Monday, November 30, 2009

Harvest Monday - 30 November 2009

Due to our unusually warm November I succeeded in harvesting all November long. This week I didn't pick much since it featured Thanksgiving and lots of leftovers. Most of the Thanksgiving fare that I brought featured items from the garden, but mostly stored or preserved food.

I picked some bunching onions and red lettuce. Both were used on the lox appetizer plate, but the lettuce was relegated to garnish. The hit of that plate were my pickled serranos. We have some friends that really love their heat.

The weather forecast calls for some sustained freezing weather towards the middle of the week, so you can bet I'll get out there and pick the rest of my lettuce, mizuna, Chinese cabbage and broccoli. I'll have a much bigger harvest than this week.

Now onto the tally.

  • Alliums 0.24 lbs
  • Greens 0.22 lbs

Weekly total: 0.46 lbs
Weekly spent: $0
Yearly total: 213.80 lbs
Yearly earned: $737.74

If you would like to join in showing off your harvest, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below. It doesn't matter how big or small your harvest is. You don't have to count the pounds like I do. If you have had a harvest this last week, show us and join in!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Red Thanksgiving

My friends are never ones to do things the normal way if they can come up with different rules to the game. So we have our own traditions. When someone hosts a holiday party, they don't divide up what people should bring by item. I'm not told to bring cranberry sauce. I'm told what color of food to bring. My color this year is red as it is most years because I always ask for red. The assumption is that I will bring bring any traditional red things for the meal - cranberry sauce - but the only rule is that my food contains something red in it. I'm not restricted to just red, but the food has to contain a major red component.

I added to the Iron Chef red challenge by trying to add something harvested from the garden into every dish. Drinks were a dismal failure in this regard. I'm bringing red wine and cranberry juice. Store bought with no additions. I score low on the Iron Chef scale for those.

(Crackers not opened yet but they go on the left side of the plate)
Notice the use of red lettuce as a garnish

I did better with the appetizer. In the past I've often brought shrimp with cocktail sauce, but this year I changed to smoked pink salmon (pink is considered a shade of red so it counts-I know it is almost orange, but I'm going with it). To add things from the garden I used some of my raspberry jalapeno jelly and mixed it into the cream cheese for a garden red addition. To spice it up some more I added my own pickled serrano peppers and chopped garden green onions on the side.

This year I decided soup was on the menu. Minestrone soup has an overall red hue due to the addition of tomato sauce - or would have if I hadn't added so much pesto. I picked it so I could add a lot of items harvested from the garden: tomato sauce, cranberry beans (sadly their red color doesn't hold in cooking), onions, garlic, oregano, basil, green beans, zucchini, carrots (some were Atomic Red), and spinach. Chef Green challenged me on the addition of copious green items, but I countered with the rules that stated multicolored items were encouraged.

The only addition to the main meal was in the form of cranberries. My family has a tradition of making cranberry ice every year which is just a frozen cranberry sauce. I grew up with it so it must be at all my Thanksgivings. Yes I indeed asked for red for a reason. The recipe is pretty simple:

Cranberry Ice

  • 12 oz cranberries
  • 3/4 to 1 c sugar
  • packet of unflavored gelatin
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1/4 t salt

Dissolve the gelatin in 3/4c water and leave to the side. Barely cover cranberries with water and boil until soft (about 15 minutes). Strain through a sieve to remove skin and seeds. Put back on stove. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and gelatin. Stir and cool. At this point you could either just put it in the freezer like my mom does or you could put it in an ice cream maker like I did. I don't get originality points since it comes every year. I don't get garden points since it contains nothing in the garden, but I do get taste points at least according to my cousin who is missing it this year.

There is nothing in there that is from the garden, so in addition I made a cranberry chutney. It was pretty good until I added the Scotch. Note to self: don't use an Islay Scotch in cranberry sauce. That peaty taste is really an acquired taste. From the garden I used onions and serrano peppers. So I get garden and originality points, but I think some will love it and some will detest it.

I knew dessert would have to include raspberry jelly. It is red, sweet and from my garden so was the obvious choice. I think I don't get any originality points for using it as a dessert ingredient, but surely the minestrone soup and raspberry cream cheese will give me bonus points as non-obvious garden reds. But what recipe should I use?

I had two: thumbprint cookies and lemon raspberry pie. The thumbprint cookies use all basic ingredients and are so buttery and delicious. The pie's negatives are that it uses canned milk and a premade graham cracker crust (I'll make a regular crust but I don't like having graham crackers in the house). But on the pie's side it is Thanksgiving which is just another name for the Festival of Pies. In addition the recipe was given to me by a relative on Thanksgiving. So the pie won out. The cookies will have to wait for their turn in the spotlight. I'm thinking Christmas which is surely the Festival of Cookies and Cakes.

I hope y'all have a happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm Thankful For . . .

My Thanksgiving post will be tomorrow, but as I've been cooking these last couple of days I've really thought about the garden year and what I'm thankful for. It isn't what you expect. I grow my own organic food and shop at farmers markets. I compost. I give to the Nature Conservancy every year. I belong to freecycle so I don't have to throw things away. When I go out to eat I bring my own take out containers for the leftovers. So I'm into the green spectrum of things where most people want local. Heck I'm even a crafter so want people to think local when they buy for purely personal reasons. You wouldn't think that what I'm thankful for is the non-local food.

I've watched the local food movement grow. I even follow some blogs that are trying to be as food local as possible. But I don't believe in a 100% local food system. I do believe in a partially local food system for all the usual reasons. But I'm thankful that it isn't 100% local.

Years ago I read a paper about the why one country was starving in Africa. It wasn't that it didn't produce enough food to feed all of its people. It did. The problem is that it didn't have a national food system in place. Part of the paper was about food subsidies and the boom and bust cycle of growing. The previous year had been a boom. Too much was produced and the prices fell. The next year there were fewer farmers growing food. Which was problem number one. The second problem was they had a drought in one part of the country. Add them together and you have a population that can't feed itself. The other part of the paper was how a non-local food economy could have saved them all from starvation. They had no transport or distribution system set up. So had no way of getting the food from the people who had extra to the people who needed it.

This year we had a bad growing season for many things due to an over abundance of rain. I had two crop failures in major calorie crops (corn and winter squash - though to be fair if I had done a later corn I would have been fine). If New England had had to rely on our own production we would have been in trouble. Winter wheat (which accounts for about 3/4 of our US wheat crop) is harvested in late spring and early summer. This was during the time of our weird wet weather. The crop would have rotted in the ground. I tried drying and saving peas this year but because of the timing they all rotted.

So this year I'm thankful for our distributed food system that provides me food no matter what our weather has been. If we are in a drought or we are innundated with rain, I can still eat.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2009 Overview Alliums

This year I grew bunching onions, leeks, garlic, yellow storage onions, and red torpedo onions. I'm going to take them one at a time.

