A Garden Year in Review, 2016
It Was a Great Year!
I had a great gardening year in
2016. Of course, I’m a mad-dog gardener, so that means I was born optimistic
and wired to remember success, not failure. So I suppose I had some of both.
But the weather was largely sunny and I got a great yield from most of my
vegetables, especially my precious tomatoes. I have enough food put away that
if all my newspapers fired me tomorrow, I could probably survive just eating
out of my freezers and cold cellar all winter.
Tomatoes are bothered by early
blight and late blight. Late blight is the bad one, the one with spores that
float in on the wind, killing everything and turning fruit into mush. When it
comes early, we don’t get tomatoes, but I dodged it this year. I did have some
early blight, but less than most years, probably because of the dry weather.
Well mulched and pruned tomato plant with no signs of blight
I also mulched my tomatoes with hay
early on, and cut off any diseased branches once or twice a week, reducing the
spread of late blight. My Sun Gold cherry tomatoes produced hundreds of
tomatoes each, I dehydrated them using my Excalibur brand dehydrator, and will
enjoy them in soups and stews all winter.
I had great success with the one
tomato plant in a raised bed made by Gardeners Supply, something they call a “VegTrug”.
The tomato I planted in it was virtually disease free, and what’s more, the
green tomatoes I picked from it before frost ripened perfectly and did not rot.
I ate a few good tomatoes each week until Thanksgiving. The tomato was one
called, “Summer Sunrise” and I got the seeds from Hudson Valley Seed Library. I
shall grow it again, for sure. It had good flavor, right up to the end.
Kale is always a winner in the
garden. It is easy to grow and this year I used a lot of it in green smoothies
made with fresh mint, lettuce, a banana, blueberries, some juice and/or water, fresh ginger and half
a lime. I’m still picking kale for smoothies, even though the greens are frozen
when I pick them.
I grew 4 kinds of kale this year as
I wanted to see if I liked anything as well as Winterbor and Ripbor, the two
curly kale varieties I usually grow. No. Next year I will just grow one or the
other of those two – they are tasty and so long-lasting in the garden. They are
easy to store in the freezer - while keeping their character and flavor.
I grew 2 non-heading broccoli
relatives this year, Happy Rich from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Piricicaba
from Hudson Valley Seed Library. Both produce earlier than broccoli and
continue-producing little shoots well past frost. They produced so much food
that I will plant fewer, just 2 or 3 plants of each, not 6.
Happy Rich produces lots of small florets
My potato harvest was ho-hum this
year, but my grandkids had great production in their little 4-foot by 4-foot
raised beds on my lawn. The difference? I tried to squeeze in too many plants
in my rows, crowding them. The kids only planted 2 seed potatoes each, well
apart. Even though they planted later than I did, their spuds were bigger.
I had no potato beetles at all this
year, even though I looked for them every day for a while. I plant my potatoes
in June, and believe (without real proof) that late planting helps to avoid the
New this year: I planted a second
crop of potatoes in August from some seed potatoes that had been languishing in
my cool dark cellar. I planted them in my garlic bed, after harvest. A third of
those late-planted potatoes did not grow, but those that did grow produced
full-sized potatoes by October.
Late-planted Red Pontiacs did well. These spuds are from one plant.
I planted late lettuce, too. I got
some 3-inch lettuce starts from a friend in early September, and planted them 6
inches apart. These did very well, and in November I moved my Gardeners Supply
cold frame over the plants. They were good though November. They were helped by
a layer of Reemay or row-cover over the leaves inside the cold frame.
New this year: In mid-October I dug
two nice lettuce plants and moved them into an unglazed clay planter about 6-
by 12-inches and 6-inches deep. I placed a layer of fluffy compost in the
bottom as planting material, and filled in around the plants with pure compost.
Then I moved them into the house, sitting in an east-facing window. Great
success! I have eaten 2 or 3 leaves almost every day since sometime in
November. Fresh greens for my sandwich at lunch. I had to water every other
day. I will finish them off by New Years.
Lettuce ready to go indoors
I grew flint corn this year for the
first time ever. Flint corn is dried and ground to make corn flour or meal. The
corn plants were huge, but the ears were relatively small. And while I was
drying them some mice got in with the ears, so I didn’t want to use them. So I
am feeding the corn to the blue jays and squirrels. I used some of the stalks
for Halloween decorations and gave some stalks away.
The raccoons ate all my sweet corn
but for half a dozen ears. Oh well. I am enjoying frozen tomatoes, summer
squash and kale. I have plenty of winter squash, garlic and onions stored in a
cool dry location. And root crops galore in an old fridge in the basement. It was
a great gardening year, despite a few setbacks that I had already almost forgotten about.
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