View from the deck on a glorious morning in early June.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Asparagus to Zucchini 2014

The good news: We finally had enough for a delicious dinner for two. The bad news: that is all we had, just one dinner and some raw treats for the gardener. Some of the plants looked as if there was some pest trouble. The emerging spears were thin in places. Voles? Beetles? Slugs? Otherwise most of the ferns are looking fabulous at the end of summer, in spite of scanty water. They have received a fresh weeding, a generous sprinkle of COF and more mulch and are now ready for the first snow. Next year, right?

As mentioned the greenhouse gave us a delicious early start of haricot vert type snap beans. Blue Lake pole beans did well but were hit by an early frost in September. Just one quick light frost but it did in the beans and squashes. We had weeks of growing season afterwards. I had been counting on the pole beans for more beans later in the season and for freezing. Never mind, we can live with them being a seasonal treat. We ate lots for 2 months. Next year do start a succession of bush bean plants for a second wave. And DO prestart beans. It works fine and really gives them a head start.

Voled, as mentioned in previous post.

Broad Beans.
We have the wrong climate for them. They will not set fruit if it gets too hot, like, over 70F, around 20C. They thrive in places with long slow springs, like the Netherlands, Great Britain or the Pacific North West. I have fond memories of them as a special Sunday treat in June or September, the same season as cauliflower. Everyone ate with the seasons in those frugal post-war years in the Netherlands. Brother Jaap and I loved shelling them and playing in the kitchen sink with boats made out of the fuzzy aromatic shells.
This year I stuck some seeds in between the cabbage plants that succeeded the garlic, in early August. They were meant more as a cover crop and to have something to show for my efforts in case the cabbages failed. To my surprise they grew and bloomed profusely, in between the thriving cabbages. But that was all, blossoms. The temps should have been perfect. I don't know what they want. Pollination? I planted one whole bed in broadbeans as a cover crop quite late, well into September. They grew insanely fast. The frost just killed them but there is lots of loverly plant matter to be incorporated into the soil next spring.  Must buy a few kilo seed next year.
Packman hybrid is a great variety that will be planted again. They did well and kept giving sideshoots for months after the main head was done. They yielded till hard frost
but the shoots were minuscule towards the end. Next year I must have another batch ready as a succession crop.
Brussels sprouts
The mystery of the year. I always devote one whole bed to them. They got everything I have to give.  The bed received a generous supply of rotted manure and compost as well as COF before planting, and several top dressings of COF during the season. The plants were well mulched and reasonably watered all summer. During the worst of the cabbage butterfly season they were protected by Remay. They grew great. Huge whole leaves, tall plants. Look at this. Promising or what?
This picture was taken in mid September. By now they had outgrown the protective covering but most of the cabbage loopers were gone. In August I had started removing bottom leaves, right after this picture was taken I removed the tops to encourage the formation of sprouts.  I expected a bumper crop. NOT. Here is the crazy thing. The top sprouts are gorgeous. 
 About a third way down the stem they start looking awful. The transition happens suddenly and across the entire row.
I would sure like to know what caused this.  Meanwhile we have been enjoying what we have, after a hard frost that mellowed them to beautiful sweetness.

I had beautiful starter plants for the first spring planting. The final potting up was in one liter yogurt containers. The roots were just right.
 Then the slugs hit as soon as they were planted out. Look at this poor victim.
A planting that was started in the greenhouse to succeed the garlic did amazing once they were in the ground. Must plan better, with smaller plantings but in succession. Once again Alcosa hybrid Savoy cabbage performed like a champ, as did early Wakefield pointy cabbage. With a household of two it makes no sense to grow giants.

I grew some beauties but not nearly enough to satisfy the almost daily juicing habit. The earliest plantings were ravaged by slugs. Only one 3x3 square out of 5 escaped their wrath. Below, extreme close up of carrots slugged in infancy. I used to think the seeds had not come up, but when you look really close you can see tiny stumps of green. I suspect Arion Ater, the big black slug, sometimes kills them just by slithering over. I started saving all my egg shells. They might not be enough to deter the big one but it is worth a try.