Nabechan bunching onions

I'll do the best first. The Nabechan bunching onions seemed to love this year. They were multiseeded early on 2/21 with about four seeds to a cell. They all came up on 2/25; were hardened off starting on 3/13; and planted on 3/25 and 3/28. So they had about a month of indoor growing, but only under the LED lights that were so dim. They were pretty small when they went out, but did well over the season. I picked them all summer long and they are still a few left out there. Right now they are about an inch wide at the base. The current harvest is at 2.4 lbs and with I think three or four huge ones left I have 12-16oz more. I loved the planting and will do it again. Multiplanting worked well for them if they were given space. Single plantings work better if I put them between the lettuce as I often do. Bunching onions for me don't get their own spot in the garden, they just get scattered around here and there. Some multiplants got too big as time went on. I dug them up and separated them before planting again (not easy late in the game as their roots tangle). They sulked for a couple of weeks then took off again.

Lincoln Leeks

The leeks were not happy this year. They were very stressed out. Seeded: 1/23. Germinated: 1/31-2/4. Transplanted: 3/27 six inches apart in a trench. I picked the first half in during the beginning of October and the second half is still in the ground. A 1'x3' section gave me only 1.1 lbs of leeks. This is a pretty crappy yield. Part of the problem is that a lot of the leeks had gone to seed. I had to throw a lot away. A leek's seed stalk is too though to eat. Though thinking back I should have saved them for stock since they would be good for that. They may have been planted too early. I was trying to get all the alliums out from under the lights that I needed for other things. Next year I need more lights so I won't have space issues. However the issue might have been weather related. A lot of plants got stressed from the weather.

Tropea Onion

The Tropea onions (red torpedo onions) were not much loved. They didn't grow well, but they at least didn't try to bloom on me. Seeded: 1/15. Germinated: 1/22-1/29. Transplanted: 3/25. I didn't like their taste that much. So they won't be grown again. If I want a red onion, I'll just grow a regular one. This one was too hot. They produced 2.1 lbs from about 3 sqft. I multiplanted some and they don't seem to like it much. Most of the good onions I got were from singly planted onions. These and the Copras were planted 4" apart if singly planted and 6" apart if multiplanted.

Copra Onion

Copra onions are yellow storage onions high in sulfur but still with a high sugar content. So they are tasty little things. Sadly little is what they were this year. I've been told that this was a very bad onion year. Also they tried to bloom so those won't keep well. I'll eat them up first. My harvest was 3.9 lbs from about 6 sqft. I will grow them again. I loved their taste. Next year I'll start them a bit later. And like Tropea I won't multiplant. They were all seeded and transplanted on the same schedule as Tropea.


Last year I planted the garlic six inches apart at the end of October: German Extra Hardy, Georgian Crystal, Bogatyr, and an Unknown from the grocery store. Only one showed its head before the ground froze - my unknown grocery store variety. I mulched with 3-4 inches of hay. Over the winter it matted down and some of the garlic had trouble coming up. When the others were up I dug down looking for them. They were all scrunched up under the mulch. This year I planted with a compost mulch which should be easier on them. All the garlic survived the winter except the unknown. Two of the eight cloves of that variety didn't make it. I harvested early on July 3rd because I was afraid of rot with all the rain.


  • German Extra Hardy 1.2 lbs total - 1.5 oz per head
  • Georgian Crystal 0.5 lbs total - 1 oz per head
  • Bogatyr 1.1 lbs total - 1 oz per head
  • Unknown 0.6 lbs total - 1 oz if you count the dead cloves, 1.5 oz if you don't.

This year I didn't plant the Georgian Crystal again. It didn't get any bigger and others preformed better. Bogatyr is on notice. If it doesn't shape up, it will be replaced. Its seed cloves were really small when they were shipped to me. This year they were bigger. I hope they get even bigger this year.

So was it a good year for garlic? I haven't a clue. I got what I thought of as a good harvest. The supermarket variety was a softneck garlic. This year it turned into a hard necked garlic (it bloomed). It also didn't have its cloves in layers like the initial bulbs did. It had fewer but bigger bulbs. I'd say aliens came down and swapped them, but I have read that softnecks can turn into hardnecks when they are stressed. It could have been a bad year. They might hate the constant rain. Or they might be a southern variety that just doesn't do well here. Time will tell.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Harvest Monday - 23 November 2009

I had a nice harvest of greens this week. From left to right: three small tatsoi, one 1/4lb bunching onion, komatsuna, lettuce and broccoli. My garden is looking more and more bare, but I still have some left for this coming week. In fact if I inventory what is left it seems like a lot: broccoli, non-heading Chinese cabbage (weirdly the middle of these are still not slug eaten so just fine), kale, spinach, lettuce, bunching onions, leeks, mizuna. It really isn't all that much though, but it is still measured in pounds not ounces.

We've had only one freeze so far, but it was just one night. The ground dethawed fairly quickly that day. Since then we have been having abnormally warm weather. So I could indeed eat my lettuce for Thanksgiving this year for the first time since I remember. I might well do that. I'm still working out the menu for what I'm bringing. I'll be with friends this year and we break up who brings what a little differently than most. I'm hoping to have time to post about it, but it will feature a lot of ingredients from my garden.

Now onto the tally.

  • Alliums 0.26 lbs
  • Broccoli 0.19 lbs
  • Greens 1.40 lbs

Weekly total: 1.86 lbs
Weekly spent: $0
Yearly total: 213.34 lbs
Yearly earned: $735.49

If you would like to join in showing off your harvest, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below. It doesn't matter how big or small your harvest is. You don't have to count the pounds like I do. If you have had a harvest this last week, show us and join in!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Coming Soon . . . Get Growing

Several weeks ago Robin from Vegetable Matter approached me. Robin is a blogger from Houston, Texas. She and her husband own a restaurant and a florist. Can you guess that at home, gardening takes center stage? Her blog is a wonderful vegetarian foodie blog with the starring roles played by fresh picked vegetables from her garden. Her followers love their food and often lament about not having a garden of their own to cook from. She would like to encourage them to start their own vegetable garden.

Her issue was that she gardens in Texas and her followers are from all over the world. Some live in the in warm areas and some like me live in colder climes. So we have teamed up. Robin in her zone 9 garden (USDA zones) will talk about gardening there (hot and dry) and I will talk about gardening here in my zone 6 garden (cool and wet).

On the first of each month we will discuss what a new gardener should be thinking about for the next month. The series will run from December 1st, 2009 - November 1st, 2010. So we will continue to do this for a year and hit every month.

