch to the north of the house (very cold, dark and damp, although short on actual rainfall!), the ornamental/cosmetic mints there are romping away – I’ll need to hack them back soon or they’ll invade next door. I think my decision to more-or-less give up on that bit, and let early spring bulbs be succeeded just by mounds of mint, was wiser than struggling. Plus I have lots of mint for baths and hair-rinses, or just for vases.

  16. #16 dewey
    October 13, 2010

    DD, sorry to hear of your troubles – best of luck to your wife.

    I’m also in the St. Louis area and like Claire, got almost no fruit on the tomatoes I PAID for (we ended up with a jungle of volunteer cherry tomatoes that produced well for a couple of weeks) and very few peppers in good condition. Fall salad and beets are now doing poorly; zucchini died very early, and the squash vine died more recently leaving a collection of dubious tiny fruits; carrots grew okay but were terrible.

    Potatoes did well for me (La Ratte yielded much better than Yukon Gold, though the latter are more flavorful) and spring lettuce, radishes, and beets did very well. We got a couple of giant batches of pickled beets out of less than 16 square feet. Basil grew very well (as did most herbs and woody medicinals, including our very large and aggressive vitex-triffid hybrid). Three of four dwarf fruit trees planted this spring are still alive; two from last year are thriving but fruit was limited to two miniature cherries.

    Next year, I plan to put in asparagus and many more strawberry plants, and possibly start moving the perennial herbs to areas around the saplings (since this is not the best place for vegetables). I will minimize relatively unproductive space-hog plants (may or may not give tomatoes one more chance) in favor of large quantities of beets, which we will be able to can for longer-term storage. And I need to avoid leaving town for long periods at peak growing seasons, because the garden really goes to hell in a handbasket.

  17. #17 Thrivalista
    October 13, 2010

    DD, I, too, am sorry to hear about your difficulties, and hope that things improve soon – that your wife gets her transplant and returns home, in as good a state of health as possible, and that holding your new grandson in your arms is one of the things you celebrate come Thanksgiving.

    Ewan R, “see if I get anything out other than looks of confusion from the neighbors” LOL! Those are always a bumper crop here, for sure.

    Here in Western New York, we had good crops of heat lovers – tomatilloes, ground cherries, peppers, eggplants, okra. Not so much w/the tomatoes – something to do w/hot days followed by lotsa rain caused severe catfacing. Basil did so well we could have sold some to pay the mortgage. Cantaloupe from upper garden was fabulous, harvested our first watermelons ever. (ZOMG, Sharon, you were right about dried watermelon. It’s fabulous!) Many, many “fruits” that were doubled or twinned, and didn’t develop properly. A pollination problem, or some hormone that snuck in via barn litter from another friend’s goats? Or?

    Greens did pretty well, tho’ kale & collards were hit hard by aphids and lettuce bolted a bit earlier than expected. Green beans did very well, Dragon Langeries were insipid (last year, our first growing them, they were fabulous. Different seed grower?) Somethin’ et our sunflowers – they looked clipped right off. Maybe large two-legged varmints? They were inside a fence that has so far managed to keep out deer, racoons, rabbits, woodchucks, etc.
    Pests: groundhog (in unfenced garden), squash bugs (got maybe 10 cucumbers out of 12 plants), powdery mildew on squash, raspberries, bee balm, and more (will try dried milk solution sprayed preventively next year.) Voles. (will grow potatoes in buckets next year. Quite disheartening to turn a tuberous beauty over & see the underside eaten away. Ugh.)

    The leeks are in bed awaiting winter coats (bags of leaves?). Fall crops are in flats waiting for hubby to finish our TWO NEW GREENHOUSES (*dances*), so they can go in for fall, winter, and early spring harvesting – spinach, turnips, beets, lettuces, kale, etc. Cabbage moth worms are damaging seedlings later than usual, also more slugs than usual. A real drawback to less cold weather – we’ve gotta get used to more bugs in our garden life and increase our alertness.

