I planted some along the fence last fall, and asked only for survival. They came up in spring, got some company, are thriving and ready for another winter with a nice blanket of chicken-poopy straw.
Every year there is a crop I count on that doesn't deliver, and something else that totally surprises me. In spite of the cold spring and early summer, this year the surprise is basil. I have a glut.
I started a whole tray with the intention of selling some at market. They had just come up when the greenhouse was finished.
They loved it in there! Two days later the slugs had mowed them down to tiny stubs. They had been planted thickly, so I put the tray on a shelf in case any new seeds might sprout. They did. The whole thing was too late for plant sales, but I gave quite a few pots away and will make pesto as soon as I buy some sunflower seeds and figure out the food processor.
Beans: 60% FAIL
Planting was delayed because of the slow cold spring. I did start some pole beans in the greenhouse. They were good sports about being transplanted. Smiling happy babies. Then the slugs noticed them. The End.
Well, not quite. Three plants out of 15 survived. Once the weather turned warm they recovered and swarmed over 5 poles. Beans started to arrive....yes! Then the voles came back. If there is one thing I hate to see it is wilted leaves high on a vine, because the bottom has been chewed through. It is such a waste!
The bush beans came up sparsely because of the cool weather, and also got hit by the rodents. I put out traps again, cat or no cat. She only goes into the garden when she follows me and then I quickly snap the traps closed. One fat vole was caught, and after that the depredation seems to have slowed down a bit. The traps are occasionally sprung, I hope the loud SNAP serves as a deterrent.
We have a good feed of fresh beans about every other day, but not nearly as many as I'd like and none for freezing. This is an easy crop that grows well here and I used to harvest it by the bucket.
Next year: put out traps right away, plant excess beans, plant pole beans and spares in greenhouse, use black plastic to warm the bed for bush beans.
Beets: 80% WIN
I planted them in the fortress and it worked! They are a favorite target of the rodents, but so far I have not seen a single bite. They should have been watered more faithfully once it got warm and dry, and I should have thinned them and given them a boost of COF sooner. But all over, I am happy.
Broccoli: 70% WIN.
It was a great spring for all members of the Brassica family. We got some decent heads and lots of side shoots. But it could have been even better. Next year: have a continuous supply of fresh plants in the greenhouse ready to replace older ones.
Brussels Sprouts: 90% WIN
They are still growing, but it sure looks promising.
I do wish I had a dozen plants instead of a measly 6. Heavy slug damage in the beginning took out a few, and I made some mistakes in spacing, as reported earlier.
Cabbage: 60% WIN
What was I thinking, planting them in between the Brussels sprouts? I did get a few nice heads but the last 2 were left in the garden too long after they matured and got half eaten by slugs. These reds are a late planting, we'll see if they make it. The chickens will enjoy them if they don't. With a family of 2 one cabbage is good for 4 meals, so a little goes a long way.
Next year: start no more than 4 at the time, plant the 2 best ones, have replacements ready to follow early cold-loving greens. Or start making sauerkraut or kim chi.
Carrots: 99% FAIL
This was the weirdest thing: the carrots never came up. Now I may have used old seed for the first planting, a stupid false saving. Windows of opportunity were lost because carrots can take a long time to emerge, so I waited 3 weeks. Finally I planted some good fresh seed in another spot, and only some of those came up. I have no idea why. I heard that other gardeners had to reseed several times as well. Carrots don't like cold soil, so perhaps pre-warm their bed with black plastic next year.
Cauliflower: 80% WIN
Cauliflower is a Prima Donna, and as a rule I don't do those. But hope springs eternal, and it was such a superb spring for the whole cabbage family that I tried once more. I got three nice heads. Of course they could have been bigger.
Celery: 100% WIN
I bought 8 plants, 6 outside and 2 in the greenhouse. All did well, though they never compare to the tender pale stuff from the store.
It barely even comes up. Will keep trying. I am stubborn that way.
COF: 100% WIN
COF stands for Complete Organic Fertilizer, as per Steve Solomon's instructions. Wonderful stuff, and so convenient.
Click on the link to read an article in Mother Earth News that explains all. It is adapted from "Gardening When it Counts".
Cucumber: 30% WIN
I got just one plant, after the greenhouse was up. It surprised me with a steady supply of long English cukes. In the greenhouse it makes sense to plant all-female hybrids. Alas, it got some kind of pest eating the leaves. Mites?
According to an expert grower the humidity that cukes need is too much for tomatoes, so ideally they should be grown in separate greenhouses. Cukes that are too dry are a magnet for mites. Learn something every year. This one was tossed before the pests spread. Will plant some next year in the very back, in soil, and separate that section by a plastic wall, so it can be kept more humid.
Currants, red and black: 70% FAIL
This is tragic: there was a good crop but I barely got around to harvesting them. Contrary to raspberries, which will spoil while you look at them, currants will keep on the vine for months. But not forever. I am still eating handfuls of reds now and then, but the black ones just dried up and fell off. Hanging head in shame.
Eggplant: 100% WIN
I have never even tried to grow any, but bought one plant in honor of the greenhouse. Surprise: it is thriving! Such a pretty plant, and it seems sturdier than the disease-prone tomatoes, even in a pot. Baba Ganoush is coming to Thanksgiving. Next year I will grow 2 and plant them in soil.
