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

Monday, December 21, 2015

Asparagus to Zucchini 2015

By the time I reach Zucchini it is the Winter Solstice. So it goes.
It is November. Snow is creeping down the mountain and will reach our level soon. We finally had a light frost on November 10 and a killing frost this morning, November 16, a record I believe. I am still putzing around tidying up some loose ends, and not everything that I wanted to accomplish got done. That was to be expected. Never mind perfection, or what is next year for? Overall it was a good season and I feel quite content. By now gardening is a chore. I feel ready to pack it in for the winter. Serious reading, cooking and the blogosphere are calling. Soon. Meanwhile we might as well get started on the almost-annual Asparagus to Zucchini post. 

Behold the jungle in August. The tallest fern must have been 8 feet high. We finally had a serious harvest this spring, with several meals a week for a month or so. It was wonderful and I look forward to more.
Did I even take pictures? I don't think so. The season was so long and hot I regret not trying to grow some dry beans. I also could have left more room for bush beans to share with friends. Too many healthy brassica plants led once again to puppies and kitten syndrome. How much kale does one household need unless there are chickens? Oh wait, chickens were one of the projects I was hoping to get done. Not. Maybe never again. Anyway, we had all the fresh beans we wanted from mid July to late September and have quite a few bags in the freezer. 

I played with a few different varieties of pole bean this year. The oriental yard long one was disappointing. It took forever to get going and the plants were not healthy. The novelty aspect was cute but the taste was meh. This would be worth the effort if there were grandchildren to impress. Emerite was not much earlier than Blue Lake. The latter do the best and I love the taste.  Keep it simple! 
Note for next year: do prestart some bush beans in the greenhouse. Like zucchini, they are best fresh as a seasonal treat and the sooner we get them the better. 

The voles were mostly absent this year. I saw one at the start of the season and that was it. It may be a natural fluctuation or the presence of a visiting cat adding to the efforts of the resident. Anyway I am grateful. I had a nice planting of small Kestrel Hybrid beets. The second planting, golden beets, suffered from not being thinned in time. Somehow I did not get around to planting more in time, which is a shame. 

Pacman Hybrid is just fabulous. The succession of plants was less than perfect but the original six, planted in May, kept giving side shoots all summer. The second generation yielded some heads but they were no larger than the side shoots from summer, pictured below. 

Brussels Sprouts
The best ever! This picture is from October. It is now early December. The sprouts were not large but solid, mostly undamaged and there were no gaps on the stalk. We have been enjoying them as a side for weeks. There is another meal or two worth in the fridge and  4 stalks are sitting in a pail outside, frozen solid. 
I had planned more of a succession and did not quite pull that off. We did get 2 nice small savoys in early summer but I had been counting on the second generation of brassicas. The fall crop did not do well. Last year a second generation brassicas followed the garlic and did great. I thought I was on to something. This year the starts got badly slugged in infancy. I must admit to some neglect as well. They should have been thinned and potted up sooner. Anyway, the plants that went in were smaller and September was much cooler than last year. A few Farao white cabbages made it to useful size, though small. The Savoys, my favourites, were a dud.

You'd think with my loose sandy soil I would have a bumper crop. Once they get going they do fine, but I have a hard time getting them started these days. Slugs are the main problem. It is quite normal to have to plant several times. Lining the rows with crushed egg shells helps a bit. I also did not always get around to timely thinning of the later plantings. The square foot method, planting in clusters 10 cm apart, causes gaps in the row where slugs have hit. I will keep trying. We make carrot juice almost daily, so I could use several beds worth.

I got two nice heads in early summer, in spite of heat and drought, always a triumph.

 I had hoped for some of those crazy green fractal things in fall. Romanesco, variety Veronica Hybrid did great last year. This year Veronica did not make it, see note on second crop of brassicas. Close but no cigar.

I started my own from seed,  and wonder why I did not bother to do that earlier? Like their cousin parsley they take their time coming up, but are excellent sports about being transplanted. I cook a lot of soup, which always starts with the holy trinity of onion-garlic/celery/carrot. Why did I never bother freezing celery before? Chop it up, freeze first on cookie sheet, bag. I had lots but could have used even more. Plan for next year is to dehydrate more of the leaves.

