January has been a time of gardening rest and reflection. A time sit warm and cozy in the window seat overlooking our kitchen garden and ponder how the garden grew in 2010 and what we’d do differently in 2011.
The Good in 2010:
- Pole Beans- we grew pole beans for the first time last year. We found it so much easier to harvest than bush beans. Theoretically bush beans are great if you want your entire harvest to come around the same time, which is great for canning and freezing. Pole beans are better if you want a continual harvest, which is great for fresh eating. With just two teepees of pole beans we had plenty to eat fresh and freeze as well.
- Pumpkins- we grew pumpkins for the first time last year. We really enjoyed watching them grow and having homegrown jack-o-lanterns. Pumpkin soup was yummy too.
- Russian Fingerling Potatoes- by far these were my favorite potato of 2010. I had heard about fingerling potatoes in foodie magazines, but had never tasted one before last year. I’m not a big potato eater and I loved these! They were small with waxy flesh and great flavor.
- Tomatoes on a Trellis- While 2010 was not a great weather year for tomatoes, we still had a decent crop in late summer. We usually grow tomatoes in standard tomato cages, but this year we tried growing some indeterminate varieties on our 7’ x 10’ hog panel trellis. The trellis made it easy to train the vines. We were able to tie the vines to the trellis and prune off the excess growth. Since the plants were trained flat to the trellis the entire plant had good sun exposure and the fruit was easy to pick from both sides of the trellis.
- Garlic- we had a great crop of garlic in 2010. I picked it on time and dried the heads properly.
The Bad in 2010:
- The Weather- The weather fluctuated wildly last Spring confusing many of our early crops. Beets and Brassicas (cabbages and kohlrabi) bolted (went to flower) before forming properly.
- Black Aphids- we had a ton of black aphids for the first time last Summer. They were all over the squash leaves and corn.
- Overplanting- we have a tendency to stuff as many plants as possible in our garden beds because we never know what kind of harvest we’re going to have. We are also unsure how long the crops are going to store before going bad. We planted too many sweet onions that don’t store very long. Although I gave quite a few away, many still rotted in the basement.
- Neglecting the Harvest Window- some crops have a very small harvest window before they go bad. I missed the prime blackberry harvest period. During berry picking time, I need to go out every couple of days to get each berry at its peak of ripeness. I went about a week without picking and hundreds went soft and molded. Having a bunch of moldy berries on the vine makes it more difficult to get to the good ones that are still ripening.
Looking back at the good and bad of 2010 gives us lessons to apply in 2011:
- Use row covers to moderate wildly fluctuating weather to prevent bolting
- For vegetables that don’t store, plant only the amount we can really eat fresh and stagger plant them for a continuous harvest. For vegetables that do store, plant what we’ll really eat over Winter.
- Harvest on time.
- Repeat what went well. Continue to try new varieties and methods. The weather is unpredictable, so what works well one year may not work well the next. Gardening is definitely a life-long learning process.
Now that January is coming to a close we are very anxious complete our Winter chores and start our cool-season crops.