On December 1st, Robin will talk about planting peas. Usually my ground is frozen in December, so I'll be talking about what to think about when planning a garden for the first time. Now I know my readers are mostly seasoned gardeners already. So what I would like from you, if you are willing, is to leave comments about how you would do it. Gardening is not set in stone. We all garden differently and have a different take. Also if I leave something out on the subject that you consider important, add it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cooking up Squash

Yesterday I decided I had time to cook up my squash. I always cook in large batches and I could fit about half the squash I had on hand in the oven. I cooked up the two Magdalenas that I grew and one sugar pumpkin and one butternut. I choose the last two because they were starting to rot already and had to be used. The squash just isn't keeping well this year. Usually I would wait until I had used this batch up before cooking more, but this year I think I'll get it all done within the next couple of days. The freezer is a safer place for it.

Magdalena Big Cheese is a pretty neon orange

Cooking squash is one of my least favorite chores. I hate having to cut through their tough skins and worst of all I hate squash guts. They are slimy and gross and don't like to separate from the flesh. Ick. I think it ranks up there with squishing slugs in the garden.

Pumpkins are always the worst. They have the thickest skins and are terrible to cut. I'm always afraid of losing a finger or putting a permenant cut in my counter. I gladly gave up making Jack-o-lanterns when the kids moved out. I know Halloween is supposed to be scary, but I'm happy to let go of this scary chore.

I breathed a sigh of relief when they were all chopped up and gutted. I put them in their roasting pans face down and poured in some water. I cooked them up at 375F for an hour. This is a long time. Last year I froze my squash in cubes and did the traditional 350 for 45 minutes. Cooking it longer gives it a nice flavor and if the rind starts to brown up, it becomes really easy to peel. If I were making it in cubes it would be over cooked and wouldn't hold its shape, but for puree, it was perfect.

I mixed all the squash varieties together in the puree. I like mixed squash. I find pumpkin to not be very good alone, but mixed with others it adds to the flavor. Butternuts are really, really sweet, but can be a bit overwhelming. My Magdalenas were more mild and not sweet at all. They do have the butternut flavor, but it isn't so overpowering. Mixed together they made a great puree - about 9 cups total. I'll be using it in pumpkin cake, pumpkin pie and casseroles.

I've thought about the cooking up the seeds for many years. I've never done it before. They always seemed a bit inedible to me. But I figured their time had come. I hope they are worth the effort because after separating them from the slime and drying them out they were a lot of work so far. Does anyone have a favorite squash seed recipe? I figure I ought to make one that is sweet and one that is savory. Or maybe I should just salt them? What do you do with your pumpkin seeds?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009 Overview Squash and Cucumbers

Costata Romanesco zucchini and Diamant cucumbers

The cucurbits had trouble this year, every one of them. They hated the cool, wet June and didn't grow much that month. They waited until the weather warmed up a bit in July. This was a particular problem with my zucchini. Usually I like to get it big and producing before the squash vine borers rip the vines to shreds in August. This year it had barely started producing by the time of the attack. My winter squash don't have this issue since this year I elected to grow only C. moschata which are resistant to the vine borer. And indeed I saw no damage from them.


  • May 23rd seeds direct seeded
  • No record of when they germinated, cucumbers had to be reseeded constantly due to death by slugs
  • July 26th, first zucchini picked (Dark Green)
  • August 1st, first cucumber picked
  • Sept 15th, my first Magdelena Big Cheese squash

My neck pumpkin never produced. It set a squash very late and I knew it didn't have time to ripen. My Magdelena vines only produced one fully ripe squash (and another maybe ripe, I'm going to cook it soon and see if it has flavor, if so I'll update this post with the new numbers). My Armenian cucumber set just one cucumber this year. Yup just one. The bright star in the cucurbits were my Diamant cucumbers. Though they started producing late and were much less prolific than usual, they still pulled out a good harvest overall and continued into October.

Squash blossoms


  • Neck Pumpkins, 2 plants to a hill (3'x3' area), one hill, zero harvest
  • Magdelena Big Cheese, 2 plants to a hill, two hills, one squash 3.3 lbs (possibly another at 2.6 lbs)
  • Dark Green Zucchini, 2 plants to a hill, one hill, 2.6 lbs
  • Costata Romanesco, 2 plants to a hill, one hill, 2.8 lbs
  • Squash Blossoms, 0.9 lbs (from all squash)
  • Diamant Cucumber, 6 plants, in 3 sqft, 8.45lbs (trellised)
  • Armenian Cucumber 2 plants in 1 sqft, 0.2 lbs (trellised)

Diseases didn't seem any more common than in previous years. The weather just slowed them down a lot. The plants had very few pests. The summer squash that was riddled with squash vine borer larvea. There was none on the winter squash. My experiment to try just C. moschata for winter squash was a rousing success in that regard. Maybe next year the weather will cooperate and I'll get a better yield. Slugs were an issue early on, but once the vines started growing they were no longer bothered.

Next year I'll continue to grow only C. moschata winter squash. Given that next year's location is more cramped (only two feet wide). I'm not going to plant in hills. I will plant in rows, probably with a two foot spacing. I loved the taste of Costata Romanesco zucchini much more than the other variety, so that will be the only one I grow. Diamant will continue to be my main cucumber. It can handle just about anything. Also last year I bought a big packet of them (very costly seeds, and cheaper in quantity), so I'm sure I'll be growing them for a few more years at least. This is a great thing since it seems to be able to produce no matter what. Their yeild might have been down from last year, but in three square feet they still produced over eight pounds, so pound for pound ended up being one of the top producers in the garden. Next year I ought to start the cucumbers in newspaper pots. In bad years the slugs really now down the direct sown seedlings, but they are fine if the plants have a few good leaves to start with. Also the Armenian cucumbers need more space. The Diamant do fine 8" apart, but the Armenians could probably use 12".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chinese Cabbage

I was out yesterday harvesting some Asian greens so I took of the row cover off that bed. This is one of my remaining "heads" of napa cabbage. I thought this one was heading up, but it looks like it isn't either. It does look as pretty as a flower though.

I guess the last two "heads" will have to be picked headless. Not yet though. Our weather forecast now says that it will stay above normal for the next week. Channel 7 predicted a freeze for this week, but it looks like they were way off. This may end up being the warmest November in the last several years, which doesn't quite make up for our cold June, but I'll take it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Harvest Monday - 16 November 2009

This week I harvested one thing - one lone napa cabbage. It was the biggest of them all so far at a pound and a half. I still have two left in the garden. One has never headed up since it was in too much shade. The other is its next door neighbor and has a small head.

I have to cut a lot of the outside of the cabbage off to get to the non slug ridden middle part. But never fear the inside was beautiful. I just hate having to throw half of the plant away. Doesn't the head look small compared to its outer leaves?

I made Heather's Veggie Egg Rolls from most of it. I ate them for lunch all week long. Yum. But now they are gone. I've also been eating my stored veggies. At some point I'm going to run out and have to start shopping regularly again. I've really liked having monthly trips to the supermarket for staples as opposed to having to go every week.

