Monday, December 12, 2011
Mid December is normally a very slow garden month, even though I am still cutting that amazing Swiss Chard. We’ve had numerous frosts, but the plants keep producing and I keep picking. It has to be one of the best crops that I’ve planted in the garden and has consistently great results, year after year. Looking back at the growing year, tomatoes were also outstanding and we are still enjoying the sauce. In fact, I am using lots of the frozen tomato sauce for the 20 lb. of meatballs which will be served at our annual holiday party. Every time I taste that sauce, I am transported back to July when I was picking baskets of tomatoes daily. Mmmmm – smells like summer. The greens did very well especially the winter greens that were started in February in the hoophouse. We had salads every day until mid June. The peppers were slow in starting, but I picked them well into the fall. We had tons of beans, some peas and a little bit of broccoli. That being said, we had more garden failures than any previous year. I harvested one eggplant, the size of a marble! No eggplant parmesan this year! The herbs came up but were disappointing. I like to freeze dill and parsley, but didn’t have enough of a crop to do it this year. Only got a couple broccoli plants, although there is still broccoli growing in the garden. Maybe I need to rethink the planting schedule. The strawberries were a total failure due to the wet spring, but the wild raspberries had a very hearty harvest. My daughter made jars and jars of raspberry jam for Christmas presents this year. The cucumbers were a total failure and a huge disappointment. I love cucumber salad, but it was not meant to be. And even the winter rye that I planted as a fall cover crop failed to germinate. I’ll probably follow the same timeline for 2012. Funny thing is, what works out well one year, fails in the next. And we certainly did have odd weather this year. We had snow on Halloween, for gosh sakes!
So, in the spirit of the closing of the year and reflecting on this year’s garden, I have a list of suggestions to improve next year’s garden.
1) The bamboo supports that I made for the tomatoes looked great until Hurricane Irene came along, broke and knocked them all over. The tomatoes spent the rest of their days lying on the ground. It made harvesting more difficult and looked terrible.
2) It is not possible to grow springtime cabbage and broccoli without some kind of insect netting. Although I did get to pick quite a few cabbage, the moths enjoyed them more than I did.
3) DO NOT USE FRESH MANURE IN THE GARDEN!!! I read this, but did I listen – NOOOOO! The horse manure was full of weed seeds and of course weeds came up before the vegetable seeds had a chance to germinate. I was fighting weeds all summer long (and into the winter too!). I have my very own manure pile now and it will be composted by the spring.
4) Stagger the tomato starts by at least 1 month. Since I plant my early tomato plants in the hoophouse, it works for me very well and I have an early crop. But I give plants away to friends who have a normal growing schedule and the plants are too big and root bound by the time they get them in mid May.
5) Replace the strawberry bed with asparagus. Truth is, I’d rather have asparagus and since both are long-time commitments, I choose asparagus.
6) Repair the garden fence and gate so rabbits can’t get in. Duh!
7) Globe zucchinis are very confusing. I forget what is planted there and then when I have these round objects growing in the garden, I don’t know what they are. Plus, they just look wrong. I’ll go back to the old tried and true shape.
8) Grow butternut squash, NOT acorn squash. Butternut squash soup is the best!
9) And lastly, I plan to start more flowers. I enjoyed having a few flats of marigolds to scatter around the house. And a packet of seeds is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a flat at the garden store.
So here we are in mid December and plans are already in the works for Garden 2012. I miss not getting my hands dirty and spending the day in the garden. But before you know it, mid February will be here and it will be time to plant the mesclun in the hoophouse and start the tomatoes. I can’t wait!