Flowers: a mixed bag, may do a separate blog on them.
Alas, we do have the dreaded rot on the land. It damaged about 15% of the crop. The crazy thing is that you will find a perfectly healthy bulb right next to a diseased one covered in mold. I throw out all leaves, rotate religiously and buy fresh seed bulbs, but it still happens.
Greens: 70% WIN
Some slug damage early on, Arugula and Tatsoi went to seed too soon, but mainly it I should have started more fresh plantings.
Kale: 100% WIN
Red Russian has become an endemic weed in the garden, I fed it to the poor barn-bound chickens all summer.
Add a few traditional Dutch curly plants, and volunteers pop up in various shades of pink and green and degrees of curliness.
Leeks: 100% WIN
Of course they loved the cold wet spring. They got a generous application of COF halfway the growing season, plus diligent watering once it got dry. They are still growing.
Onions: 60% WIN
As always, multipliers did great, regular onions not so much. The red onions got some rot. Shallots got a hint of it but otherwise did well. I will keep trying to grow regular onions.
Peppers: 60% WIN
They are such heat lovers that getting any at all is a win, even in the greenhouse. I bought a few plants that I stuck in 2 gallon pots. The Italian frying peppers did really well, but some of the plants produced 2 peppers and then quit. What I learnt this year: pick off the first few flowers, they will keep bearing longer.
You can't start them early enough. Now that leek and brassica babes can be moved to the cold greenhouse early on, I will have more room on window sills and under grow lights for finicky people like peppers. On the other hand, if I only want a few plants, why not buy different varieties from someone who has a heated greenhouse? Yes. Cucumbers ditto.
Potatoes: 80% WIN
See these beautiful blossoming plants? They don't look ready to be harvested, right? Well, they were dug up a few days later to beat the varmints to them. Just in time too, I found quite a few half-eaten spuds. This bed had late varieties that might have yielded even more. The other bed had been harvested earlier. Overall I have about 80 pounds of nice potatoes, which is a lot more than last year. A decent yield but I was hoping for more.
Pumpkins: 50% WIN/FAIL
WIN, because I have 3 nice ripe small sugar pie pumpkins. FAIL, because I was hoping that 2 plants in a good bed would yield a lot more. It was too cold, then too dry, and they didn't get pollinated much either, being on the other side of the purple beeplant.
Raspberries: 100% WIN
They loved the wet spring, a bit too much. I still have ambitious plans to move them around, never mind the details here. Out-of-bound shoots were left alone last year, so I'd have plenty to transplant. HA! Sarah Palin has nothing on them. The rogues went rogue, see below.
We'll see what we can do but it may have to wait till spring. Chris did the picking and we have a nice crop in the freezer.
Snow Peas and Sugar Snaps: 50% WIN/FAIL
I blame myself for the FAIL, it was a good year for peas. They were planted in a bed at the edge of the garden that did not receive much TLC the last few years. I should have given them a boost much sooner. The good news is that pre starting Norli snow peas worked just fine. Those vines did indeed start bearing earlier and were as sturdy as the ones planted in the ground. We had some meals but hardly any for freezing.
Swiss Chard: 100% WIN
Same comments as kale. Bless the stuff. By the way, the secret to cooking it into a tasty dish is as follows: don't be afraid to simmer the snot out of it. Add some grease, some vinegar, and a source of calcium to offset the oxalic acid.
For a Meditterranean flavour, use olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. For an oriental flavour, try sesame oil, rice vinegar and roasted ground sesame seeds. Another idea is to use the whole plant when it is very young and eat it as salad. Eliott Coleman started selling his crop as 'butter chard' that way and can barely keep up with the demand.
Tomatoes: 60% WIN
Tomatoes are an iffy crop in a short season climate, and the first thing one thinks about when gifted with a greenhouse. We are getting some, but I had been hoping for more. I would have started other plants if I had known about the greenhouse earlier. The Early Girls I got at the market showed the first sign of disease quite early. They kept bearing anyway.
The disease, whatever it is, is slowly spreading to the other side of the greenhouse. The big mistake I made was lack of ventilation. I rolled up one side, but stupidly forgot I could roll up the far wall as well till recently. DOH! Next year.
Next year I will also start plants earlier, plant more late varieties, use a sturdy tipi of poles instead of cages, and leave more room between plants. Romas and some large beefsteak variety in the greenhouse, early varieties in the garden, protected by Reemay wrapped around the poles.
The big question is whether these beefsteak tomatoes will mature before either disease or frost does them in. The answer is they ripened amazingly well indoors in boxes, but didn't have much flavour that way.
Winter Squash: 100% FAIL
As Wayne Gretzki is supposed to have said, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. With the cold year in mind I never even started any squash plants. But at the last moment
I bought 2 Bush Delicata plants and put them in the greenhouse with a sturdy tripod to climb. If I had known the late summer would bring 6 weeks of warm sunny weather they would have gone outside.
The vines grew like mad. It took a long time for fruits to start, and then the powdery mildew hit and it became clear the squashes would never amount to anything. I threw them out. But squash vines and blossoms are such a joy that we can almost consider the fruits a bonus.
Zucchini: 60% FAIL
See previous post "Dude, where is my glut?"