Thursday, January 1, 2015

Year in Review

This will be long wordy review of how each bed in the garden grew. If you want a pretty photographic review, see yesterday's post instead. Personally I like the nitty gritty of what happened (and the numbers), but I know it isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Beds 1, 5, and 7W - Two Sisters Beds with Spring Spinach and Asian Greens (1.07 lbs/sqft)

This was a very good year for corn and squash in my garden. I've had trouble over the years with the squash seed germinating, but I ended up chitting the seed so my plantings wouldn't fail. That ended up giving the squash a long enough time to grow and I didn't have to replant with a squash that matures early, but doesn't produce as well as Waltham butternut. I have to remember to do that every year for the first seeding. I had a total of 158 sqft of space in corn and squash. I ended up with 45.8 pounds of Honey Select corn and 105.3 pounds of Waltham butternut squash. Both record breakers for me. Though these don't quite eek out my one pound per square foot that I'm shooting for, Bed 5 did have the early spinach and the early Asian greens already harvested before the bed was planted in corn on June 6th (spinach side of the bed) and June 10th (Asian greens side of the bed). The squash seed was planted chitted a few days after.

That early spinach had 32 sqft and gave me 7.4 pounds. The early Asian greens (bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna, choy sum) also had 32 sqft and came in at 10 pounds. So if I add those in I get a respectable 168.5 pounds. I think this is the first year ever that the Two Sisters beds have broken the pound per square foot goal. Though fixing my germination issues and switching to Honey Select which is a good producer compared to the other varieties I've tried really helped, I'm guessing it was the weather that really brought it in. It was reliably warm this summer but not hot enough to stress the plants. For next year I want to add another early spinach bed. In the past I wouldn't bother as I wouldn't eat it anyway, but this year I'm really trying to eat more vegetables in the winter than in previous years. So more greens to freeze is good.

Bed 2 - Kale, Roots, Carrots, and Fava Beans (W 0.89 lbs/sqft, E 1.35 lbs/sqft)

The western side of Bed 2 (32 sqft) had the early kale which gave me 9.17 pounds. This was removed at the beginning of June and I wasn't really sure what to put in to replace it. So I made it a root vegetable plot, with turnips, parsnips and a few beets. The parsnips had half the bed and gave me only 6.5 pounds. The beets yielded 4.9 pounds which wasn't bad as they weren't given much space. The turnips did better at about 8 pounds, but the purple top turnips were pretty poor performers. The bed gave me 28.57 pounds total which isn't too bad considering. I think I can do better next year. I grew the parsnips in the middle of the bed. The early turnips shaded them out a bit in the early summer. When the parsnips got big the later turnips were shaded out by them. I think next year I'll do them in blocks and maybe prop the parsnip foliage up a bit. Does anyone know of parsnips are hurt by the carrot fly? I'd love to leave that block uncovered as parsnips get so tall, but I don't want to if those nasty larvae will hurt the roots.

The eastern side of Bed 2 had the fava beans. They had a dismal yield of 8 pounds. I say dismal, but to be fair it was my second best year for them. But 2013 gave me 15 pounds on the same space, so it seems dismal. On July 6th the bed was switched over to fall storage carrots. I got 35.2 pounds of carrots from those. So the bed itself did well for the year. And speaking of carrots . . .

Bed 3 - Herbs, Greens, Fall Beans Peas, Carrots, Fall Brassicas (W 0.52 lbs/sqft, E 1.2 lbs/sqft))

Bed 3 west is sort of my mish mash bed. It has some herbs like parsley, fennel, and savory (which didn't grow). It also has celery and celariac. I toss in some lettuce sometimes (which really didn't grow this year there, so no harvest for that). And peas grow in the back during the spring, and beans (2.4 lbs)grew in the back of the western bed in the fall. The celery and celeriac did really badly this year 2.6 pounds and 0.6 pounds respectively. The fennel did OK at 2.86. And it was the best parsley year since I've been here with 2.91 pounds being harvested. Parsley usually struggles in my garden, but this year it grew very lush. Though I did have two of the plants bolt on me which is weird. That has never happened before.

The peas along the back of the whole length of the bed (16 sqft) produced 10.8 pounds this year. Not great. Some years the peas do well and some years they don't. I've never figured out why. I'll put half of that into the eastern bed's total and half into the western beds total. So overall the western side produced 16.7 pounds in 32 sqft. Not great. But this is a bed I play around with things like trying new crops (celeriac). And the beans and peas really shade the bed a lot so it wasn't a great growing space anyway. Hopefully next year I'll bring it up, but it has always failed to produce well every year, so I'm not holding my breath.

The spring carrots did quite well in the eastern side. They had 24 sqft and produced well at 13.4 pounds. Fall carrots always do better than spring carrots in yield and taste. But for the spring, it was good. July 13th I replaced that whole eastern bed with fall brassicas. I had kohlrabi, cabbage, and Michihili cabbage. I planted the Michihili too early I think. It started to bolt as did a couple of the European cabbages. The bed did just OK at 19.55 pounds.Over all the eastern side produced 38.4 pounds. Not too bad. I think it could do better. The kohlrabis did well, but the cabbages didn't. I think I need to water them more. The covering I use over them lets the rain in, but not all of it.

