Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Lettuce Is Gone

We picked the last lettuce today. Now about all that is left are some greens (zen, kale and collards), a few raspberries and maybe some peppers. We weighed most all of the produce we got from the garden this year and the total is about 350 pounds. That pales in comparison with the 6,000 pounds the family in California grows annually as shown in the video "Homegrown". But then we can't grow year round and don't have four people working full time in the garden. We wouldn't be able to eat anywhere near that much food.

It was an interesting year and a good base for planning next year's garden. In past years tomatoes produced a lot of produce weight but since I am now the only one who can eat tomatoes I planted far fewer and then all succumbed over time to the blight starting, surprisingly, with the ones that were planted where I had never planted vegetables before. I only picked enough to have a daily tomato sandwich and those ended yesterday with the last blight free tomato. I was away for the weekend and was reacquainted with the tomatoes that are commercially grown - tasteless and hard - and hope that next year I can grow my own throughout the whole tomato season.

Among my other disappointments were beans and broccoli. Three of my four plantings of broccoli were chewed nearly to the ground by groundhogs - three of which were removed from the garden. The fourth planting, for reasons unknown to me, produced vigorous untouched plants with no broccoli heads. So the count for this year was zero broccoli. The only beans I grow are pole beans and they were first cut down by groundhogs and then, after I replanted and surrounded them with circles of 3 foot fencing, they were trimmed weekly by deer. We did harvest beans but not the quantity we wanted nor that would be produced by the number of bean plants we grew. We ate fresh beans fairly regularly once the groundhogs were out of the picture but did not have any for freezing for the rest of the year.

The only cucumbers I planted were lemon cucumbers. I scattered them around the garden but think that was not a good idea. The rather dry summer was not favorable to good production.

So what did grow well? Peppers did extremely well but I did learn that I should carefully read the catalog descriptions. One of the three varieties (Beaver Dam) that I planted was medium hot. One bite and my lips were burning and my eyes watering. Neighbors liked them, however. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries were very productive. Some of them are now stored as jams, others are in the freezer. The red Russian kale that I planted early is still in the garden producing. I set out a lot more of it about two weeks ago but the rather cold rainy weather since then may keep it from getting big enough to produce a harvest before cold weather stops it altogether. Will it start again in the spring? Ground cherries were productive but there were a lot of unripe cherries that fell off the plants - which is supposed to be the sign that they are ripe - and separating the cherries from their little covers is a pretty slow process. They are also now in the form of jam, which I really like. The later pak choi and Chinese cabbage were great - the earlier ones were ravaged by snails. Patty pan squash were delicious and although I started them under row covers until they began to flower they were destroyed by borers. Next year I have to check them daily. I also grew trombocino squash and it sure does want to climb. It would have been very productive if we hadn't preferred the patty pans. By the time those were gone the trombocinos had remained unpicked for many weeks and seemed to have stopped producing. However, as I pulled the plants out of the hemlock trees at the end of the season I found that they had started producing again, maybe because I finally cut the huge squash off the plants. Potatoes were good. I got nearly 40 pounds of potatoes from 2 1/2 lbs of seed potatoes. I would like to have fewer but larger potatoes because I am the one who has to peel them.

Greens (zen, dandelions, kale, and collards, along with some spring spinach) grew well and we had greens as part of our meals almost every day. We also froze some, but not as much as we wanted. Next year I need to have a large garden of greens beginning in the spring. I think my wife wants the garden to be mostly greens and beans. I grew red Malabar spinach but since I again did not read the description didn't plan for the fact that it wants to climb. It became entangled with some of the pole beans to the detriment of both.

Now it is time to clean the garden up. I do still have to plant garlic - that also did extremely well this year - and, hopefully, some lettuce seedlings that I started about two weeks ago. But for those to succeed I need a nice Indian summer to get them large enough to survive the winter in a class covered frame. The peppers still need to be pulled up sometime
. I don't think the freeze we had killed them. My compost bins are nearly full but I can find space to stuff in some of the remaining plants. I have planted cover crops in a number of beds - clover and oats, both of which will be killed by a heavy frost. I planted either annual rye or winter rye in other beds but saw no signs of germination. I might stop by Lee's Feeds tomorrow and ask if it is too late to plant winter rye.

I began emptying out my leaf barrel today. It has two years of leaves in it because last year I wasn't able to empty it because of a back injury. Soon my neighbors will be raking their leaves and putting them in large paper bags which are handy collect and empty into the circle of fencing that is my leaf barrel. I find it is best to wait until mid-leaf season because the earlier bags often have stuff besides leaves - sticks, stones, dead potted plants, and whatever accumulated junk got raked up with those early leaves.

Then there are the rain barrels to empty out, clean (if it's warm enough) and turn over for the year. And the hoses to put away.

And finally it is time to begin planning for next year.