A garden update: lessons learned and a lot of onions

Fall is in the air, the leaves are quickly turning colors, and we’ll have the first frost in the next few weeks.

Once again, I wasn’t able to give my veggie garden the attention it deserved. (My garden is at my dad’s house, a half-hour drive away). All that said, most of my crops grew successfully. Below are a few of my notes on the lessons I learned this year:

  • Onions: This year, instead of buying onion starts through the mail, I started my onions in seeds in February. For whatever reason, this was a far better way to go. I think the onion starts one gets through the mail (which have entered dormancy) take a while to get going. This doesn’t allow enough time to mature. This year, I started the onions in seed-starting flats and then transplanted them into 2′” cell packs. I grew “Gunnison “variety onions from Johnnys seeds. They’re a storage-type onion and we should still be eating them in February.
  • Winter squash: This year I tried to grow acorn squash . It was a gamble here in Alaska. The plant that I put under a plastic hoop created several squash,whereas the plants that were on raised mounds did not produce any fruit (more on that later). I used the “Jet” variety.
  • Sweet Corn: I finally figured out how to successfully grow sweet corn!  I start it indoors at the beginning of May and transplant it under a plastic hoop, removing the hoop when the corn gets too tall. Once the ears form, I wait until the last minute to harvest it. (It takes a long time for the ears to mature in our cool weather.) This year, I used a variety called “Spring Treat”. It made much larger ears than the “Yukon Chief ” variety that was developed in Alaska.
  • Broccoli: I planted way too much broccoli this year and enjoyed a lot of it over the last couple of months. Big heads and lots of side-shoots this summer.
  • Cabbage: The cabbage did ok this summer. I grew several different varieties, including storage cabbage, “giant cabbage” (OS Cross), and red cabbage. We had a wet fall, and the slugs went crazy on the cabbage. I harvested the gaint cabbage before the slugs affected them, and the storage cabbages tend to not get terribly damaged. In terms of storage cabbage, I may have planted them too closely together. I’ve used “Storage #4” variety for the last several years. They store very well, but they mature late and I’m not sure if they’re going to form good heads before the frost.
  • Squash and Pumpkins: I tried squash, zucchini, and pumpkins again this year, but I placed them in a different spot. I tilled a new area of the yard and mounded the soil and covered the mounds with clear plastic. Unfortunately, I don’t think the plants got nearly enough water during the early part of the summer. None of the squash, zucchini, or pumpkins matured enough this year. They definitely need to be grown under plastic hoops in a warm location.
  • Carrots: I started the carrots about a month late due to a failed planting idea. However, they grew fast and we’ll have plenty of carrots this year. I’m going to leave them in the ground for a lot longer this year — until we get a few frosts.
  • Lettuce and Kale: The lettuce and kale did well this year. I tried another “baby salad mix”, but it bolted very quickly. I hardly got any cuttings out of it. The romaine and kale did very well; the only problem is that the romaine is not ready until mid-July, so we were a little short on salad greens for the first part of the summer.
  • Gooseberries: My dad has a couple of healthy gooseberry plants that produce red gooseberries. The taste is exquisite, and they grow to be almost the size of grapes. I easily picked three pounds off of the bushes, and will be trying a 1 gallon batch of gooseberry mead soon! (I’ll let you know how it turns out!)
Now that we flattened our yard, we’re planning on installing raised garden boxes this fall and tilling a section of the yard. Having the veggies closer at hand, I expect a much better harvest next year.

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