Friday, February 12, 2010

The Webmaster's Garden Redux

First, let me apologize for my paucity of posts. I never wrapped up last summer! We implemented a new website here, and things got a little busy for a while. They're still busy, but it's getting to be the time of year where we all think about getting our gardens started, so I thought I'd better finish up my 2009 garden first!

Here are some Nastirtiums from last October. Color - don't we miss it this time of year!

Here is my garden through the season, from May through October.


Mid May 2009










10/11/2009 - Before Harvesting

10/11/2009 - After Harvesting

You can see the progression of a few months - how everything explodes into life in late July and August (VERY late July this year, with all the rain), and how things start to diminish and grow stale into October.

Of course, with all the rain, I had my share of late blight.

Late blight on Eggplant

A perfect looking Kellogg's Breakfast tomato - ready to slice onto that BLT...

Except when you flip it over, yuck! Luckily, we were able to salvage a good portion of this tasty tomato - sadly, this was the only one that ripened.

And so it was with tomatoes late into September - we'd get a few small ones (cherries and 1.5 inch varieties like Black Prince, the mystery volunteer plant) but the big ones pretty much just went bad before they ripened. So no home-canned salsa for us this year.

Other things turned out much better. As you recall, we harvested onions and garlic in mid-September. They hung out in the warm garage for about a month, curing, and I spent an afternoon cleaning them - wiping off the dirt and dead skins and trimming the tops. We ended up with quite a haul!

Garlic harvest 2009

Onion harvest 2009

Shallot harvest 2009

We still have plenty of these allium crops left - I'll have shallots to plant in May, and I should make a big pot of French Onion soup one of these days. The onions are small but tasty. I'm going to experiment with better spacing this year, and see if I can't get more size out of the onions. I definitely can't complain about the garlic harvest!

Our big harvest happened on October 11th, and none too soon - we had a killing frost a couple of nights later (then no frost for about a month, darn it!), and it would have compromised the quality of things like squash, and ruined many other vegetables.

We did well with squash, too! I planted Honey Bear and Waltham Butternut and got good yields.

Honey Bear squash in a basket

Waltham Butternut lined up by the woodstove

I put the butternut squash by the woodstove to cure, because it still had green lines. We had to harvest it a little earlier than optimal; it didn't grow as long as it should have, as it took so long to get going in July. But it's still good in the kitchen, and very tasty!

Eggplant (made into a parmesan casserole, put in the freezer), Baby Bear pumpkins (barely lasted until Halloween), the ubiquitous beans (got 25-30 pounds last year!), and Wonder Light tomatoes

The pepper crop was pretty good this year.

Most of the peppers now reside in these jars of Hot Pepper Jelly - if you've never made it, you should. It is fabulous on crackers with cream cheese, or baked with brie. The recipe is in the Ball Blue Book.

I love tomatillo blossoms - they are just so pretty and interesting looking.

As the fruit grows, it looks like little balloons. They slowly fill up with nice round tomatillos, and you peel the husks to get the sticky fruit out. These are husk cherries, and they grow in a similar manner, except that they are much smaller.

We did very well with the tomatillo crop this year!

I believe I ended up with about 16 pints of Tomatillo Salsa (I use the Ball Blue Book recipe).

The sweet potato harvest was OK - I'd never grown them before so I didn't know what to expect. Unfortunately, the vines I tried to keep ended up dying. They are piled up on top of the potatoes in this picture.

I'll definitely try the sweet potatoes again - I need to consider a better place to put them, and think about how they spread and that the vines like to dig into the ground.

Potato harvest - about a quarter-bushel.

The potato harvest is another story. The plants were beautiful, but the amount of potatoes in the converted garbage cans was a bit disappointing. I was hoping for a whole bushel! Next year, I need to:

1. Cut the potatoes up so there is one eye per piece. I have a terrible habit of not cutting potatoes, and I hear that's the worst thing you can do for your potato yield.
2. Plant fewer potatoes in each barrel. I again went overboard and crowded them. To prevent that, I ordered only 2 varieties this year.
3. Use a less rich soil. The compost was convenient, but the potatoes were scabby.

