Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reflections on the 2011 Garden

Now is a great time to look back on last year's garden. This morning I cleared snow and ice off the cold frames. Besides moving snow around, there's not much else to do outdoors, so I've been perusing seed catalogs and thinking about what has been successful and what hasn't.
Right at the beginning, last spring, we enjoyed parsnips and this year we plan to expand this crop. There are never enough! And turnips and rutabagas, which we used for soups and stews. Kale plants started growing new shoots in spring, and in summer we let the plants reseed the crop, so it did well with almost no care.
Asparagus is another tale. One of these years we expect to have some to eat! Meanwhile we keep adding compost, manure, and rabbit food (alfalfa) to build the soil.
Garlic has not been a great crop in the past but in 2011 we apparently hit the jackpot. I had planted 30 cloves the previous fall. They grew well and we replanted some of the biggest cloves last September.
Salads are part of nearly every meal we eat. Last winter, mache and claytonia grew in the cold frames until spring. Lettuce planted in March had baby leaves ready to eat in April. This winter, except for the lettuce, the cold frames were disappointing. Mache, claytonia and spinach planted in August did not produce so we've been forced to actually buy our salad ingredients.
Some crops did very well, and between freezing, canning and root cellar storage, we're still enjoying them in February. Delicata squash is keeping well in the upstairs closet. There are still Swiss chard, green beans, collards, beets and cabbage in the freezer. There are jars of plum chutney, home made ketchup, a crock of sauerkraut, and bags of potatoes in the root cellar.
Summer veggies were a mixed bag. There were zucchinis but not enough to delight our friends. Cucumbers did delight our friends and they even asked for more. Peppers did better than ever; the sweet ones were small, but plentiful, and we still have a string of Habeneros hanging in the kitchen window. They are hot!
The tomato plants put out one good crop and then stopped producing. We're thinking there might be some lingering fungal blight from the previous year.
Some crops that did well will be getting more garden space this year; peas and basil among them. The peas will not only have a row of their own, but we plan to use them as companion crops just about everywhere.
Other crops just don't seem to do well for us and take up garden space that could be better used. Radishes are supposed to be easy to grow but not here, apparently. We love leeks and keep planting them but have yet to get the results we want. I'll try them once more this year before giving up. Onions also haven't done very well but I'm not ready to give up on them yet.
Every year we add at least one new fruit plant to our orchard. It will be years until most of these produce. The old plum tree has been consistently prolific, and raspberries, blueberries, and table grapes have given us a few more bowlfuls every year. The birds seem to enjoy these as much as we do.
Organic gardening is an annual dance with Mother Nature. What does well one year may not have the same result the next. We try to build on successes and limit our efforts on crops that don't get the desired result. Every year we try a new plant or two. Last year I was surprised with a small section of pac choi I had planted. They did great and I wished I had planted more. I guess that's what it's all about. There are disappointments and pleasant surprises to go along with things that seem to do well year by year. C'est la vie! - G.H.


  1. I can't wait until gardening time. My garden is not as extensive as yours, and we have lots of shade. This year I'm going to concentrate on greens. The mache and arugula did really well here. One of these years I'll actually make a cold-frame! Would you share your recipe for ketchup? I'd like to try making that. Keep up the good work. I enjoy these posts:)

  2. Like Shelley, my garden is on a much smaller scale, too. I, too, try new things every year. Last season was the first time I tried kale.. so easy and delicious! I love my chard, too. This year, I'm going to try beets. We have been very happy with our onions.. can't ever grow enough! Looking forward to getting out there again!

  3. perhaps our garden sounds bigger than it is! we keep looking for ways to make things easier, and for everything to be more productive. we keep starting new areas, but it takes time for the soil to get the idea! shelley i posted our ketchup recipe, and kate, beets are fabulous, a favorite here!