Bed 4 - Alliums, Kale, Mustard (1.4 lbs/sqft)

In the spring this bed is covered in garlic and onions. When the garlic comes out I put in a fall mustard crop for the seeds. When the onions come out I put in the kale to be over wintered. The garlic did just OK this year. I got 9.78 pounds. for 20 sqft. Garlic is never a heavy producer, but I often get a bit bigger bulbs. The onions on the other hand did stellar this year. I grew them under a row cover and it helped them immensity. I harvested 65.13 pounds of them. They only had 43 sqft of space. So that is a huge harvest for me. And they were only in there until the end of July. By August I had planted kale. In addition I under planted the kale with cilantro in the middle and mache along the outside. I got 1.3 pounds of cilantro and 9.13 pounds of kale. For a total for the year in this bed of 85.3.

Bed 6 - Broccoli, Spring Brassicas, Carrots (W 0.84 lbs/sqft, E 1.85 lbs/sqft)

The western side of the bed is easy as it is all broccoli and there is no broccoli anywhere else in the garden. I harvested 26.9 pounds of broccoli this year. It is under a pound per square foot, but to be honest broccoli is not the best producer known to man. I used to get barely anything when I first started. 22 pounds is the best I've produced in the past, so 27 is stellar for me.

The eastern side of the bed was haphazardly done. It started with the spring brassicas. I had 20.8 pounds of Chinese cabbage, 5.1 pounds of European cabbage, and 4.82 pounds of kohlrabi. For a total of 30.7 pounds, which is pretty good for half the year. Then I put in some carrots. But I didn't have enough seed to put in the whole bed. I had left a bit of the cabbage to see if it would produce side heads. It did but they were tiny and not worth it. I added a few radishes and turnips, but the weight was small and too hard to tell from the other random turnips and radishes around the garden so those numbers didn't get in. The carrots that I did put in were stellar. They produced 28.6 pounds. So over all the bed did amazing at 59.3 pounds.

Bed 7E - Lettuce, Green Onions, Beans, Chard, Asian Greens (2.55 lbs/sqft)

The eastern side of Bed 7 was a conglomeration of chard, lettuce, beans, green onions, and fall sown baby Asian greens. The spring lettuce did great at 13.5 pounds but the summer lettuce did not. I think with the wall of beans up, it blocked the sprinkler and they didn't get enough water. The beans did well at 15.8 pounds. They liked all that water. Most of the harvest was from the Golden Gate beans. The Kentucky Wonder beans succumbed to rust early on. And the asparagus beans got overwhelmed by the lush foliage of the other beans. The chard did stellar as always - 36.7 pounds. The green onions were the lowest producer for the space/time at 9.2 pounds. Then at the end of the season I put in some baby Asian greens for 6.5 pounds. All in all it was 81.7 pounds - the highest producing bed in the garden.

Bed 8 - Cucumbers, Zucchini (E 2.52 lbs/sqft)

The western side was a total bust. It is the second year of having asparagus in there and more than half the plants are dead already. Asparagus HATES my yard. I tried it in a different spot when I first moved in and it died there too. I'm guessing I have another bed to work with next year. I'll leave whatever is still alive, but the rest of the bed will be free. It just isn't worth trying again. Maybe I'll put in some blueberry bushes.

The western side held the cucumbers and the zucchini. It was a fabulous cucumber year with 62.8 pounds in just 8 square feet. It takes the record as most productive plant. But the wall of cucumbers that were trellised blocked the sprinkler water from getting to the zucchini and they really didn't produce until I figured this out rather late in the season. So they only produced 17.8 pounds. I've decided that beans and cucumbers that are blocking the sprinklers will be planted at the ends of the beds instead. This gives them half the space they had before, but they won't prevent other plants from growing. If I decide later that I need more space, I can put in more sections at the end. The only problem with the ends is that they are near the brick path. The foundation for it extends a foot into the bed and make is really hard to pound in a trellis. I end up having to put in side supports to make sure it doesn't fall down. Plus of course they have a shallower place to grow. Over all the cucurbits produced 80.6 pounds and was the second highest producing bed in the garden.

Circle Garden West - Overwintered Spinach, Sweet Potatoes (1.36 lbs/sqft)

The western side of the circle garden had the overwintered spinach that didn't do all that well at only 1.3 pounds. The worst ever. I only planted Giant Winter and it was a mistake. I think it had some disease. Whatever it is Space resists it better, and I should overwinter that one instead. The bed had sweet potatoes during most of the year. They produced 42.3 pounds, which is a very decent yield up here in the north.