    Seriously saving seed for our first time this year. Seems really, really important.

    Thrivalista in WNY, zone 6b

  18. #18 Anna
    October 13, 2010

    This was definitely our best garden year ever. We finally got an irrigation system up and running last year (like we needed it then), and the combination of heat plus water led to so much food our freezer is completely full!

    Everything did so well that I won’t list the things that worked, just the things that didn’t. The only real summer problem was that it was the worst year ever for bean beetles here in southwest Virginia.

    Unfortunately, our fall garden got fried by the same heat that fried yours. We’ve got great broccoli and mustard greens, but are only just now starting to eat lettuce again. Cabbages, carrots, beets, etc. are pretty much non-existent. Oh well.

    On the other hand, I’ve been learning about edible mushrooms (and also finally figured out how to propagate my own oyster mushroom spawn without a lab!), and wild edible mushrooms keep popping up along my daily walk. Yum!

  19. #19 Barn Owl
    October 13, 2010

    This year’s garden can be summed up by the following: “Can I interest you in some basil pesto?” With 265-day growing season and average first frost in late November, I can get a decent yield from a single suburban 3′ x 6′ raised bed garden, supplemented with compost and horse manure. I plan to add a second raised bed this fall, plus a couple of fruit trees. 2009 was terrible, as it was extremely hot and dry, but this year I’ve had a steady supply of greens since March (Japanese greens, two varieties of kale, three varieties of lettuce, rainbow chard, and Malabar spinach), enough cucumbers to share with friends, and cherry tomatoes for salads and sandwiches. Summer squash was a failure this year, perhaps due to space limitations, but currently I have a jalapeno plant with about 30 peppers, six banana pepper plants with loads of fruit, kale, Malabar spinach, and a fall lettuce crop just coming up. Still have enough basil (three varieties) for several batches of pesto, which I will likely give to friends at work, but I’m reluctant to pull it up, because I think the blossoms attract bees that pollinate the other crops. There’s a nearby working ranch with beehives, and I’d also hate to deprive their bees of something they seem to love.

    I suppose I could have harvested the chaya leaves from a large plant that was blown over when a tropical storm passed through, but I’ve yet to find any neighborhood abuelos who can advise me about cooking it properly (it’s poisonous uncooked, and called “tree spinach” cooked). I’ve learned quite a bit about what works and what doesn’t work in this area, so I’m definitely ready to turn more of my backyard into productive vegetable garden. With all the jalapenos this year, I might have to try some canning too (jalapeno jelly is a favorite).

  20. #20 Sharon Astyk
    October 14, 2010

    DD, I’m so very sorry your wife is ill. Prayers (if they are worth anything) and good wishes for a recovery. And for yourself as well. Hopefully puppies, kittens and new grandbabies will provide some reasons for happiness.

    Sharon

  21. #21 Ewan R
    October 14, 2010

    Dewey – apparently this year was just awful for tomatoes in the STL area – nobody I know who grows ‘em managed to get much of anything, father in law who normally has a very green thumb lost all his plants, folk at work had issues with anything other than cherry tomatoes, even the one “master gardener” I know (he took a course and everything!) failed to get anything impressive.

    As such I won’t be giving up. However I will be switching from all heirloom (b/c they looked cool) to predominantly hybrid next year (I have one plant without cracked toms this year – I planted it from a seed taken from a bought in tomato, this left me rather sad as it should suck) – and hoping that we dont have a super wet start followed by intense heat (which appears to have been the issue this year – we got so few GDUs early this season (to the extent that corn planted 1 month apart in the field was at essentially the same growth stage 1 month after the final planting) followed by so many (most the corn in the area is harvested already) this probably messed up a lot of amateur gardeners.

  22. #22 dewey
    October 14, 2010

    Yeah, I may consider buying the standard plants at the local nursery next year. Two years ago I bought commercial zucchini transplants and we were up to our necks in zucchini; this year I bought heirloom seeds from Seed Savers and the plants died. I know there are reasons to prefer seed-saving, but maybe I need to be a better gardener with better soil first.

