Thoughts from the garden

Alaskan harvest
Actually a pic from 2011…Too busy to take pictures…

The growing season is over now that there’s snow on the ground. The garlic has been planted and I harvested the last of my broccoli, cabbage, and carrots a few weeks ago. It’s a good time of year to reflect on the garden:

This was the first year my garden was on my own property. For the last 6-7 years, I’ve been growing my veggies at my dad’s place. He has flat land, gets good sun, and doesn’t use his garden area. However, I was only able to get out there once a week, burned a lot of gas, and could not really work the garden properly.

This year, I put about 270 square feet of the yard under cultivation. I grew cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, turnips, rutabagas, pumpkins, carrots, celery, chives, salad mix, and beets. I am amazed at how much we harvested. Below are the highlights:

Turnips and Rutabagas: 

It’s been years since I’ve grown rutabagas or turnips, because they are often overwhelmed by root maggots. This year however, root maggot damage was minimal, and by allowing the plants to stay in the garden longer, they were largely able heal themselves from the damage. My wife and I have never really cooked with rutabagas and turnips before, but we found them to be a great addition to soups or any other dish where we would normally use potatoes. Moderation was the key, though, and there was a ill-fated turnip-apple dessert we won’t be trying again.

Salad Mix:

We used salad mix seeds again this year. These mixes include lettuce, mustard, and a number of other greens. We spread a 16″x48″  strip of the greens and have been eating them ever since June. The weather this year prevented the lettuce from getting bitter, and the variety of greens in the mix means the taste of the salad changes throughout the season as the different greens matured at different times.

Broccoli and Cabbage:

The broccoli and cabbage did very well this year. We planted approx. 20 brocolli plants and that seemed about perfect for a family of 5 that loves broccoli.  Having it in the yard meant we were able to harvest side shoots before they flowered.  The beats ended up being too shaded by the turnips to produce.  Yet again I planted far too much cabbage, and it looks as though I’ll be making sauerkraut this weekend.

Celery

We planted two celery plants this year: one was from a nursery and one was  store-bought celery from the produce section. We ate the celery, took the base and planted it in March. By May it was a healthy (albeit small) celery plant. While celery is largely a long-season crop, it was nice to have some in the garden to use in soups and other dishes.

Berries/Fruit

We planted 4 more cherry trees (Bali) this year and two apple trees (Norland) that we got from Lowes. I planted two of the trees while there was still a couple of feet of snow on the ground in March, and they did far better than the ones I transplanted in April. In fact, one of the apple trees produced apples. It was a great year for the fruit trees, and each had new growth of more than two feet.

The apples trees we purchased were cheap: $15 for a 5 foot tree that had nice branches and flowers. They were grafted to Bud 9 rootstock. We’ll see if they survive the winter.

Raspberries were mediocre this year, with the season being about two weeks behind. I transplanted a new, larger variety from my dad’s house that took off like wildfire. I’m excited to harvest those canes next year.

The red currants I planted a couple years produced well this year, but just as they reached ripeness, the chickens escaped and ate all the berries. However, there was some fantastic cane growth (2ft+) and I’m expecting good things next year.

I’m looking forward to better harvests in the years to come!

Herbs

We grew chives, garlic chives, basil, and dill. The dill did amazing in our plastic-covered raised bed. It grew well over 4ft tall and had lots of leaves and seeds to harvest. I am amazed at the difference in taste between the dill we grew at home and dill bought at the store; the dill from home has a complexity of smell that I’ve never experience before.

The basil was too shaded from the nearby zucchini plants to grow much, and the chives were transplanted in late July, so we didn’t harvest much from them.

Conclusion:

While the proceeding text was probably only interesting to the most ardent garden-phile, It’s always nice to recount my growing season.

Next year will will plant a few less cabbage, and will probably skip the beats. We’ll also grow less romaine lettuce, as the salad mix really provided for all our needs. However, we’ll be trying butter lettuce, as some friends gave us some this summer and the whole family thought it was fantastic.

I plan on building at least the greenhouse floor before the snow falls. With a 10’x16′ greenhouse on the property, I’ll be able to explore the world of tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and peppers next summer, which is very exciting for me! In the meantime, it’s time to clean up the garden, and to start thinking about making mead, sauerkraut, and soap.

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