Because of the slugs I cannot use the square foot method of spacing, which makes thinning so much easier. I seeded again later but those batches suffered from not enough watering and thinning.

It is a Prima Donna, but I like it so much I will keep trying to grow it. The spring planted regular ones were first demolished by slugs and then by heat. Below: my one spoon cauliflower.

I planted lots and it did great! Usually I just buy a few plants but this year I started some as well. They all did well, except for one dumb thing. The market buddy who had sold me some starters asked me how I had liked the red variety. Oops! I had forgotten there was such a thing, and had ripped them out, thinking it was some disease. Here is the funny thing. Several other local gardeners also had great celery this year and weird Brussels sprouts. It is not always something we do.

Chard was its usual abundant self. Bless the hardy reliable stuff. Rainbow chard looks so beautiful in the garden, and it brings out the collector in me. I want one of each colour. But really, for eating I prefer the lighter green Lucullus. It is mild and tender and an excellent subsitute for spinach. Slugs like it better too but there is enough leafy green goodness for all of us.

However! In the fall we had some nice Romanescos, love those crazy fractal florets. I wonder if this plant is easier to grow, or if it was the timing? Will play with both.
I tried growing some fat white radishes and failed miserably. They were woody and bitter. I suspect the sudden excessive heat is too blame. I did not feel like repeating the experiment in fall. I don't really care much for them anyway.

In spite of all the good care about 30% of the harvest was lost to the dreaded rot. It appears to attack just before harvest, when the temperatures rise. You see a perfect bulb with the yucky mold covering it, sometimes only part of it. There is enough left and the clean bulbs last all year. My best friend has a garden that keeps being invaded by deer, so almost nothing grows except garlic. She does not have the rot. This year we planted most of her garden in garlic. I just planted one small bed at home. Meanwhile I grow more than enough of everything else for both of us. Cooperation with neighbours is a good thing. Fingers crossed!

Many green leafy things were grown and eaten, dried and frozen. I don't feel like going into detail. In recent years kale, that easiest to grow member of the cabbage family, seems to have acquired near cult status among the young wannabe homesteader crowd. This makes me laugh. I remain the Queen of Kale but as mentioned, this year I also fell in love with Lucullus, a mild variety of chard. 

Basil did very well. I have a confession to make. I don't really like pesto. Fresh basil in tomato salad I love, pesto not so much. One large planter on the deck is enough. Yes, I have planters on the deck. You'd think with 10 acres that would not be necessary, but I love having the fixings for a lunch salad or some herbs for dinner right next to the kitchen. Parsley did spendidly, cilantro went to seed like it always does, why do I even bother? And somehow I never did get around to starting dill. I have a serious borscht addiction and must have dill. The medicinal herbs were sadly neglected. I really need a bed of echinacea again, not to mention growing mushrooms on stumps. SO MUCH TO DO!

To my everlasting shame I ruined my own seedlings and had to buy them. I did not get as many as I would have liked. One batch that I grabbed when I was in a hurry and had low blood sugar to boot turned out to be red onion, which does not like my land. But the ones I did plant did fantastic. I know what I did wrong. Seed for this year is standing by and the planter was filled with mix in the fall. Coming soon to a window sill near you!
I had Norli snow peas in the greenhouse in June, a first.
This was just a teaser row of 3 feet. Tasty but just a few. The main crop did not do well because it got too hot. I only grow edible podded peas for fresh eating in season. They don't freeze that well. Regular peas are on the list of plants that do not have to be organic, and they are cheap frozen. 

The best peppers ever! I had only 8 plants in the greenhouse in the same small bed that housed the early greens followed by the snap beans and some leeks.
Why oh why did I not keep better records of what went into that bed? That two and a half by eight foot bed was by far the most productive section anywhere. I do remember it was in tomatoes last year and received generous amounts of compost and COF.

