Thursday, December 16, 2010

The End and the Beginning

We have reached two boundaries. One is the end of outdoor produce and beginning to grow a little of something indoors. The other is beginning to draw down what is in storage.

One example of using what is in storage is the potato-pepper-onion meal. The potatoes and peppers are from the garden. I stored the potatoes in the cellar, but noticed that they are beginning to sprout. That means that they will begin turning soft fairly soon. The peppers were blanched and frozen when we had more than we could eat. The onions would have been scallions from the garden, but with some 40 inches of snow they weren't available.

As for trying to grow something, one experiment this year is to grow some lettuce under lights in the cellar. I currently have four trays under two fluorescent fixtures. I harvested a grand total of slightly less than three ounces of little leaves last week. I expected the lettuces would grow larger (and perhaps they will) but since they have a fairly deep root and are in little pots I now think this experiment fail to produce enough to justify the time and electricity (about one kWh per day). I did later add some potting soil to the bottom of the tray so that the roots that have grown out of the bottom of the pots have a place to expand. But I think the real answer would be to plant the lettuce in much deeper containers and that means more potting soil and fewer plants in the same space.

The other source of produce from the garden in the winter is what is in the cold frames outside (kale, mache, claytonia and lettuce). I haven't seen what is happening out there for over two weeks because of the snow. But that provides an opportunity to see what happens when the cold frames remain covered with snow for a long time.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stuff That Didn't Do So Well

I wrote about some of the vegetables that grew much better in 2010 than in 2009. A few things did not do as well.

I harvested a lot less garlic but that was intentional because we couldn't use the 18 pounds from 2009. This year's 6 1/2 pounds is more than enough. We picked no asparagus because the new bed was just planted last year. I harvested 29 pounds of potatoes compared with 41 in 2009 but they were bigger and I only planted half as many seed potatoes. I got no fava beans. I think they were shaded out by cucumbers growing all over and through them.

Sadly, we picked only 11 pounds of blueberries compared with 23 pounds in 2009. One reason is that the birds finally discovered that they like blueberries but the major reason was that the plants just didn't produce as much. It also looks like they have very little new growth which means next year will be worse. We have alkaline soil and blueberries like acidic soil. I add sulfur a couple of times a year and mulch the plants with oak leaves and pine needles, but I obviously need to buy a kit to test the pH of the soil. How to amend the soil around blueberries is a good winter research project.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Tally for the Year

It started to snow a couple of days ago and we have a lot of snow - probably 18 inches so far. Harvesting had been sparse with just some kale every four or five days. But now the regular harvesting season is over.

Last year we weighed about 360 lbs of produce and this year I had the figure up to 710 until I discovered that one day I entered 1300 ounces of kale instead of 13. The final tally for 2010 is a little over 650 lbs. Where did the 80% increase come from?

The major increase was summer squash. Last year I confidently relied on row cover material to keep squash vine borers off my two young patty pan plants (photo at left) but once I removed the row cover material so that the flowers could b
e pollinated the borers moved in and I hadn't started any back-ups. The total harvest was about 20 pounds. This year I started five plants and had two back-ups and I wrapped strips of cheese cloth around the stems of the young plants (photo below). This didn't totally work because they were eventually infected and I harvested my last squash in early October. But in the meantime we had 109 pounds of squash. I gave some away but we frequently had sauteed squash for supper.

Cucumbers were another success. Both years I grew lemon cucumbers, but in 2009 the few plants I started produced nothing edible. This year I started them indoors and planted them all in one place. They took over that area and produced 47 pounds before they succumbed in mid-September to cucumber beetles(?). I am still eating pickles from the cucumbers.

Pole beans were another big improvement. Last year groundhogs and a deer fed on the beans at various times and heights. This year I saw one groundhog, called a trapper, and never saw a groundhog for the rest of the summer. I successfully fenced the deer out by adding three feet of deer fencing to the existing five foot fence. I also started a lot more beans and we ended up with 79 pounds of beans compared with 30 pounds.

Tomatoes rebounded this year because we were not troubled by late blight. I planted four of my six plants in containers, using soil that hadn't been used for vegetables before. We collected 55 pounds compared with 21. Containers, I discovered, do have to be watered at least daily and sometimes two or three times in the very hot weather. One plant had blossom end rot which continued all summer.

We concentrated on growing more greens and harvested about 137 pounds of various greens (not including lettuce). Last year the total was 101 pounds.

A few words about what we grew less of in the next post.