Of course, the potatoes were delicious, and we just ate the last of them in a beef stew a couple of weeks ago - I stretched them to make them last.

All in all, I'd call the 2009 garden a success. Potatoes and tomatoes were disappointing, but beans were amazing, tomatillos were excellent, peppers did well, and squash was a surprising front runner. I think the only thing I would not grow again are the Red Noodle beans - they took way too long to ripen, and I just didn't like the texture of them cooked. I am sure they have their place; it just isn't in my garden or kitchen. I got to can and put up a lot of yummy home-grown food (I don't have pictures of dilly beans and zucchini casserole, but the cupboards and freezer are still full), and we had lots of fun gardening, as always.

Here's to a successful garden in 2010 for everyone! I'm itching to get those seedlings started, but I know I need to wait a bit; too soon and they'll be leggy. More on that later!


Unknown said...

It IS nice to see color. Great overview, especially as we now head into the beginnings of the growing season here in Maine. Hopefully no Late Blight this year.

Kelly said...

I would love to hear more about these casseroles you are eggplant and squash recipes are always welcome in my kitchen. :)

The Truth Finder said...

I think this is such a good past time.I assume you have so much patience to take lovely pictures to prove your achievement. May be when I retire I might follow your path. Keep posting. Please visit my blog;

the webmaster at Johnny's Selected Seeds said...

Thanks very much GrafixMuse!

Truth Finder, working for a seed company makes my gardening addiction a little easier to enable. Still, if you don't have time for a full-blown in-ground garden, at least grow a cherry tomato plant or two on your deck or patio; you'll be glad you did when you enjoy fresh veggies for weeks in the summer. My sister is even keeping a potted tomato plant alive in her apartment this winter, and planning to put it back outside after her frost-free date so she can have tomatoes extra early. (I guess the green thumb might be genetic...)

Kelly, for both casserole recipes, I prepare the recipe up to the point of baking, then put them in the freezer, well wrapped in foil (disposable foil pans are very handy too). Then I thaw them a bit and bake per instructions - I remove the foil for the zucchini casserole, as it can be watery after freezing, but would leave it on when baking the eggplant but remove it toward the end, so the cheese doesn't brown too much.

This recipe is similar to my Granny's zucchini casserole recipe:

I use bread crumbs instead of stuffing, but this is the general idea - it's definitely not health food, but I usually use light cream soup and sour cream to make it a little less fattening. I know it sounds like it's straight out of the 1950's, but it is SO yummy. (I just called my husband so he could take one out of the freezer for dinner.)

This is basically what I do for eggplant parm:

I always peel the eggplant because I'm not a fan of the chewy skin, which I think toughens with freezing, but if you like it, by all means leave it on. Baking the eggplant instead of frying makes the dish lighter, and I think it freezes better. I detest a greasy casserole. Of course I make up for the lack of oil in frying by using plenty of cheese. I think I was in crazy canning mode, so I used high-quality jarred sauce for this, and I also had fresh basil and oregano to amend the sauce. If only we'd had a good tomato crop, but at least we had nice eggplant.

Enjoy! These are just a couple of the goodies you can enjoy from the garden in winter. Canning and freezing do take time during the summer, but you'll be so glad you did it in the cold of winter.

Jean in Mt said...

Its great to see your garden pics, hope for this year !!
I have a question about greenhouses. Can broccoli do any good planted in a solar greenhouse in March ? We have backup heat for blizzards. It does get quite warm in there March-May.Do you think some of the heat tolerant broccolis be ok ?

Kelly said...

Oh, thank-you so much for posting all of that!! :)

Michael Kilpatrick said...

What spacing were you using for your onions? we're doing 3 rows on biotello 4 seeds per plug spaced 12" apart and getting pretty good yields (most 3" plus) biggest thing is keeping the weeds down. This year wasn't anything special for onions anyway

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Abdul Rehman said...

Nice post

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