I have come to love those crisp bitter balls. They are incredibly resilient and will bounce back after being mercilessly slugged like the one shown below, as long as there is a growing tip left. They resist heat, drought and frost.
Also, they look cute in the garden while growing. 
Winter Squash
I wasn't going to bother, they are such space hogs. My friend gave me one plant, a mystery acorn variety, that did amazingly well considering how late it got planted. It went in after the garlic. Also, I love their glorious flowering sprawling exuberance. Squashes are almost a bonus. I still have seeds and may will get seduced for 2015.

Once again there was too much plant and not enough fruit. 
Two plants in a boxed bed in the greenhouse got a mystery fungus in the stem when they were just starting to fruit. They got ripped up and dumped. There was also a tipi in the greenhouse with about half a dozen plants of different varieties that did so-so.
In general it was a good year for them. I had planted more than I normally do and there was enough for fresh eating. But my neighbour with only 4 Roma plants was harvesting enough to can! Towards the end the late fruits were cracking. I can't control the rain but I suspect a need for more potash. Paste tomatoes did suprisingly well, especially Principe Borghese.

Covered in previous post. Lots of seed left from last year, including an untouched package of hybrid mix. I loved the suprises.


  1. I loved reading this so much although your slug and rodent problem must be incredibly frustrating to deal with :(

    I've ever had brussel sprouts but I'm determined that this is the year. I've been pondering over putting them in partial shade somewhere although the temperatures don't help. I heard recently that boron is good for them, which I also need to add to my beets as the last two years they seem to get stunted.
    I never check my soil ph and I'm wondering if I need to lime.
    I've wondered about early peas in the greenhouse! I'm re-reading Eliot Colemans four season harvest right now. Last year we didn't have a greenhouse until May so I'm excited to do some early transplating!
    I LOVE winter squash although last year we didn't get many. I think I have 10 varieties lined up (many go outside the garden in the compost pile, the deer and bears have so far left them alone in previous years..)
    Our garlic got hit by the rot too last year. I made a brand new bed last year just for the garlic (a follow up crop after the potatoes) and made the soil rich and planted 180 garlic so I'm hoping garlic will the one of the successful ones for 2015 (if not I shall cry).
    I really feel I need to break my heirloom love for a hybrid when it comes to broccoli. We get such hot spring heat waves that it bolts every time. I've yet to have a full crown but this year I'm also going to boost them every two weeks. I've heard packman was good, nice to see another recommendation for it!
    I really enjoyed reading a little of your Netherlands history and memories :) When I was a girl I was obsessed with Friesian horses and even corresponded with a breeder in Alberta that came over from the Netherlands. He'd bring me back a calendar from his visit overseas to the horse show every year. I could never read the language but it was neat :)
    I hope this coming year you can figure out a slug solution.. I've heard ducks are good but I think you said this slug variety was different (something about them not liking the black ones). we've used eggshells but that's not economical on a large scale. I hear mixed things about D.E as it also cuts up the good bugs. Beer again, not great on a large scale. Our long rainy season seems to help them, we find they go away after that and re-appear in the fall. I'm also sorry about the voles! I hope you can figure out a way to eradicate them.

  2. Thanks for visiting. If you live in the Kootenays and want to grow brassicas liming is definitely a good idea! I have been making Steve Solomon's revised generic glacial moraine formula and it seems to work nicely, but I need to go all the way and get some potash and a few other things as well. Do not count on deer and bear being merciful again. Every year deer are eating something that they did not eat the previous year. Maddening, I wish I were a hunter. The black slug is Arion Ater, an import. We never used to have them. First time I saw them was some km from here, then they were in a neighbor's yard but not yet on my land, now we have them. Ducks are nice if you have ice free winters. We don't. Too much hassle. The best cure for voles is cats, owls and traps.......


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