Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Long Winded Update

Tomatoes did very well at the community garden. There's very little shade there, so they get a lot more sunlight. Amish Paste did great. Got lots of large meaty tomatoes out of 4 plants. Tigerella did ok, tomatoes seemed smaller and less plentiful. Cherokee Purple did fairly well, got more tomatoes than I usually get from the shadier backyard garden. Also had a couple Early Girl plants that were started late. They did ok, but not great. I think staking helped a lot. In the end most of the plants succumbed to what I suspect was late blight long before there was any danger of frost. I think for next year I will do two things differently. First, I will cage the plants rather than staking. I did a decent job of keeping the top of the plant staked, but some of the lower branches got a bit out of control. Second, I will prune the lower branches aggressively. The lower branches were the first to be hit with the blight. They don't get much sunlight down there anyway. They drag on the ground (which I suspect invites disease and possibly bugs). And they make it very hard to get at the weeds. And since the weeds get thick down there, I lost a few fruit that were hidden in the grass. Not sure the weeds really impacted the production of the plants too much, but they certainly didn't help.

The pumpkins grew without any intervention on my part.

Zucchini was started late, direct sewn in June (was it June?). Still I got maybe a dozen zucchini over the season. But both squash beetles and vine borers put an end to production by September. Particularly enjoyed zucchini flowers this year. Dipped them in egg and rolled them in flour, then pan fried until golden brown. Really fabulous, will try that again next year. If I could protect maybe three plants from the ravages of bugs, I could have all the zucchini I want until frost hits. Though I'd need to pollinate by hand, since zucchini is dependent on bugs for pollination. Will give this some consideration for next year.

I did a bit of weeding. Maybe I should keep up with it better.

Peppers at the community garden didn't do that well. I planted them at the edge of the plot, right behind my neighbor's sunflowers. They were also too close to my tomatoes and zucchini, both of which grew over them. Good to keep in mind for next year.

Hungarian Wax pepper. Nice color.

At home, tomatoes in buckets did ok, but I failed to stake them and I left them in the (too shady) backyard. Curiously, I think the squirrels ignored the cherry tomatoes in the back yard. It has been kind of wet this year, maybe the squirrels just weren't interested. I left the chicken wire cage up from last year, but let it go to seed. I may take it down and plant something else there next year. Tomatoes just do so much better at the community garden it's almost not worth planting them at home. If I don't plant tomatoes at home, that opens up a lot of space in the backyard garden. Peppers did ok. I neglected them severely, mulched with lawn clippings and grass exploded. I did weed a bit too late in the season. They have perked up considerably since the weeding. I need to reconsider mulching with grass clippings. They do a great job of keeping in the moisture, but grass literally explodes out of the clippings after a while. Perhaps I'll save up several garbage bags full of shredded leaves for next year's mulch.

Peppers in 2 gallon plastic buckets did VERY well. At one point I harvested 40 jalapenos from 6 or 7 buckets of plants. The plants did slightly better with a single plant per bucket, but still got more peppers from the 2 plant buckets, so I think I will go with 2 per bucket next year. Maybe I will try some experiments next year and see how production declines from 1 to 9 plants in a bucket... The jalapenos were situated under the tulip tree on the top of a stone wall. They were happy. I did not fertilize, I suspect that would have helped a bit. Occasionally I neglected to water them and they got wilty, but they perked right back up after a solid drenching.

Proto-hot sauce.

Planted about a 10' x 2' section of the side garden in the back with beans (for drying) of four different varieties. The output was very disappointing. After shelling and discarding the ugly ones, I ended up with a small bowl of dry beans, maybe 2 cups. I need to double check varieties. I think I've heard that fava beans produce more, but I'm not sure I enjoy fava beans. In early September I took a chance and plants 50 or 60 green beans I'd saved from last year's crop (wait, year before??). Anyway, it's unlikely that they'll make it to maturity as our first frost date in zone 6b is mid October. With 50 days to maturity that puts me 4th week in October. But It was only a fraction of my seed stock, and it has been unseasonably warm. I read the other day that 2012 was the warmest year on record. So I might just get some return on my investment.

Basil has been doing great. My goal was to see if I could raise basil in repurposed 2 liter bottles. Mission accomplished! The plants did ok in empty soda bottles. I did learn a bit more about the life cycle of basil, too. The seem to grow upward in a single stalk. Pinching off the top of the plant encourages more bushiness. At some point the leaves turn from nice lush dark green to a lighter green. I'm not certain that the flavor of the leaves changes much at this point, but they do get a bit woodier in texture. At about the same time they start to flower. Conventional wisdom is you need to pinch off the flowers. I left the flowers on some of them and they're kind of pretty - little strands of white petals. I did transplant some basil into a somewhat shadier part of the garden and it truly thrived. Some of the 2 liter bottle plants are clearly root-bound at this point, and I can see the roots.