My next week's harvest ought to be more varied at least. If the weather holds out and Channel 7 is wrong (they are predicting two very cold nights in a row), I still won't pick it all. If everyone starts agreeing with freezing weather I'll probably go out and pick most all of it. I'll save a bit like the kale and spinach, but I'll want to get the rest cleaned up if we might have frozen soil for the rest of the year.

I did spend money this week. I needed lime, so got some. Or rather I thought I needed lime. When trying to find a place to put the large bag, I found another bag of lime. I thought I had used up the last one. Ah well. Maybe I'll lime the grass some year. I mistreat my grass so badly.

Now onto the tally.

  • Greens 1.56 lbs

Weekly total: 1.56 lbs
Weekly spent: $4.98
Yearly total: 211.48 lbs
Yearly earned: $727.77

If you would like to join in showing off your harvest, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below. It doesn't matter how big or small your harvest is. You don't have to count the pounds like I do. If you have had a harvest this last week, show us and join in!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day November 2009

The season is fast closing down on blooms. My blooming season opened last year in March with my Johnny-Jump-Ups. It seems only fitting to close it down with the same. I seeded my carrots in late July. The carrots aren't growing fast enough, but Johnny grew fast enough to bloom among them. I always try to be careful when I'm weeding to leave them behind. It is one of the reasons I'm not like Carol. I don't like my hoes since they might inadvertently get rid of poor little Johnny.

Johnny is one of my all time favorite flowers in the garden. It isn't big and showy. His blooms are so tiny. But what they lack in size they make up for in personality. You just have to smile when you see his bright and cheerful face poking out over the carrot foliage.

I do have other things in bud in the garden. Here are my broccoli buds just waiting for me to pick them. I pick the buds and at the last moment before the ground freezes solid for the year, I pick the upper portion of the stems too. I peel the stem and cook it up in stirfries. I think the stems are just as good as the flowers.

Now is the time that our ground starts to freeze up for the year. I keep a close check on the weather reports. My weathermen are putting up a fight over what the weather will be come midweek. One is saying we won't get under freezing, but it will be close. Another is saying we will get to the mid twenties in mid week. So I went for another weatherman. His tiebreaker forecast said the lows would be in the fourties midweek. So only time will tell. History says we will go in the twenties and, but I'm pulling for fourties and to have the garden keep growing for another week.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Crazy Animals

My mother raised turkeys for food when I was growing up. They were always stupid birds. I figured it was a domesticated turkey trait. I figured the wild turkeys that grace our yard occasionally were smarter. How in the world can they survive if they are as stupid as a domestic turkey?

It turns out they are just as dumb. I was mowing my leaves the other day and happily filling my leaf bins. I noticed the turkeys were out and about. The turkey flock is huge. It is usually about 12-14 birds every year. Most of the flock was in my neighbor's yard, but two were still in my yard. Between the two yards is a fence. Towards the front and side of the house it is a nice pretty cedar fence, but way in the back it turns to chain link. I've seen the turkeys fly over the cedar part many times as I come close.

This time however the two turkeys were having a fit. They were walking back and forth along the chain link fence and calling plaintively to their brethren. They couldn't figure out how to get over the fence. I guess since they thought they could see through it, they ought to be able to walk through it. So I was walking back and forth on my lawn. As I got close they started freaking out and making a big ruckus. As I left for the other side of the yard they would calm down.

I finally couldn't take it anymore. I had to put the poor turkeys out of their misery. I herded them down the fence to the cedar part. As soon as they couldn't see though the fence they flew right over to their friends. Turkeys are really stupid.

Sadly I hadn't brought my camera with me. I didn't even think about it so there are no photos. The next crazy animal was also not photographed. I had the camera in my pocket this time, but I was so shocked by what happened I didn't even think to take it out and photograph it until it had disappeared.

I wanted to put a layer of compost on a couple of the lower beds that will be seeded very early in the spring. I had just finished using up last year's compost. I needed to start with some made this year. The best compost is on the bottom of the pile, so I started turning the compost over. After the first couple of shovelfuls a mouse ran out the bottom. He leapt up to my leaf bin and climbed to the top. I went over to have a closer look and he leaped to the nearby tree and started climbing.

It isn't the first time I've scared small rodents in my compost piles. Once I found a family of voles living there in the spring. But I've never seen a mouse act like a squirrel before. I was just shocked at this crazy mouse climbing the tree when there were plenty of leaves closer to hide in. As soon as he zipped over to the far side and I couldn't see him any more, I remembered the camera. Too late. He was gone.

The compost had its own variety of weirdness. I often have huge worms in my compost. Worms are common. This time I had a plethora of baby worms all through the compost. I coudn't believe how many there were. The baby worms were strange though. They were quite colorful and their middle band was orange. Usually I just get the typical pinky purple worm color. Instead I had brighter red and orange worms. Has a new variety of worms found my compost?

I took photos of those worms, but only with the camera in my pocket not my husband's camera with the nice macro lens. All the photos came out blurry. All I can show you is my garden beds newly limed and mulched with compost. The browner areas are my old compost that had dried out. The dark black is the worm ridden compost. It looks really nice from a distance, but it is pretty clumpy. I used a lot of newspaper in this batch since I didn't have enough leaves. Newspaper it turns out is very sticky. Ick. At least the worms appreciate it. Hmm maybe the newspaper is why my worms are different.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2009 Overview Potatoes

I hadn't grown potatoes in years, but this year I decided I had enough space to try a potato bin. I bought two pounds of Kennebec seed potatoes in April. I chitted them for five days on the windowsill. Then I trench planted them on April 28th in a 4'x4' section of the solanaceae bed. There were 10 little seed potatoes. I didn't feel a great need to cut them up so didn't.

Bin on June 11th

The big experiment was the potato bin. I made a fairly rustic 4'x4'x2' bin to put over the planting. As the plants grew I filled the bin with dirt then compost. I kept doing this until the bin was filled 18" high. I then get tired of filling it up and quit.

Some varieties will set potatoes all the way up the stem as you cover them up. I had read that any main season potato will do this, but earlies won't. It turns out that Kennebecs aren't so good at that even though they are a main season potato. Two plants set potatoes up the stem, but only a couple. The rest never did. My bin was a bust and in addition it was a lot of work hauling dirt and making sure the stems were always covered.

Kennebecs were vigorous growers

I'm still glad I used Kennebecs. This was the year of the late blight epidemic. Due to our cold wet June and big box stores selling infected plants, the whole northeastern part of the country was infected. The potatoes got blight starting in June. I only saw a couple of leaves. I kept the plant well cleaned of blighted leaves until they got so big I couldn't find the leaves in the tangled mass of foliage. The Kennebecs grew very well. It turns out they are resistant to late blight.

