Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Vegetable Garden Review

I started planning for next year's vegetable garden over the Christmas break.  Figuring out what seed I need to order, where to rotate the crops to next.  I always find it helpful when planning ahead to look at the past year.  Reflecting on what went wrong and what went right helps to plan for what to do next.

A sample from the summer garden
Some plants I have *somewhat* mastered and know what to expect from year to year.  Once again I harvested more carrots than we could eat.  Beans, garlic, basil, dill and lettuce were in abundance as well.  The amount of cucumbers I grew was unreal.  We give away cucumbers like some people do with zucchini.  I grow Tasty Jade cucumbers and they seem resistant to mildew, bugs, hot, cold, wet - anything you can throw at them.  One plant produces a half dozen long english style cucumbers per week in peak season.  We did so good that I took bags of food to the Upper Room Food Bank this year on an almost weekly basis.

Pole beans covered the trellis in no time
Speaking of zucchinis, we didn't get a single one this year.  Not one.  It seems impossible.  They are one of the easiest plants to grow and they produce in vast numbers.  So what happened?  Well the plant grew and started to flower and just when I thought we would get a zucchini ...... I found mould. Fruit rotted, stems dropped off and the whole plant died.  Powdery mildew was to blame.  I had only planted a single plant so we didn't have a back up.  I was reduced to purchasing zucchini at the Farmer's Market.  the shame.

Another disaster was the asparagus.  I planted asparagus seedlings the first year we started this garden.  I've been hoping for asparagus every year since and I am finally throwing in the towel.  Next spring I'm digging them up and giving them away.  The plants are healthy enough but the perennial weeds in my garden keep choking them back so that they never produce enough spears for eating.  I can't get rid of the weeds without dousing the whole place in chemicals so the asparagus will need to go.

Each year I try to grow something new to me and stretch my abilities.  Sometimes it's a small change.  Like garlic.


I discovered a garlic grower here on PEI last winter.  Eureka Garlic grows around 70 varieties of garlic and I just had to try some of them out for myself.  I planted my usual crop of Music.  Then I purchased French Rocambole and Chinook to trial.  Another variety, Susan Delafield, was gifted to me.

 
Chinook was a miss, the bulbs never formed properly.  But I loved French Rocambole and the extra large bulbs of Susan Delafield.  Some of the best bulbs were put aside and planted in the fall for next year's crop.

A new variety of pumpkin was also grown this season.

Queensland Blue Pumpkins 
I've grown a new variety of pumpkin almost every year we've been here and have yet to decide on one I love.  I first tasted blue pumpkin years ago when I travelled in Australia.  It was my first exposure to pumpkin as a vegetable for eating and not carving.  My memories of those pumpkins drove me to search out Queensland Blue Pumpkin seed for this year's garden.  The vines were large and the yield was low but what a pumpkin!  Beautiful flavour when used in soup.  I am saving seed from these and will continue growing them in future.

I also tried watermelon this year.  It was a long shot but I thought some fruit would be a nice change.  The Yellow Doll seeds sprouted but the plants just never took off.  I collected a couple watermelons the size of golfballs and that was all.  Too cold perhaps.  I picked up some melon seeds at a recent seed exchange and will keep trying for melons next year.

Something completely and entirely new to me was soybeans.  I've never grown these before but will definitely be trying them again.

Gaia Soybean
I found these seeds at a seed swap and planted a half dozen plants to test.  My only problem was I didn't pick the beans early enough and they were starting to harden when I finally got to them.  These are best picked young and eaten with a little salt and butter.  YUM!

Another new to me plant was kale.  I know, this isn't new to most people.  For some reason though I've never eaten kale in my whole life.  Don't know how I missed it but there you go.  At the same seed swap I took a packet of kale seeds on a whim.  and now I love kale.

I've struggled with onions for the past few years.  Starting my plants from seed in the depths of winter, coaxing the seedlings along for months only to see half of them die as soon as they hit the ground.  This year I bought seedlings instead and although it was expensive it was worth it.

messy garage and string upon string of onions
We ate onions all through the summer, donated some and then I dried around 50 or so of them in the fall to keep for the winter.

You know what else did well.  Beets.

Bull's Blood beets have beautiful red leaves
Beets are one of those things I don't seem to have the knack for.  This year was an exception.  I bought new seed for Bull's Blood beets and they grew like I have never had beets grow before.  Maybe it was the fresh seed, maybe the soil is finally healthy enough to support them - I don't know the reason but we had beets galore....  and we discovered we're actually not all that fond of beets.  We don't dislike them.  They're lovely diced fresh onto a salad or roasted with other root vegetables.  But we don't like them enough to eat handfuls of them throughout the summer.

Same went for parsnips.  I finally grew parsnips and I was so pleased.  Not very many but more than we needed.  Parsnip is nice occasionally but not regularly.  Not sure I'll bother with these again.  I would rather plant extra of things we love than waste space on things we only eat occasionally.

Another veggie I try and try to grow well is rutabegas.

