Saturday, November 5, 2011

2011 Vegetable Garden Triumphs

Vegetable gardens never fail to amaze me.  What works so well one year is a complete mess the next.  So I am trying to keep a record of what happens each year and hopefully I'll learn a few things along the way.

Last season I tried the Square Foot Gardening method which encourages really tight planting but discovered it didn't work for me at all.  Lettuce particularly became very cramped and turned into wet mounds of leaves becoming a delightful abode for slugs and earwigs.  This year I was diligent with  spacing and was rewarded with beautiful and tasty greens all summer long.  Drunken woman, Simpson Elite, Plato Romaine, and Butterhead all graced our table along with the spicy leaves of Nasturtiums. 

The nasturtiums were a pleasant surprise as I've never grown them before.  They were planted next to the lettuce and did exceedingly well.  The peppery taste of the leaves was highly anticipated in salads although I shied away from trying the flowers.  The butterflies enjoyed them enough for everyone.

Last year cilantro did exceedingly well and this year was no different.  Except this year not only did the seeds I plant spring into action I also had plants spring up out of the compost.  It seems last years cilantro reseeded itself in my compost pile and I've had cilantro popping out of every nook and cranny.  Luckily I like my herbs and I like the flowers on these plants as well.  They provided a little extra greenery in the flower beds but next year I'll be more careful to space out the volunteer seedlings so they don't completely take over.

All my herbs, in fact, did well this year.  Basil, oregano, dill, lemon balm, mint, parsley.  I've read that herbs thrive on neglect.  Perhaps this is telling a little something about my gardening style?

Everybody got to enjoy the plentiful herbs this summer
I tried a pepper plant for the first time ever this season and apparently neglect suited it fine too.  Although one industrious earwig dug a hole and made a home I was still grateful to find myself with four peppers at the end of the season.  Unfortunately the peppers didn't ripen quite as much as I would have liked but considering our very wet and cool summer I'm just pleased I was able to produce a pepper at all.

My crowning achievement though had to be the carrots.  I'm not sure how but I seem to have some knack with carrots.  Last year I produced a good haul of orange tubers and this year was no exception.  In addition, this year I grew the biggest carrot I have ever grown.

On the right is a one litre, or 32 ounce water bottle.  That bottle stands just over 8 inches high.  On the left is one exceptionally large carrot.  I used it for Thanksgiving dinner and it was the only carrot I cut up.  There were leftovers.  I still can't get over how big that darn carrot was.

And then there was the other side of the coin.....


  1. Wow, a great garden all around. Even the insects got to enjoy. That carrot is a prize winner. Not only big, but well formed too.

  2. Do eat the nasturtium flowers! They look amazing and taste mild. Just rinse any inhabitants off/out.

  3. I don't know I'm looking at your bed of lettuce and it looks like it was not neglected. I hear you about the slugs though I think we should start a slug control. I payed attention to my herbs this year and gave them enough room to root and grow, watch next year nothing will come up. I'll remember this post and the words neglect. Wow, that is a carrot for sure, I have only ever seen one that big before and my grandmother grew it years ago.

  4. Marguerite girl your carrots are AMAZING !!! I love herbs too and have had cilantro which is so hardy it is ridiculous ! LOL
    I did a mushroom herb butter thing with it, that husband did on the BBQ and got rave reviews : )
    My dill this year didn't do a thing .. it was so pitiful I had to put it out of it's misery .. that was a first for me because I usually end up with "dill trees" !!
    I laugh at those names for greens .. drunken woman is outrageous ! LOL Now how funny can it get ?
    PS .. I have just enough rosemary to dry jar for a friend .. the smell of its oil as I talk it off the stalks is heavenly to me .. I have always done rosemary and it never fails , you gotta' love that eh ?
    Hey .. if I had a view for sunsets I would grab those too girl but I am waiting to see yours now ! : )

  5. What a carrot!! My carrots were grown in a pot and not thinned out enough and were really teeny. They were so teeny it was almost ridiculous. Your veg beds look great! :o)

  6. Uh oh, that sounds ominous!
    Lovely carrot! And so good for you too! Congrats on the peppers - glad to hear that the "neglectful" gardening style works well - that's right up my alley lol!

  7. Marguerite, your veggie garden is amazing! Mine is just starting again this year. I am very successful with herbs, but veggies ... not so much!

  8. Triumphant vege patch! Love the salad leaves, so healthy-looking and pretty too. I rely on "benign neglect" working for my herbs, seems to work, I even had enough basil to make pesto this year which is a first. As for your carrot, stonking. I am envious. Maybe next year you should try showing carrots at a vege competition? That specimen looks totally perfect.

  9. I did a double take on that carrot! At first, I wondered if it was a real one! Wow! Love your 'bed'. And I like the square foot gardening method, but sometimes things do get a bit crowded. Whatever works best is best! I should grow herbs - I love things that will take neglect, too!

  10. Wow! What a carrot! Your hard work certainly paid off. Job well done!

  11. Holy carrot Marguerite! That's a beaut! :)

    Love the photos.. they're a shot of summer on a frosty morning.. I also haven't found much success in square foot gardening, but I do plant intensively which helps shade out possible weeds and keeps soil moist, even in summer.

  12. Wow that was a mega carrot. I mean to grow nasturtiums next year. A friend of mine is always raving about these and has so many in her garden.