Nothing else bothered the potatoes much. I saw the poop of the tomato horn worm on the leaves. I never saw the worm. I didn't know they ate potatoes. I had so much foliage on the plants that one horn worm coudn't do enough damage for me to find him.

The tubers were dug on September 11th, two weeks after I cut back the foliage. I cut it bad due to blight starting to take over and not because they were dying back in any other way. It is best to wait at least two weeks for two reasons. The first is that it lets the skin toughen up before digging. The second is that it helps kill off the blight spores before they could touch the potatoes you are digging. If you dig right away those spores could get on the tubers and they would rot. After two weeks, many of them will have died off. My final tally was 16.5 lbs. Which isn't bad for trench planted potatoes, but sucks pretty bad for bin planted ones. I did have a couple of tubers that were infected with blight. They were tossed.

Will I do things differently next year? If I ever do a bin again, it will be a small bin. If I plant Kennebecs I'll just trench plant them. I do love the the variety. They are quite tasty potatoes and easy to peel since they don't have deep eyes and are smooth. I don't know if I'll have the space in the solanaceae bed for potatoes next year. Next year that bed will be my smallest of the beds.

Maybe I should try the trash can method instead? I have a trash can that is falling apart and has holes in the bottom already. I've been using it the last several years to hold up my sprinkler so it can get over all the plants. If I use it for potatoes I'll have to find a replacement. I'll also have to find out what varieties can be used in bins. But I may forego the next experiment. Seed potatoes cost way too much through the mail. It is about as cheap to buy potatoes at the farmer's market as it is to grow them from mail order seed. I can get them locally which is cost effective, but I have limited choice in varieties. If I can't find an appropriate variety locally, I won't do it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009 Overview Carrots

SugarSnax my favorite carrot of 2009

2008 was the first year I really grew carrots well in my garden. Clay soil is not great for carrots. I had abandoned them for years, but decided the soil was good enough to try them again. I grew shorter carrots to make my life easier. But this year I wanted to try long pretty carrots - imperator style carrots. I double dug the bed so they would have free reign to grow. I chose SugarSnax as the best of the pretty carrots to try. I did have four different varieties and I'll discuss them at the end.

I did notice in all the carrots and all the plantings that anytime I didn't thin to at least 3" apart the carrots were small and slow to grow. I always want to leave the good growing seedlings, but I must be ruthless.

I did three sowings of carrots over the year and I'm going to go over each one individually.

The first sowing was on March 27th. We were getting some nice weather so I decided if I could get the carrots to germinate (using burlap), they would grow just fine. And they did - slowly as usual for carrots. They were thinned on May 30th and again in mid June (with eatable thinnings), so grew very slowly in the cool weather. They were harvested over time in mid July. So they took 3 1/2 months to grow to full size from sowing.

These early carrots were grown in the middle of the eggplant and tomatillo bed. They had 7' x 1' of growing space. I put in four rows (of four different varieties) each spaced three inches apart. This worked well in the eggplant section. The eggplants didn't grow fast enough to shade out the carrots. In the tomatillo section the tomatillos started shading the carrots in late June. Nematodes were a problem. About a third of the SugarSnax (long carrots) had issues with stunting and forking due to nematodes. The other varieties showed nematode damage too. There was a little carrot fly damage, but not much.

I harvested 3.5 lbs of carrots from the 7 sq ft area.

The second planting was on May 14th. They were planted between my peppers and tomatoes in a 12' x1' section. I had three rows each four inches apart (four varieties - one row was split by Atomic Red and Big Top) . They were thinned on July 17th. The first picking was in the middle of September, but the carrots were still a bit small. Once the peppers shading them were removed, they bulked up quickly. By mid October they were a good size.

These carrots took five months to grow to full size. Unlike the first carrot harvest there was no nematode damage to be seen and very little forking. Almost all the SugarSnax were long beautiful carrots. These carrots were grown near Ground Control marigolds. I spaced the marigolds between every other tomato, but behind the tomatoes, while the carrots were in front of the tomatoes. They weren't that close, but it was good enough. For those that want more precise measurements the marigolds were four feet apart in the long direction of the bed and about 2-3' away from the carrots in the other direction. Let us just say I will always grow my carrots with marigolds whenever I can. Sadly early spring is a bit too cold for a marigold.

I still had carrot fly this time worse than in the spring, but still not bad. It affected maybe one in every eight carrots and usually only at the tip, which was easy to just cut off.

I harvested 7.3 lbs of carrots from this 12 sq ft of space. Which was a better yield than the spring carrots even though there was one less row.

The last sowing was on July 24th, in a different bed. I did prepare the soil well for them even if I didn't double dig it. There were however no marigolds close to protect them. Unlike my other sowings, this one had bad germination and it was really too late to try another sowing. They are still not sized up enough. They are still baby carrots. I've sown carrots on July 15th (I think, haven't double checked) and that was long enough, so that one extra week makes a lot of difference. I think in the heat of summer it would be better to use a board to help with germination. My dark brown burlap heats up the soil too much. Cooling it down with a a board might be better.

I grew four varieties this year. The first and best is SugarSnax. This is a hybrid. It is reported to grow about 9", but can get up to 11". I forget how long they were in the spring, but the fall carrots were mostly 6" and up, with some getting to eight inches long. It might not grow as well for me as stated, but I love this carrot. I love the long slender roots which are easy to peel. I love the sweet taste. I love that it gave the biggest best carrots of all the ones I grew. I will grow this next year. Most of my carrots will be this variety.

Atomic Red is not all that red and sometimes has some yellower carrots

I grew Atomic Red because red carrots are fun. That being said I was less than impressed. The carrots did not germinate well. The ones that did were prone to damping off. When they did get started they were slow to grow. Their final tally was about 1/3 of SugarSnax in the spring and about 1/5 for the fall carrots (please note that I didn't keep track of the whole harvest by carrot type, but the big ending harvests I did, so I used that as a guideline). Their high point was taste. I think they were the second tastiest carrot after SugarSnax. They weren't a really sweet carrot, but they did have a lot of carrot taste. I've seen catalog descriptions that say it is better in soups than fresh because of their strong taste, but I would disagree with this. I loved them fresh. That being said, I won't grow them again. Not enough carrot for the effort.


Danvers was bred for heavy clay soils. It has a more fibrous core to power its way through. I grew it for this reason. It was indeed easy to grow. It was the second best producer in the garden. It produced about 3/5 of what SugarSnax did. Its roots were short and very wide if left in the ground for a while. I don't like the taste. It is bitter. I'll only use it in soups. I won't grow it again.

The last carrot I grew was Big Top. It was a fine middle of the road carrot. Nothing great about it and nothing bad. It produced about 1/2 of SugarSnax. It tastes good. I probably won't grow it again just because I could try something different.

