Saturday, September 18, 2010

Garden Update

The gardening season is getting close to the end around here. I've been pretty busy with it all year. As I do every year I tried new things, learned a lot, had some surprises and know what not to try again next year. The harvest has been pretty good but I certainly wouldn't be able to come close to living on it yet. Here's a pretty good snapshot of what I tried.

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Not everything is there. My sunchokes are doing phenomenally but they're not yet ready to harvest. I should have a decent potato crop out of the tire stack that I tried as well. I still have a head of cabbage that I'm going to let grow for a few more weeks. Then there are all of the radishes, turnips and lettuces that I finished harvesting a month or two ago. I didn't bother to do much replanting this year because I just didn't have time. Heck, I didn't even have time to get out and water every day which probably hurt my overall yield. If I could just get the wife to pick up a hose and spray the plants on the days that I don't have time....

My three sisters garden was pretty much a bust. It started out good but, as I feared, between the corn and a nearby tree there was too much shade for the beans and the squash to thrive. I did get about an ear of corn per corn stalk, though. I know of a few people who tried sweet corn this year and every one of them had horrible yields due to pests. This variety seems to be pest resistant and since I'm more worried about having a stock of corn meal than corn for the BBQ around the time of year when it's about 10 cents an ear I think I'll stick with this. I'll try the three sisters garden again next year but I'll be setting it up in a different part of the yard next time.

As you can see I let my zucchini get huge. It stores a lot better that way. It can last almost as long as winter squash if stored in the right conditions. The skin isn't as tender, the meat is a bit more spongy and the seeds may be big enough to be noticeable but I like it this way. I basically cleared a small patch in the middle of my yard and planted the burgese squash. It did pretty well but I think that it got too much sun and I didn't amend the soil well enough so I didn't get as much yield as I would have liked.

My broccoli did better than ever. After two years of getting nothing but tiny little florets I finally found a variety that produces big crowns. I still get a lot of little florets but that's normal. Out of four plants I harvested about ten pounds of pickling cucumbers this year. I canned those up and gave most of them away. I saved a couple of cucumbers to try to save the seed for next year. We'll see how that works out. My carrots did exceptionally well this year. I used half of a 4x4 planter and harvested at least what's in the picture and have that much again still in the planter.

The beans that I planted in my square foot garden did very well. I definitely prefer the pole variety to bush varieties. I just used tomato cages for the "poles". I planted a couple of plants at the base of each leg. I couldn't be happier with the results. The variety I used this year were rattlesnake beans. I probably harvested about twenty pounds of young, green bean sized pods from 9 plants before I just started to let them grow so that I can use them as dried beans through the winter. I'll also save some for seed. Unfortunately, a big portion of what I harvested went to waste because I just didn't find the time to process and can them.

The peppers didn't do well. They never do. The plants were prolific but they just didn't get big. I only had a couple of jalapeno plants and one cayenne plant, though. The cayennes were the only plants that actually survived from my starters this year. For next year I'm considering getting some indoor grow lights. I just don't have a good place inside the house to do starters. I also pulled up the garlic that I planted last year. The bulbs are tiny but from what I've read about growing garlic that's fairly normal for the first year or two. Once they get used to the local soil they start growing better. We shall see.

I underestimated my red kale. It had a very big impact on the overall yield of my garden. The plants grew quickly into fairly large bushes that overtook most of the plants that got off to a slower start. The bright side is that you can just keep harvesting from them all year and they keep on growing. They're an outstanding source of leafy greens that are really hard to stop. They can well, freeze well and taste great. I just grew a lot more than I could possibly use unless I were eating them every single day (they aren't THAT good but I'd do it if I were really hungry).

I'm already planning next year's garden. I'll be rotating the planters like I do every year. I'll also be clearing out most of the red kale if it takes off again next year. Depending on how well the potatoes do I may get some more tires to expand that crop. I've already got the new plot for next year's three sisters garden picked out. I'm still trying to decide what I'll be planting in the plot where I have my three sisters garden this year. Every year the net yield gets better. It's still nowhere near where it needs to be, though. I just wish I had more time to devote to it.

Gardening takes time, patience and practice. Go ahead and keep that survival seed bank stored away in your closet and fill up your bookshelf with gardening books. Just don't expect it to do you much good if you don't have experience growing a garden every year. Even if it's just a couple of planters on your windowsill you should grow something. Stack up some tires in a corner of the yard and grow some potatoes. Fill up a bucket with dirt (drill a couple of holes in the bottom), poke a stick in it and grow some beans. Clear out a small patch of lawn and plant some tomatoes. Whatever you do don't count on putting seeds in the ground and hoping for the best when you get hungry.


Jeni G said...

Gardening is an art. And some years I've done better than others. But this year I managed to have enough tomatoes to can a dozen jars! Yea! A little bit of success. Now were getting ready for our fall garden. But what I really want is to figure out how to put some chickens in my yard. To me an egg is one of the ultimate survival foods.

The Urban Survivalist said...

It's a mixture of art and science. It really puts things into perspective when you have what you think is a huge yield. Then you get spend a few days processing everything and you realize that you'd have trouble stretching it more than a month. The chickens will help a lot. I've been meaning to get some myself. If work wasn't so busy I'd have it done already.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog.

Some years ago I put in 4 4x4 square foot gardens and did really really well. I spent time to improve the soil, took good care of the gardens daily. And it showed.

This year I stuck a few things in the yard, which I had amended the soil last year, and pretty much ignored them (I knew I wouldn't have time but wanted to do *something*). Not so good. But it still was a learning experience ... truly gardens will not thrive on their own. It does take hard work and knowledge.

Greg D. said...

Have you looked into permaculture or forest gardening. It seems like this would be one of the best ways to minimise the work and increase the yields. This is the route I am planning on mostly because my back yard is a jungle.

Rose Forever said...

actually, your crops are really looking good. Not like mine. My tomatoes are really staring to fail me including some of my peppers. Well, I really do not have that hard time taking care of these plants but the thing is the weather is really inconsiderate! Hot now, cold later, dry now, super wet later! Damn, this makes my garden really stressed.