  13. My horses respectfully request that you teach me how to grow bigger carrots! Mine were puny this year. :)

    This summer was my first for nasturtiums and I'm sold. I loved the way they crawled all over the back deck.

  14. That is an amazing carrot! It looks like it was very delicious, too. I have never tried square-foot gardening, but I do try to fit in as much as I can in my garden beds. I am glad you shared your experience, so I don't make the same mistake.

  15. Marguerite,
    Thank you for the lovely garden tour. I must try planting more herbs next year, especially cilantro which seem to be chief's Michael Smiths favorite herb.
    We also had a great crop of carrots and have stored then away for the winter. It is amazing how far one carrot will go at the dinner table.
    I may make some carrot muffins or cake this weekend just to use up the last tiny row I left in the
    garden because I have no extra storage space. I gave away a lot to friends and the food bank.
    Have you every frozen carrots already food processed for baking later?

  16. Hi Marguerite,
    That is one big carrot! I think I would be embarrassed to do a similar tally on what my vegetable garden produced it was so pathetic. I did do well with my herbs though and I did grow some carrots which are still in the ground. They went in late and I have been waiting patiently. Maybe I should go check on them...

  17. Beautiful photos. You should eat the nasturtium flowers next year they taste exactly like the leaves. You can also steep them in vinegar for a tasty addition to bean dishes or salad dressings or whatever. I make nasturtium vinegar every summer.

  18. Donna - someone asked me how I managed to get a straight carrot, that's been one benefit of raised beds, the loose soil is great for growing root veggies.

    Diana - I'm not so worried about the taste as the texture, flowers have a rubbery quality that I think might not go down so well.

    Cindy - I think you misunderstood, I meant that last year the lettuce was too tight together. I remedied that by not planting so close this year and the lettuce did much better. I do close up shots of the herbs so you can't see the weeds in the background!

    Joy - I admit I purchased the Drunken Woman lettuce almost solely on the name alone. How could anyone resist?

  19. TS - when I had a shade garden my carrots were similar. Weensy little things that took all summer to grow the size of my pinky finger. It made me realize how important sun is to a veggie garden.

    Jane - even with neglect I managed to grow a few things but as you might recall when you visited it was rather a sight with all those darn weeds busting out.

    Christine - I think herbs must be one of the most forgiving plants out there. Lucky for me as fresh herbs are such a pleasure in the kitchen.

    Janet - Stonking!! LOL what a great word. I'm not sure if that carrot was big enough for the fair but it was getting pretty close.

  20. Holley - there's aspects of the square foot gardening I like and as you say, whatever works is the best way to garden. I still need a lot of mucking around in the garden to find out what works best for me.

    Nitty Gritty - if I grew nothing but that carrot this year I'd say I'd be pleased.

    Niki - some plants seem to do better with close planting I think than others. Lettuce, for me, wasn't one of them but carrots did well planted close. I guess it's a matter of trying each one out and finding out what works.

    Kentish - this was my first year for nasturtiums and despite the poor weather they were an easy care plant. I direct seeded and by summers end the plants were starting to take over. Next year I'll give them a bit more room.

  21. Kate - this was my first year with nasturtiums as well and now I know to give them more room! I wish I knew the trick with the carrots but honestly I was just as surprised as anybody when I pulled it out of the ground.

    Sage Butterfly - I think square foot has some good qualities and some plants can probably handle the close planting better than others. Perhaps if I had thinned the lettuce along the way it would have worked better but I tend to grow leaf lettuce and leave the plants where they are and just pick off leaves one at a time. So spacing them out works better for me.

    Witch - you know I haven't tried freezing carrots processed but I freeze pumpkin like that so I don't see why it wouldn't work. Most of our carrots are eaten fresh with only a few making it to the dinner table. My favourite way to preserve them is to make soup and freeze it in batches for easy dinners. Cilantro, I can't say enough good about it. I love love love the flavour. Fresh in salads, wraps, salsa. and easy to grow too!

    Jennifer - I learned last year that carrots can stay in ground all winter long if you choose! Because we love them fresh I still have carrots in the ground and we just pick as we want them.

    Melanie - does the flower soak up the vinegar and you eat that or does the vinegar get the flavour of the flower and you use the vinegar? I do like the pepper flavour of the leaves, it gives a nice taste to a green salad.

  22. That is one HUGE carrot! You must have fabulous soil, as it's straight too! I agree, vegetable gardens can be variable from one year to the next, but that's part of what keeps us interested in gardening. It also makes blogs useful for comparing the garden year over year.

    Square foot gardening for lettuce has worked well for us, but I suspect your atmospheric humidity may be higher than ours in summer. We can get quite dry (when the wretched fog doesn't loom). Next season I dare you to try the nasturtium flowers. They're actually quite tasty, and the orange blooms especially are beautiful in a salad alongside a few blue borage flowers too! ;)

  23. Pet comment: I grew up with cats and dogs. We once had a cat walk into our kitchen and never leave. He took one look around, decided life was good, and stayed for 10 yrs. He was the most affectionate of our cats. All five of my dogs are shelter rescues and I agree with you that they seem to have a greater understanding of how easy they have it now. :o)

  24. Clare - humidity is something I've really had to get used to on the east coast. It affects everything from the garden to the wood floors in our house which warp with the excess moisture. Although planting close in square foot boxes didn't agree with me the soil sure did. I can thank the light soil mix for my extra straight carrots.

    Tammy - I love your story about the cat. I have always thought that cats pick their owners as opposed to owners adopting cats.