For next year I'll probably stick to the same timing I used this year. It worked. I'll forego the last sowing since the May sowing doesn't come out of the ground until fall anyway. I'll grow SugarSnax and probably pick another variety to try, but if I only grew SugarSnax, I'd be happy. I'll need several packets though if I want to sow it all with one variety.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Harvest Monday - 9 November 2009

My husband was going on a two day business trip last week, so it was the perfect time for me to make my chard quiche. He won't touch it, but I ate for lunch and dinner while he was gone. So I picked the last large leaves off the chard and a couple of green onions. The onions make the chard look tiny, but don't believe it. The onions are the size of my leeks - bigger than some. Ok maybe that is an indication that my leeks aren't all that big.

I also picked some broccoli side shoots. The plants in the sun are starting to put out a lot of small side shoots. I hope I have time to let them grow big. I also picked some mizuna. I was eating some lettuce the other day and remembered that my mizuna, which I usually mix in was not to be seen in the fridge. Sometimes I forget about it since it is under a row cover. It is too often out of sight out of mind.

The big harvest of the week was the rest of the carrots. I had about seven feet of them left in the garden. I had three rows about three to four inches apart along those seven feet. From left to right I have Atomic Red (small section), Sugar Snax (the big one on top is 8" long, most were around 6"), and Danvers (stubby little things, one was 2" in diameter). There was a little bit of carrot fly damage, which I cut off before weighing. Right now I have all four and a half pounds of them in the fridge. Later I'll probably slice, blanch, and freeze the Danvers since it tastes a tad bitter. It will be fine in soups, but the Sugar Snax and Atomic Red are better fresh.

Now onto the tally.

  • Allium 0.39 lbs
  • Berries 0.09 lbs
  • Broccoli 0.10 lbs
  • Carrots 4.62 lbs
  • Greens 0.68 lbs

Weekly total: 5.88 lbs
Weekly spent: $0
Yearly total: 209.92 lbs
Yearly earned: $730.27

If you would like to join in showing off your harvest, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below. It doesn't matter how big or small your harvest is. You don't have to count the pounds like I do. If you have had a harvest this last week, show us and join in!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Honest Scrap Award

GrafixMuse bestowed the Honest Scrap Award to me the other day. Thanks!

Here are the Guidelines of The Honest Scrap Award:
1. Brag about the award.
2. Include the name of the blogger who bestowed the award on me and link back to the blogger.
3. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that I find brilliant in content or design.
4. Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog.
5. List at least ten (10) honest things about myself.

I'm going to list my ten things first. Usually I find a lot in common with other bloggers. At least half the things they say about themselves fit with me, sometimes all of them, but when GrafixMuse listed hers, I had to say, "That's not me at all." So I'm going to take her list and make it mine.

1) She is number challenged. I come from a line of number nerds and proudly follow in their tradition. My mother was a human calculator. I had one math teacher that told me I didn't even have to show up to class, I just had to take the tests. He loved giving me unsolvable math problems to see if I could do them. My son taught himself calculus while he was taking the precalc course in high school. He took the BC Calc AP test that year and got a 5. He ended up with five college level math courses under his belt before he hit college. My daughter wants to go into quantum gravity and thinks quantum mechanics is easy. Even I don't think that. When I tell her I don't get it she tells me, "It's just math mom." BTW I aced quantum in college but I still don't get it. We are a family of number nerds and are proud of it.

2) She can't buy anything over $100 dollars without researching it to death. I rarely spend much, but if I want something I can send it without batting an eyelash. I will research something to death to make sure I get the right one if I'm not sure. But I'll do that with any sized thing. I hate buying something I won't use in the future.

3) She says as she has matured she likes quiet nights at home more than nights out. I'm half there. I love quite nights at home, but I still love my parties. The reason is that I love to socialize. I also love going out to eat with my family. I have a family of introverts and they are forced to talk to me then. My husband and I have recently started going to the Boston Seminar Series (nerdy talks at MIT) and MIT's science breakfasts. I love that. I can socialize and be nerdy all at the same time.

4) She is a workaholic. I'm so not. I do get obsessed with projects at times, but I'm really happy doing nothing too. Work does not consume me.

5) She has naturally hard nails. I so don't. They break all the time. I never polish them, but leave them natural.

6) Her hair began to turn gray at 18. I'm 47 and I have one gray hair. My mom wasn't really gray until 60. I think I'm following in her footsteps.

7) She hates driving in the snow. I hate driving, but the snow doesn't bother me. I didn't get my license until I was 23. Cars are just death traps waiting to happen. I don't understand the American love for the car.

8) She says she is a trustworthy person. I am too. She says she is non judgemental. So am I. I don't understand the propensity for people to lie. I once read a study that said most people lie everyday. Really? Do people do it just for fun? I can think of four reasons to lie. 1) to make people like you better 2) to keep from getting in trouble 3) to get something you want 4) to keep from hurting someone. So I guess I just don't have a lot of reason to lie. 1) If someone doesn't like me for who I am, then I don't need them around. 2) People ought to take responsibility for themselves. 3) I hardly need to lie to get what I want. If I want something I ask for it. People are usually good about giving it. 4) On very rare occasion I'll lie for this reason, but rarely. Even here I'll tend to be honest. If I liked your hair better the other way, I'll tell you. Sorry. But I won't tell you unless you ask. I will try to be tactful about how I say it, but I won't lie about it if you are a friend. I will lie about it to people I don't know. My friends know I'm saying things with love. Strangers don't. I also don't know strangers and don't have their life story. So I can't really say if it is good or not.

9) She can have trouble pronouncing words. I can pronounce words just fine. Well unless I'm really cold then I tend to slur my words. It is spelling that I can't do. Without spell check I'd be lost. Plus I type pretty quickly and flip letters occasionally. I am however what my husband used to term a mule. A decade ago he used to be the lead engineer on Dragon Naturally Speaking (speech recognition software). Mules are people that the system can't recognize. It gets trained to your individual voice. We are inconsistent speakers so it never gets trained.

10) She always wears heels because she is short. I've worn heals once in the last year (and only for five minutes). For my wedding I wore flats so I wouldn't be taller than my husband in the photos. The last time I wore heals consistently was when a bunch of friends and I took ballroom dancing together. Since we did this for over a year, I got some nice dancing shoes with suede on the bottom. For dancing I'll wear heals if I have to, but not for many other things. I'll blame my lack of fashion for growing up in the Colorado mountains. We walked to parties in our hiking boots and skirts. I just could never get into shoe fashion. I have a total of three pairs of heels. One black pair, one off white pair and my dancing shoes. I have more working/exercise shoes in my closet than pretty shoes.

I should just copy her list of people though. I'm alike with her on that. She picked all people I would have picked. Now I have to go figure out who I've given awards to already so I don't get duplicates.