Circle Garden East - Spring Lettuce and Radishes, Melons (1.95 lbs/sqft)

The eastern Circle Garden had lettuce and radishes in the spring. On June 8th it was planted in melons. The early lettuce came in at 7.5 pounds. And the radishes at 4.3 pounds. The melons did the best ever at 50.6 pounds. So I'm happy about that. My biggest problem with melons is that they tend to all come in at the same time even if I have different maturity dates. I don't want to plant them at different times as the older plants would just run over the younger ones and kill them. Maybe I'll try to find a much later one for the garden. The problem is that my hot season really isn't that long. The total for the bed was 62.4 pounds which was great.

Greens, Asian52.6
Squash, Summer17.8
Squash, Winter105.3
Sweet Potatoes42.3

Overall this was a fabulous record setting year and I broke harvest records with onions, melons, carrots, corn, and winter squash. Granny must have been watching over my garden this year as it was just so good. I miss you Granny.

I was better this year about watering which helps a lot. In the past I would often wait for the rain that was predicted but never came. I tried not to do that this year. We do get 4 inches of rain on average every month (with the lowest at 3.5 and the highest at 4.5). So mostly the rain ought to do a good job of watering. But the reality is that we get heavy rains sometimes and then long stretches without. I have to be good at watering when the soil gets dry. I can wait for tropical storms to hit as they are pretty guaranteed, but those scattered summer thundershowers are really not to be relied upon.

I had some failures, but in smaller crops (thank goodness) and very few this year. I am slowly learning how to deal with this garden after four years here. The summer lettuce was abysmal, leggy and sad. When I was gleaning I gleaned lettuce on farms during August and they were beautiful. They didn't use shade cloth. They let the lettuce see full sun. I'm guessing it was just varieties and lots of water. I'll try that next year.

I had trouble with celery and celeriac. I think it was mosaic virus (use a different source for celeriac than I did last year as that is probably where it came from). I'll keep all the umbellifloras out of that area from now on. But it could be something else which I can hope as mosaic virus is forever. Also I think I'm going to try row covers for them in the future. It might help with the carrot fly. I'm not sure how affected they are by that pest, but it can't hurt to try.

Though Bed 5E was hardly a failure, I ran out of carrot seed and put in a few radishes and turnips and left stubs of cabbages in to see if they would grow to fill in the space. It wasn't the best use of space. I should do more carrots or maybe add lettuce in there. Something real. Not halfhearted attempts.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope this new gardening year goes well for everyone.


  1. Happy New Year, Daphne. Your blog is an inspiration. My few cole crops and little bunch onions and one tomato plant pale in comparison but I continue to take heart that this year will bring more to eat.

  2. I have 4x8 raised beds and I was wondering if you thought that was enough space to plant corn. The plan was to use one 4 x 8 bed?..

    1. Definitely. The rule of thumb (which of course are always made to be tested) is that the minimum is a 4'x4' plot planted in a block with plants 1' apart. Supposedly that is enough to fertilize the corn. You might find the edges not so well pollinated though. I tend to hand pollinate, which is really simple. I go out in the morning and shake each plant to let the pollen down. The one issue with that I've found is that different varieties release their pollen at different times. I grew Honey Select last year and it released its pollen in late morning where the ones I'd done in the past were earlier. So I'd be out early in the day shaking the plants and wondering where the pollen was. One day I went out late and there was tons of pollen when I shook it. So you learn when the best time is. Of course what your daily schedule looks like can interfere with best times too.

    2. Thanks for your response. It was very helpful.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Every year in the garden is a learning experience. I'm still figuring out the best use of space and the best rotations, successions, and such. I think that's partly why I never get tired of gardening, it never gets boring. Year end reviews like this are such a great way to confirm successes and failures, especially when you can compare to previous years. I have to give you credit for inspiring me to keep track of my harvests, it really is a great tool for helping to improve my garden. Happy New Year!

  4. Happy New Year, Daphne. Your blog is certainly a "Perennial", and one by which many others are judged! Hoping for a productive year ahead...

  5. Hi Daphne, we plan on doing your harvest Monday this year. We want to also weigh our produce and see exactly how much we grow. No idea how to use excel though so will need to rely on the calculator! Your garden is an inspiration.

  6. I love the way you do spring and fall plantings in each bed, combining different crops so that the timing works out on either end. Unlike your years of experience, I'm still at the beginning of trying to figure all that out and it tends to get confusing at times. But, as the last poster said - your garden IS an inspiration. In fact, I'm going to be trying your two sisters approach next year in some new beds on the hill.

    And I love the nitty gritty too ;)

  7. As with Margaret, I am still trying to figure out succession so I can have spring and fall plantings in the same bed ... our season is a bit shorter than yours but I think it can still be done. Your fabulous detail has already given me some ideas on how to mix and match for next year! I'm with everyone else - very inspirational, Daphne! Congratulations.

  8. Happy New Year Daphne. As always thanks for inspiring me with your abundant harvests. I too have recently realised the importance of watering your plants. The rain doesn't always come and for us here down under it can go for months without rain during the dry season. At the moment we are in the middle of rain season and I don't have to water at all which I love. Look forward to seeing your garden when the snow melts.