  23. #23 Gary
    October 14, 2010

    It was cool this year in the PNW, so the garden performed accordingly. Details here:

    http://squashpractice.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/summer-garden-retrospective/

    Recently I’ve been harvesting the Amaranth. I’ll have a post about this on my blog after its all in and I can make a complete assessment.

  24. #24 k8
    October 14, 2010

    It has not yet frosted here. I think that quite odd. So, the tomatoes are going crazy. Still. And I can’t wait to dig up the parsnips. They must be huge because I can’t even budge them from the ground. And the lima beans are still going strong. In fact, they are starting to climb up the roof.

    The green beans, beets, radishes and squash were all within normal growing ranges, but you kinda can’t ruin those much unless the weather is super severe.

    Summer heat killed the peas and all my lettuces. I only got one little salad in before they fried. Hrmph.

    It’s been a good year for the garden. A good, good year. And I procured my Grandma’s green tomato relish recipe just this week. My dad can’t wait for me to make it for him!

  25. #25 Sharon Astyk
    October 15, 2010

    There is certainly a case for hybrid vigor, I think, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think the problem of thinking in terms of heirlooms and hybrids is that it blurs distinctions – sure, I’m all for seed saving, but *which* seeds matters. There are some astonishingly productive OP varieties, and some loser hybrids, as well as vice versa. It took me *5 years* to get rid of the astonishingly prolific, self seeding, taking over my bloody garden Matt’s wild cherry tomatoes, for example ;-).

    Sharon

  26. #26 Ewan R
    October 15, 2010

    Sharon – I also get the feeling I picked an heirloom variety which is spectacularly crack prone – looking through the seed catalogue I noticed that even the toms in their picture (which one would assume would be the prettiest of all) actually had cracks – so an amateur like myself is gonna find that hard to avoid… the salvagable flesh was still awesome, but sparse.

    So I didn’t really mean to be disparaging to all heirlooms, more my capacity to grow ‘em, and am banking on the hardiness and ease of top hybrids next year to make up for my shortcomings – I don’t have to worry about any upcoming near apocalypse removing my ability to purchase seed by mail, I’ll be fertilizer for the neighbors before my first post apocalypse crop comes to fruition, which is a load off my mind!

  27. #27 dewey
    October 15, 2010

    Actually, though I didn’t save seeds from the volunteer cherry tomatoes, I would be delighted to see them come back next year. I’ll just thin and prune them more ruthlessly and maybe transplant the survivors to someplace where they can be trellised without interfering with other crops. To me, the fact that they came back and grew well without human aid is proof that this is the right sort of environment for that plant and vice versa. Why struggle to keep some finicky cultivar alive when I’ve got one that actually thrives?

  28. #28 darwinsdog
    October 15, 2010

    I would be delighted to see them come back next year.

    I guess I’m just lazy because I’ve always counted on things to self-seed. I let lettuce bolt & often just bury bad tomatos or tomatillos, etc., under the mulch in the hopes that they will come back the next year. Sometimes I dig up these volunteers & move them to better spots but this way I often get a headstart on the garden. Of course, some things, like mints for instance, can become a nuisance this way but in general it’s always a good idea to allow nature to do as much of your work for you as possible.

  29. #29 Ewan R
    October 15, 2010

    but in general it’s always a good idea to allow nature to do as much of your work for you as possible.

    Within reason – the family of badgers I locked in my office over the weekend made absolutely no bloody headway whatsoever on the powerpoint presentation I was preparing – and the database improvements they put in place are shoddy at best.