OK back. I've given awards already to the following people:

Michelle at From Seed To Table
Kate at Gardening Without Skills
kitsapFG at The Modern Victory Garden
June at Four Green Acres
Sally at My Dirt
Amanda at Cooking in someone else's kitchen
Miss M at The Informal Gardener
Annie's Granny from Annie's Kitchen Garden
Dan from Urban Veggie Garden Blog
EG from Our Engineered Garden
Frances from Fairegarden
Our Friend Ben from Poor Richard's Almanac
Cindy at Brambleberries in the Rain
Ali at Henbogle
Kate at The Manic Gardener
Green Bean Dreams
A Sonoma Garden
Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings
Kathy from "Skippy's Vegetable Garden"
Margo from "Garden Misadventures"
Melissa from "Garden Portraits"
S. Jones from "Compostings"
Mike from "Tiny Farm Blog"
Kate from "The Root"

Wow that's a lot of people (I'd add some link love, but really it is way too much work). I always feel like I should come up with new people and spread the love around. There are just too many fine bloggers out there. So in no particular order:

So now I have to work on letting them all know.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The First Freeze


Last night got down to a chilly 28°F. This was quite enough to freeze the soil for the first time to the depth of about an inch or two. I didn't cover my lettuce. I'm hoping they will be OK once they defrost since we have some nice weather coming up. The long range forecast doesn't even call for another freeze (maybe not even a frost) anytime through the middle of November (not that the long range forecast is a real prediction of what it will be in ten days).



The freeze did make for some pretty crystals on my plants. I bet my carrots are even sweeter than they were before.


You would think it was the height of summer since this is the seventh post so far this week. I don't often do two posts a day this late in the season, but who can resist their plants cloaked in diamonds?

2009 Overview Beans (and Corn)

Beans overtaking the corn

This year I tried growing a Three Sisters Garden. I won't do it again. If the weather is bad early on the plants don't have time to mature. I tried planting the corn early. I heated the ground up with clear plastic and germinated them inside (in soil blocks). As soon as they were up they were put outside, but the corn never really grew well. The variety was supposed to get over 6' tall, which I deemed tall enough to support my corn, but it never grew more than three feet. Then when the ears started to form, earwigs took up residence in all of them and cut off the silks. Arrrggghhh!. I gave up and pulled all the corn. I've tried growing corn numerous times and it is never a great crop. I should just give my money to the local farmers and buy from them. They seem to be able to grow corn well.

Trail of Tears

Since the corn wasn't tall enough, I had to scramble and buy some bamboo poles to support the beans. I had one pole for one or two bean plants. It worked quite well.

Bean timeline:

  • May 24th direct sown
  • May 30th germinated
  • July 23rd Kentucky Wonder snap bean harvest started
  • August 26th Dried beans harvest started (both varieties)
  • Mid September, Kentucky Wonder harvest almost over
  • October 6th Dried beans harvest finished

The timing was fine. I probably would have started them a week earlier if I wasn't waiting for the corn to get high enough. All but two pods dried before the first frost. The Ottawa Cranberry is a slightly later bean than Trail of Tears.

Ottawa Cranberry

Harvest stats:

  • Kentucky Wonder: 3.8 lbs snap beans with four poles - maybe six plants
  • Trail of Tears: 2.5 lbs dried beans
  • Ottawa Cranberry: 2 lbs dried beans

I don't know how many poles or bean plants the last two had. They each had three times the area of the Kentucky Wonder beans. So the Trail of Tears is more productive. The beans are much smaller, but there were more pods. The autumn weather was very cooperative for harvesting dried beans. We had a few large rain storms, but had mostly dry sunny weather. We didn't have any of the constant drizzle of the spring that rotted out the peas I was trying to dry.

The beans weren't much bothered by insects once they got large enough. Slugs took out some seedlings. They developed rust over time, but the harvest was set on the plants by then.

The Trail of Tears was a vigerous grower. It would have grown to 10' if they had a tall enough pole. As it was they sprawled over the tops of the poles intertwining with one another. Next year maybe I should plant them in the lowest bed and let them crawl up the maple tree when they get to the top of their poles. The Ottawa Cranberry was a much more restrained plant. It did not outgrow its 6' pole. Kentucky Wonder took the middle route. It outgrew its poles, but didn't try to take over its neighbors as much.

I liked all the beans and will grow them all again next year though I've yet to taste them so might change my mind. I'm thinking I might want to add a bush dried bean to the mix. If all the beans are pole tall all the way across the 4' wide bed, none of them will get a lot of light except the front ones. It might be prudent to do a foot to a foot and a half wide section at the back of the bed and bush beans in the front. I'm not sure what variety, maybe Jacob's Cattle. It is a very historic bean in this area.

Friday, November 6, 2009

On Greed

I don't consider myself a greedy person. When my husband asked me what computer I'm going to buy, I said I'd just take his hand me down when he gets his new one. My current computer is six years old. It freezes up occasionally when I have too many images open in my photo editing software. But I don't need a new computer. A hand me down is perfect. I want for very little.

But this last week I've been getting flashes of greed. I see gold. Gold leaves that is. They carpet my neighbors' lawns. Yesterday was the piece de resistance. As I was leaving my neighborhood, I saw a pile of leaves as high as I was. It was about 25' long. My jaw just dropped. I wanted that pile. I dreamt of leaf mold. I've never had enough leaves for leaf mold before. I've only collected enough for compost for the next year. This year I didn't even have enough and resorted to shredding newspapers. Greed is not something I feel very often, but I did want that pile. Sadly I was stymied since I couldn't figure out a way to drag it to my back yard.

I have been busy collecting leaves on a more modest scale. All my leaves get mowed up and put in my bin. My neighbor was busy raking and he gave me his leaves. Then I've started collecting leaves from Lexington. My town doesn't have trash pickup, so no one bags their leaves and puts them by their curb, but just a few blocks away is a town that does. Last week I stopped and peeked into some brown compostable bags by the curb, but all I found was branches. It as a bit too early. This weekend however we had a nice wind storm. Most of my leaves are off the trees already. So I figured I was safe trying again. Score! Most people still haven't raked (or they use a service), but there was one person that had a bunch already bagged up. I picked up seven bags worth.

I took them out of their bags and mowed them up. Mowing chops them up and makes them compost faster. I put them all in my bins.

Right now my bins are full, but they will pack down some more. I'll keep collecting leaves. The bin on the left partially behind the tree is about 7' around and three feet high. The square bin on the right (behind the tree and tools) is my old potato bin and holds a cubic yard. The black bin to the back is one of my compost bins all ready to be spread.