This rutabaga looked exactly like a pair of dancing legs to me
I had better success this year but my soil still isn't healthy enough to produce good specimens.  Brown-heart can be found each time I slice one open.  The issue is lack of boron.  I've read about adding Borax to the soil to alleviate this problem but it sounds dangerous as too much can be toxic.  I'm hoping that manure and seaweed additions to the soil will eventually solve this issue.

Overall it was another good season and we collected loads of food to eat fresh and store for the winter.  Today the weather is cold and the garden is sleeping for the winter but we're still enjoying steaming bowls of soup and slices of apple pie.


It doesn't get better than that.

24 comments:

  1. Lovely vegetable gardening review. Funny picture of the dancing rutabaga, it drives me to a cheerful mood.
    Wish you a Happy and Healthy Gardening Year!

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    1. Janneke, it made me laugh too. Who couldn't love a pair of dancing turnip legs? all the best to you in the new year.

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  2. I do love the annual edibles review, though the failures can get depressing. You really made me smile, reading about you finally being successful at growing beetroot and discovering you're not that keen! All part of the learning. Like you, I love to try new things each year, not sure what this coming year, something easy! Wishing a happy and productive set of new adventures in the vege garden this year.

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    1. Glad you had a laugh Janet. I was so stoked to finally have this amazing crop of beets and then we barely ate them and I was like, ummm, oops. Like you say, there's always something to learn! Happy new year to you too.

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  3. I loved reading your veggie review. It made me realize how small our veggie plot is. I have been drooling over the seed catalog that I received this past week. I want some of everything. ha... I have to choose sparingly. We also had more cucumbers than we could use. Not the same type as you grew, we grew a smaller pickle variety. We were also nearly overtaken by the small grape tomatoes we grew. A nice surprise. I am not surprised that you couldn't grow watermelon. Watermelon is a cash crop in my area. I hear about all the ups and downs of watermelon growing. I can tell you it needs heat. The growers here put black plastic on the ground to make it hot enough to get them growing. They need lots of water at first then do well with little. So... I hope this might help you with your watermelon quest. Happy Gardening.

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    1. Lisa, you would be surprised at how small a space I actually garden in. I just cram the veggies together. I'd like to expand actually so plants get a little breathing room. It should help with the mildew and blight issues. Thanks for the tips on watermelon. I got some seeds for a cantaloupe type melon that should grow here but will try black plastic to warm things up a bit. We have such a short season that any little bit will help.

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  4. I discovered soy beans this year too (not that I grew any but discovered how tasty they are when eaten young)! I was on a hike and passed by a field of young soy beans and tried a few pods raw - yum, tasty as eating raw peas!

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    1. aren't they wonderful?! I first had them at a restaurant in Vancouver but never considered growing my own until I saw that packet of seeds. I agree, very yummy straight off the plant too. I froze them just like peas as well and added them to curry the other night.

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  5. Beautiful pictures of your vegetable garden review. The dancing rutabaga just cracks me up with laughter. I must try growing my own garlic. I don't live too far from Eureka Garlic and I usually just drop in to buy my garlic from Alan. Such a nice man who also used to run Boo Boo's honey.
    Funny how they also time the seed catalogues to come out just before the holidays so we have time to cruise through them all.
    I like the look of the Queensland Blue Pumpkins,may try them this year.
    I will be planting more beans for drying. I find these get used up for baked beans and I just love the different colours of the beans. Make great gifts in a jar with the recipe attached. Red Peanut bean is a nice bean to grow found in Heritage Harvest Seed catalogue.
    I think I might also try Kale since you had good success with it.
    Thanks so much for the garden up-date. Always a treat to read about your gardening and love the pictures.
    All the best to you and hubby in 2015.
    Happy gardening always!

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    1. Thank you! Alan is wonderful and so enthusiastic. I have driven by his place before but never ventured in. It was great to finally meet him and discover all the garlic he has available. If you'd like some Blue Pumpkin seed send me an email. canoe corner at hotmail. I ordered mine from a place in BC, was the only one I could find. I'm saving seed though from what I grew this year and would gladly give you some. Isn't Heritage harvest the best? I only looked at the William Dam catalogue so far but they will likely be the next I dive into.

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  6. Hi,
    I enjoyed reading your review.
    My son Atticus wants to try watermelon this year too. We have a short growing season here in Wisconsin. So it will be a challenge, but I hope it works for him. He enjoys looking at the seed catalogs with me.
    We also had beets galore this year. I am not much of a beet person, but we liked them juiced with some ginger. So we will plant them again for that refreshing drink.

    I have never tried onions, so this year will be the first for me. My gardening mentor, Marv, he grows onions like crazy. :-) I hope to pick up some hints from him.

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    1. Hi Carla, good to hear from you. Beets and ginger sounds pretty good. Great way to use up excess beets and probably quite healthy. I made the mistake for years of thinking onions should be in the ground like garlic. I kept hoeing the soil up around them and wondering why they kept poking out. Finally realized they are meant to grow on TOP of the soil! it's working out much better for me now!! haha.