  30. #30 DennisP
    October 15, 2010

    Our garden here in Central Wisconsin on sandy soil did reasonably well. Spring peas were slow and planted twice, but finally got some decent yield off them. But water! We got rain: 6″ in June, 12″ July, 5″ August, 6″ Sept. Almost never ran our drip irrigation system. Nice yield of potatoes and FANTASTIC yield of squash. Last year from 9 plants we got 42 squash. This year from 9 plants we grew 135 squash!! (Some we threw out because the chickens pecked on them.) Grew broccoli and cabbage for the first time and did well with both. Tomatoes were disappointing – I’m still trying to figure out how to grow them: tying up, pruning, etc. Next year I am going to plant more plants but prune much more severely. Following a model I saw in Italy a couple weeks ago. Beets did not do well – and I like beets!

  31. #31 dewey
    October 15, 2010

    Ewan R – Bwahaha!!

    darwinsdog – Last year we also let lettuce bolt and we had some volunteer lettuce pop up this spring in strange places on the lawn. Actually, it got a clear head start on the lettuce seeds that were planted in the nice prepared bed with compost added. (But it died after my husband mowed it a few times….)

  32. #32 darwinsdog
    October 15, 2010

    Well whaddya expect, Ewen? Never count on a badger to do a cubicle rat’s job!

  33. #33 Sharon Astyk
    October 15, 2010

    There just weren’t enough badgers – remember, it takes an infinite number of monkeys typing for an infinite amount of time on an infinite number of typewriters to complete the works of Shakespeare. For this blog, I’ve checked – 18 monkeys, 45 minutes. Maybe you need more badgers.

    I rely heavily on self-seeders, but there’s self-seeding and there’s taking over the earth, and the distinction is an important one. I still grow Matt’s wild cherry (tasty little buggers), but in a fairly controlled space, so that when I inevitably miss a few, the volunteers don’t drive me insane.

    Sharon

  34. #34 Don
    October 15, 2010

    I haven’t had to buy a packet of calendula seed for several years; it keeps self-seeding. I’ve begun selecting ones that seem to tolerate hot weather better than most, and I even found a seedling with orange flowers that I’m trying to select.

    But I had really, really bad luck one time with garlic chives. Talk about taking over the earth! (Well, maybe it was just my lawn.) Don’t ever let them self-seed!

  35. #35 KC
    October 15, 2010

    This was a good year for the garden in central Virginia.The spring crops were happy and abundant. In summer, lots of tomatoes, peppers, okra, sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas and more. The heat was hard on the green bean crop, though. We had good early beans and are now eating late beans, but the beans don’t set fruit when it is too hot. We had some early squash and then the squash bugs set in. I was able to salvage several winter squash (butternut and spaghetti squash) by harvesting them early. The naked seeded pumpkins all succumbed to the squash bugs. Our potato crop was meager this year. I’ve been planting late with hope for a late harvest and good storage, but I think the hot weather might be setting them back. The sunflower crop didn’t fill out well , but I realize now that I should not have fertilized them.

    It was a challenge to plant the fall garden in 90 degree heat and little rain – but everything looks pretty good now – lots of tatsoi, michili, beets, carrots, parsley, burdock, kale, turnips, daikon. The endive is doing great.

    The cover crops are in and growing. I am already planning for next year.

  36. #36 Anja
    October 16, 2010

    It was definetely an unusual gardening in many ways here in the SW of Ireland too. We hardly ever have frost here on the coast. But last winter was severe and a lot of people report that they have never seen anything like it. The ground was frozen for more than 3 weeks! I have never seen the ground frozen for the twlve years I live here, not even for a day! That of course was too much for many of our frost tender and unusual plants that we can normally grow here without any trouble.
    This also meant a very late spring. Soil temperatures were very low for a long time and you just couldn’t plant anything out!
    We had a lovely dry summer for a change. The last few summers and particularly last years summer had been extremely wet.
    It just shows – we never know what’s going to come. This will keep gardening from becoming boring anyway!

  37. #37 Emily
    October 25, 2010

    Bad year for kale (powdery mildew and aphids) but a great year for winter squash (around 350 lb)! I also managed to sow snow peas successively for the first time and we had fresh peas for months.