It is a sad season for me. Greed has taken hold and I've turned into a bag lady. I'm sure my family is shaking their head sadly at me and wondering what will become of me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bed Rehab

It is November now and I'm doing all my plant overviews. This does not mean I'm not working hard in the garden. I'm trying to get all my work done before the first freeze hits. The weather has been very cooperative. It has been mostly sunny and cool. We have had very little rain which is good for me, but not so much for the plants.

I had two major projects to do over the last week and a half. I'll write another post about the second since this post got way too long, but the first was to finish double digging the lowest bed. This is the bed near the fence. It used to be an herb bed and hasn't been dug in over fifteen years. Last year I dug up the section that ended at the white row cover. The section past that to the corner of the fence had my tomato pails.

When Pam, another garden blogger, came over, she asked me why I didn't just plant the tomatoes straight into the ground. The answer is right above the bed. This bed is at the drip line of the maple tree in my front yard. It puts out a lot of roots into the bed. To reclaim it I had to hack out some 2" roots and as long as I use the bed, I'll have to double dig it out every couple of years.

When I dug down I found a truckload of stones, all compacted together like concrete. I took out the bigger ones by hand, but about halfway through the project I decided they all needed to go. So I sifted the bottom section of the double dig. Sadly I only did it for the far half. In this little 2'x5' section I took out buckets and buckets of rock. I probably took out 15-20 gallons of little rocks (the big rocks were set aside as they are useful).

The problem with taking out a lot of rock is that the soil level sinks. Usually when you double dig a bed it gets bigger. All the air added to the soil really fluffs it up. This time I sunk the level a bit. Whoops. I solved my problem by adding soil from the tomato pails to it. I put five of the pails' soil on top. This leveled it out quite well. I could still use a bit more, but I'll just add a lot of compost next year.

I usually say I have three beds in the garden, but this is the fourth. It is half as wide as the others. I consider it part of my upper bed in my rotation. The upper bed is only about 12' long while the lower bed is 21' long, so it adds just about the right amount of space to make them even. Sadly now the middle bed is the small bed in my rotation and it will have my tomatoes in it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

2009 Overview Pineapple Tomatillos (and Eggplants)

Pineapple tomatillo after planting

This year I grew pineapple tomatillos (really more of a ground cherry than a tomatillo) for the first time ever. I love growing strange plants that I've never tried. These are true to their name and do taste like pineapple. They made some great fresh salsa over the summer. Since tomatillos can keep for months if left in their husks I could collect the little bits they gave over time and combine them.


  • April 3rd, seeded in soil blocks, used heat mat to germinate
  • April 14th-16th germinated - only half germinated
  • May 14th transplanted
  • July 26th first harvest

I had two plants and harvested 2.6lbs of fruit for an average yeild of 1.3lbs per plant.

I've found all tomatillos attract cucumber beetles to the garden. That is the bad news. The good news is that they make a great trap crop. I hand pick them every day during the height of the cucumber beetle seasons. If you plant them on the other side of the garden from your cucumbers, the cucumbers will be ignored. My biggest pest were the chipmunks. They love tomatillos. Bird netting around the plant discouraged them, but didn't totally prevent loss of fruit. I probably lost half of what they produced. They got no diseases and grew very well.

My biggest mistake with them is to let them sprawl. They can grow several feet from the main stem if you let them. Caging would have been much better. It would have raised the fruit up so I could see it better. It would allow me to see the ripe fruit better. The fruit is ripe when it falls to the ground, but they get knocked off easily when rooting through the plant for ripe ones.

I probably won't grow this again anytime soon. I liked it, but I have limited space in the solanaceae bed. Next year I'd like to grow a couple of real tomatillos (P. ixocarpa instead of P. pruinosa).

As for eggplant, I didn't think it deserved its own post. I'm not going to grow them again I think. I didn't even eat the ones I got from my plants. I gave them away. I'm not an eggplant lover. Last year they did so much better. This cold wet year was not the year for eggplants. From four plants I got barely got over a pound. Part of the problem was that my pole beans on the other side of the path had started shading the plants so I ripped them out at the end of August in hopes of spinach. The solanaceae bed will be better used for tomatoes, peppers and tomatillos.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2009 Overview Peppers

I'll start with the peppers. This was a good year for my peppers though it shouldn't have been. The cold weather should have made it a bad year. I think the most contributing factor to this is the double dug bed.


  • March 13th sowed in soil blocks on a heat mat
  • March 16th germinated
  • April 23rd potted up into newspaper pots
  • April 24th first hour of sun outside (25th 3 hours, 26th five hours)
  • April 30th planted in the ground with a remay row cover
  • July 16th first harvest of Early Jalapenos
  • August 4th first harvest of Serranos
  • August 27th first harvest of Cayennes

They were seeded way too early. The peppers only needed six weeks to planting out. Everyone says eight to ten weeks and I think everyone is wrong. The research I've read says letting a pepper plant bloom before transplanting will inhibit its final production. It might produce earlier than a smaller one not in bloom, but in the long run it isn't worth it. So I want to get them transplanted before blooming. One of my pepper varieties was starting to bud at 6 1/2 weeks. I need to start them much later.

Harvest stats:

  • 2 Cayennes: 0.33 lbs per plant
  • 4 Serranos: 0.39 lbs per plant
  • 6 Early Jalapenos: 0.55 lbs per plant

Two cayennes give more than enough to dry for my spice rack. One is probably better, but you never know if one will die on you, so I go with too many. I like the jalapenos better than the serranos, at least the later ones. The early ones were not hot at all. The later ones were great. So next year maybe only two serrano plants and more jalapenos or try something else. Peppers are not a great producer in the garden, but at least this year was good for me. Yes even though I had low numbers, I'm feeling pretty happy with the production. Like tomatoes, peppers have never done well here.

Not much seems to bother the peppers. I did have some four lined plant bugs in the garden for the first time this year. They put some funky looking holes in some leaves, but didn't seem to slow the plants down at all. The jalapenos were attacked (as they are every year) by some insect. I think a caterpillar, but have never seen it so not sure. They get holes in the fruits. It doesn't happen to a lot of them and the insect doesn't touch the hotter peppers or anything else in the garden. I've been ignoring it for year and I'm guessing I'll continue to do so. It takes a bit of my harvest but not much. The late blight didn't seem to affect the peppers at all. I heard some reports of peppers getting attacked in New England, but not mine.

I saved seeds from my jalapenos this year. I waited until after the first flush of peppers were picked then isolated the plant. This was not long enough for the plant to totally ripen the pod. They were starting to turn, but it was too cold outside for them to finish. Bringing the plant inside worked well, but if I save seed of something next year I ought to pick my plant before the first blooms open, so it they will have all summer to ripen.

I don't think I'm going to change anything but the start dates on my transplants next year. Things worked pretty well. I keep thinking about getting another variety of chili pepper, but haven't made up my mind yet. Anyone have some favorite chili peppers they might recommend?