Jalapeno. Looks like he's flexing his muscles.

Lessons for next year summarized:

   * Tomatoes
      * Amish Paste is a keeper
      * Cherokee Purple is a keeper
      * Sun Gold is a keeper
      * Black Cherry is a keeper
      * Cherokee Purple is a keeper
      * Was happy with Tigerella last year, but it was disappointing this year
      * Grow tomatoes at the community garden, they do much better
      * Don't overwater!
      * Figure out how and when to fertilize
      * Use a wire cage instead of staking
      * Prune the lowest branches

   * Peppers
      * Two per 2 gallon pail is ok
      * They did well on the patio, though they got way too hot in midsummer
      * They did great on the stone wall under the tulip tree
      * Mulching with grass was a mistake!
      * Rabbits hit them even inside the 8' fence. I should chicken wire around the bottom
      * I need a longer hose to reach the plants in the back so I water them more

   * Basil
      * 2 liter bottles ok
      * Part shady is ok
      * I should check how long each phase of growth takes

   * Beans, dry
      * Disappointing
      * Try other varieties? Possibly pole beans?

Preliminary thoughts for next year

If I get a larger plot at the community garden I might try some new varieties of tomato. If I get a full plot (20' x 25') I might try ten or twenty different kinds. Possibly start things very early with wall-of-water. Give each plant plenty of space, maybe 2'. Quick back of the envelope calculation suggests I can stuff 20 plants per quarter plot, 40 per half plot, and 88 per whole plot (less walkway, longer row). Eighty eight is probably too many.

Zucchini seems to be a lost cause, but I may plant a few at the community garden in hopes of getting some return. Really need to try a cage and hand pollination. Will plant a few of the Zucchino rampicante as well next year.

Winter squash seems to do ok at home, may repurpose the 10' x 10' "Three sisters garden' area for winter squash. Or some of it at least. Probably a few each of a couple varieties. Possibly some pumpkins as well. Hubbard, butternut, acorn. Some of those white/green stripey pumpkins.

More peas next year. Sugar snap. Guard them better, water them attentively.

Tons of cucumbers. Pickle up a storm.

Carrots. Spinach. Lettuce. Cabbage.

Corn, but only if I build a cage for it. Possibly repurpose the tomato cage for corn.

Seven jalapeno buckets is enough. Lots of different types next year. Anaheim in buckets? Seven Hungarian wax buckets is enough. Paprika, cayenne, Anaheim, Hung. wax, Jalapeno are musts for next year. Need to try others as well. Possibly bring back bell. Sweet banana did well. Yellow cayenne was cool.

Potatoes are a must next year. If I get a much bigger plot, then at the community garden. If not, then make a space for them at home. Possibly yams.

Jerusalem artichokes next year. For sure. This is a keeper.

Set up the garlic at home, perhaps a bigger patch, around Halloween.

Ground cherries were good, try to get enough for a pie.

Maybe try beets for grins.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

2012 Recap

Pulled the garlic in early July. Much better bulbs than last year, I think plant around Halloween is a good plan.
Garlic harvest
My glorious pepper harvest. Also have gotten some Long Thin Cayenne and Pepperoncini is close to ready. Habaneros haven't fruited yet.
Peppers clockwise from 12 o'clock - Jalapenos, banana, Hungarian wax, yellow
cayenne, Hungarian wax, Serrano, Anaheim
Picked 40 Jalapenos in one batch, more are growing.
Made Jalapeno poppers. Delicious!
Homemade Jalapeno Poppers
Jalapenos have done very well in 2 gallon plastic pails, as have the Hungarian wax peppers.
Jalapeno hedgerow
Basil did well in 2 liter bottles, did great in the part shady corner of the back side garden. I pulled all the plants at once since it was getting a bit overgrown and shading my beans. 3/4 of a pound of leaves, made 3 quarts of pesto. 

Only two of my ground cherry plants came up. But I got a number of fruit. Very tasty, be nice to have enough for a pie next year.
Top: Sweet basil, Bottom: Ground cherries
Elderberries are growing well, but not much fruit. Here was the whole harvest.
Got a nice haul of tomatoes, I'm very pleased with how well the tomatoes did at the Quaker community garden. Got a LOT of Amish paste tomatoes, and a much better crop of Cherokee purple than I got at home - I don't think the backyard garden gets anywhere near as much sun as the community garden. Tigerella and Early Girl did pretty well too (got the EG as a gift). Hopefully next year I will get a bigger plot and can grow more. I never had enough at one time to do serious canning, though I made sauce and tomato juice, plus peeled and froze some of them.
Tomatoes, zucchini, and other random junk