Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Follow-up, part 2

I have mixed feelings about the garden this year. Ell and I usually do all the pre-garden work together, but this year we furthered our co-op experience by starting all the seedlings with the couple that we share the other expenses with. We made a day of it with dinner and wine and a whole night elbow deep in starting medium and seed packets. And the shared experience was awesome. Both in good times with friends, as well as the success of the seeds. The germination rate was better than any other year. That is until our newest cat, Ruby, got into the sunroom and ate all the tomato plants, most of the onions, and a random scattering of other plants. Thanks to Ell's cooler head, the cat somehow survived, but all our hard work was gone.

The tomatoes were our biggest loss. Back in June I told you about the tomato plants that were growing from seeds of fallen fruit out of last year's garden. Our best guess said they were mainly from one kind of paste tomato we were very pleased with. So since we had no tomato seedlings left, I decided to grow out a bed of these second generation (and possibly cross pollinated) plants. I plugged them and moved the strongest 20 plants into a single bed. About 2/3 survived and seemed really healthy. But they only made it a couple months and then died out. They had produced a lot of fruit, but most of it died with the plants. We bought 8 other plants from a local organic nursery, but they didn't do so well either. The only bright spot for us was a paste tomato that was bigger than my fist. Pretty cool.

My co-op partner has been alternating and saving two kinds of onion seeds for 3 years now. Since the cat ruined all but five of the onion plants, I direct-seeded a bunch of these seeds when the weather got warm enough. Even with a shortened season, they are doing really good. Not as big as usual, but still tasty.

As usual, the mesclun did great. Besides the usual variety, we tried a spicy blend that seemed overrun with one particular lettuce that bolted quickly, so we weren't very impressed. But the fact that it bolted before I could get it out of the garden, has brought an unexpected surprise: new little green sprouts. Mesclun (as well as most leafy greens) prefer colder weather, so all these cold nights have produced a nice second crop of salad greens. They are a bit spicy, so they are a great addition to grilling and salad.

The carrots didn't do as well as I'd hoped as we only had about 1/2 germination. We did get one ginormous oxheart that didn't split or fork. It's gotta be as big around as a softball and at least four inches long. I'll try to get a picture posted. It's amazing. As for the winter crop of carrots I planted 2 weeks ago, they seem to be doing really good. Nothing like fresh veggies in the middle of the winter.

The peppers didn't do bad, nor did they do great. We'll have enough to make a small batch of our hot mustard, with some left to use for cooking and drying. The plants didn't seem to grow as big because they were shadowed by some huge zucchini plants growing by the compost bin. They blocked most of the morning sun, and peppers need it to be hot to grow good. But like I said, we have enough for what we need.

The biggest disappointment of the garden was bugs. Organic gardeners who refuse to use anything unnatural will always have bug problems, but this year they won. Squash bugs completely killed all of my melons and then cut short the zucchini season by weeks. I was able to salvage a few delicata squashes before they destroyed those fruit as well. What those bugs didn't kill, the Japanese beetles finished off. We lost the entire first growth of basil to those *#&! bugs, as well as many of the beans, regular mesclun, half the apple harvest, and the whole canopy of grape leaves. It was easily the worst year I ever remember for those things.

But all was not lost. We did manage to freeze ten or so bags of beans. Ell also canned three or four cases of applesauce and made her maiden voyage into Apple Butter territory with great success. We have a counter full of squash and zucchini for the winter. There are dozens of red onions ready to be picked to heat up the cold air. The garlic may be small but we have at least fifteen heads to make that pasta just a bit tastier. The grapes fought the beetles and are fuller than we've ever seen them. We might even try our hand at wine this year. The kale and winter greens and leeks are all healthy and crying out to be eaten. And the sunflower mix has produced some really pretty flowers.

So even though the garden was less than what I'd hoped for, we still had a fairly successful summer harvest. Those bugs are gonna feel my wrath next year, and our seed saving is really starting to pay off. So I'm still excited about growing my own food. And all of this is making me hungry for a salad. I'll talk at ya tomorrow.


Blogger Kimmy said...

I'd love to give that wine a try if you make it;-)

3:58 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

We went to NY to visit "the" aunt one time and went to some vineyards/wineries. They talked in length about the Prohibition and how they managed to stay in business during those years.

I guess they sold large drums of grape juice with explicit instructions on what not to do to turn it into wine.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Yeah, I wasn't as excited about the prospects that our garden gave us this year, but I thing that we have managed to make use of more of the things from the garden than in past years, we have eaten so much from it that I think that we are to the point where we know what we need to grow and not over-do it and lose more than we use.

5:23 PM  
Blogger GUYK said...

I didn't do much with a garden tis past spring and have not planted a fall garden other than a couple of Cherry tomato plants that look kinda sad right now due to green worms snacking on the leaves...but they have been picked off and the plants dusted with pesticide.

Looks like we are gonna be gone again next spring..hopefully to another blog meet in Texas in May and a month of fishing on some Oklahoma lakes and a mini blog meet in Yazoo Miss.

So, probably another year without the homegrown veggies..

9:46 AM  
Blogger Kyle said...

i think you need to have a several-thousand-dollar steam system installed in your garden to take care of those pesky bugs... i mean that makes the most sense.

3:34 PM  
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