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  7. I admire you for getting into the gardening spirit already. It's minus 25 here and more snow is forecast , gardening is far from my mind. It's great reading your gardening recap. I would love to try soybeans but I fear my season is too short and my greenhouse real estate is already taken.
    Heres to a fabulous garden in 2015

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    1. Melanie, I find the colder it is the more I think about gardening. maybe it's just a form of wishful thinking :) I wouldn't write off soybeans just yet. These were planted straight into the ground beginning of June and the beans were ready for eating in August. They had about the same growth rate as any other bean I grew. You want to pick these young too as that's when they're tender. Come to think of it, I saved seed and I think I have your address kicking around somewhere. I'd be happy to send some for you to try out .... (sound tempting?)

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  8. I've planned out my seeds for this spring/summer, too, and am down to only growing 2 vegetables from my max of 4. I've kicked out the tomatoes because they are disease sponges for me and I don't enjoy peppers as much as I enjoy flowers. So, I'll have sweet potatoes and carrots in my nanofarm this year but weekly trips to the farmers market. Your veggie garden looks fabulous. I'd take the dancing rutabaga as a good sign. Sounds like a party in your garden! Ok, it's corny but I couldn't resist. Ok - I couldn't resist that bad veggie joke, either! :o)

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    1. I think that's a great decision Tammy. I'm trying to whittle down the veggies we grow too. Some of it just isn't worth the effort. Better to know what you like, what works for you and go with just that. That rutabaga was pretty awesome wasn't it? I needed about 100 photos and then I could do a flip book of it dancing.

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  9. Ha, ha, love your dancing rutabaga:) I grew kale for several years before I actually harvested any to eat--I just liked the way it looked in my garden. My husband isn't fond of it, but I froze some and keep sneaking it into soups. I haven't thought about seeds to order for this year, but I do know some changes need to be made--I have to find a new place for zucchini and squash, as the squash bugs inevitably find them--I didn't have a single zucchini either! Looks like you had a great year in the garden, Marguerite, and I'm sure the food pantry really appreciated your contributions--that's a wonderful way to share the bounty of your garden.

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    1. Thanks Rose. We share our fresh veg with a lot of people, co-workers, students at my husband's school but giving to the food bank made me feel really good. I liked the idea of people getting fresh food that they wouldn't ordinarily have access to. I understand completely about planting kale for looks. Love the curly and purple varieties. They're gorgeous. Coloured swiss chard is lovely too. One of these I should get adventurous and plant them in my flower garden.

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  10. Happy New Year Marguerite! I am so impressed that you have done so much planning so early in the year. I think it is smart to grow what you like to eat and forget the rest.
    I always take mental notes on your reviews. You are not the only one new to kale. I have yet to try it despite the craze for it. I have a feeling I'd like it tough. Interesting to read about the soya beans. Another veggie that is new to me.

    Love that strutting rutabaga! I have some seeds coming your way shortly.

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    1. Happy new year to you too Jennifer! Now you've got me excited - I'll have to send you an email, we changed our address to a PO Box. The weather was too poor to go outdoors so that's why I got some garden planning done. and I find this time of year after a break from gardening I start getting the itch again. We liked the baby kale. Good for salads, or in stirfrys and omelettes. I think I felt like it was too trendy to eat but now I'm glad I tried. If you like spinach (which we eat a lot of) you'll probably like this too.

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  11. Happy new year to you! I look forward to curling up by the fire and doing the kitchen review so much that I postpone it until the last possible moment. Last year, I looked forward to it so much that it never actually got done. I like the look of those pumpkins - I'll see if we can get something similar here.

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    1. Isn't it fun to sit here in winter and dream of spring again? I think that's what eggs me on to draw up garden plans. It's not work at all to me, just a lot of fun entertaining notions of what I'd like to do next.

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  12. Happy New Year to you both: Love your review and pictures of your garden success and failures. Perhaps you would enjoy beets pickled, I have a good recipe if you would like it..I also love them sliced and fried in butter. Planted garlic this fall so hope it goes well..Up to ten plants of asparagus so look forward to seeing it succeed. Those blue pumpkins are amazing. You put so much planning into your garden, I walk into a store, look at the seeds and buy what looks good and hope that hubby will eat! :). Carrots do well and thrilled my red onions did well. Will try soy beans and Kale now too. All the best in the New Year and Happy gardening from Cranberry Cottage..it sure is a hit and miss hobby!

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    1. Happy New Year Lannie!! I hope you had a wonderful holiday at your new home and I'm wishing you all the best to come in the new year. Don't be fooled, I pick up pretty packets of seeds in the store too and come home with all sorts of goodies I hadn't planned on. But I try to get a sense of what I'd like to do and dream a little bit when the cold weather leaves me sitting indoors. Now i'm thinking I gave up on beets too soon. maybe I just need better recipes. fried in butter sounds pretty darn good.

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