Both Rainbow chard and the light green Lucullus grew well as usual. I grow the rainbow mix mainly for pretty. I should grow even more Lucullus for freezing. For dentally challenged seniors a soft sauteed side of chopped greens is easier than a salad. 

I only had three, then two plants and that was plenty for fresh eating and sharing. Marketmore, a tried and true OP variety, did better than the expensive hybrid, which was supposed to be resistant to all sorts of cucumber ailments. This was the first time I had used trellis and net instead of a tripod. What a difference! Picture below is from July. They had a late start but caught up fast.
Egg plant
We had egg plant! I had no idea they would get as big as they did. Kip at the market told me to just get the plain purple variety since they are more prolific than the fancy white or striped ones. He may have been right. They will get more room next year.
 They are so pretty I would grow them for the flowers alone. 
They were small this year because they did not get watered much, but rot damage was only 10%. Most years between 25 and 30% of bulbs are affected. I refuse to give up growing my own garlic. The bulbs that are not affected store well, so we just plant extra, give them extra space between bulbs and buy fresh seed every year.

Greens of all kinds were enjoyed from April till November. 
You'd think someone with 10 acres would not need a container garden on the deck? Think again. 
Arugula goes to seed at the slightest hint of heat. I now grow it in a pot on the shady deck, more like a herb than a vegetable. Ideally, start a fresh pot every 4 weeks. I love my planters for those times when you just want a few lettuce leaves for a sandwich or some parsley to garnish lunch. As mentioned, salads are hard to chew for dentally challenged seniors. We don't need as much lettuce as we used to. 
Pak Choy goes to seed when it is hot as well and slugs go ape over it when it is young. I started some in a planter on the deck instead. 
It is amazing how much one planter with leaf lettuce will yield if you just keep taking the outer leaves. Freckles Romaine remains my favourite. 

Where there is compost there will be kale as a welcome weed. 
I call the picture below "Fifty shades of kale".   
Somehow the three varieties I have planted (Dutch curly, red Russian and Lacinato) have crossed and created many versions of themselves, all slightly different in leaf shape and colour. I love it. Most of the harvest was dehydrated. I use it in all sorts of dishes that call for chopped spinach and have given quite a bit away as well.

Best harvest ever! Thanks to the planter in the window sill there were tons of seedlings to set out. Next year I will give them a few more side dressings of some high N substance, probably feather meal. The giants produced by the local grower show that there is much room for improvement. I am not complaining. 
We had our last fresh leeks just before Solstice.
Regular onions get fungused so I don't bother with them. Green onions are one of my favorite things. Multipliers and top setting onions did well. I finally have it together to get fresh salad onions late in the season: start some rows of bunching onions at the same time as you plant your multipliers. They will take their time but will be ready when your bulbs go to seed. I might plant even more multipliers for winter eating. They always keep well.

I just love getting a head start on snow peas in the spring greenhouse. Once the season gets really going it can get too hot fast. I only grow snow peas and sugar snaps. Shelling peas are not on the list of gotta-be-organic. Considering how much garden space they take up and how cheap frozen peas are in the grocery store I don't bother. I would if I had small children or grand children. There is something so magical about opening up a package of garden candy. In spite of the heat they did well this year. The key to enjoy them from the the freezer is to give them the berry treatment: freeze spread out on cookie sheet before bagging.
Nothing to write home about or take pictures of, which is disappointing considering the excellent season. I suspect an unbalance of nitrogen and potassium. We had some and will keep trying. 

They are perhaps the ultimate survival crop and there are never enough. These days we eat less rice and more potatoes because dentally challenged. They did reasonably well but I always think it ought to be more. The plan for next year is to plant more of the top garden in potatoes and manage the close to the house sections very intensely. They absolutely loved being under row cover during flea beetle season! One small bed below the greenhouse got row cover by way of deer protection. What a difference! This picture was taken after the Remay was replaced with PVC hoops and netting. Hardly any beetle holes while the cousins up the hill were full of pin pricks. MOAR REMAY! 
This was the third year for Indigo hybrid radicchio and the best yet. Radicchio is slightly bitter. It is not everyone's cup of tea but I just love those little red balls. The seeds are not cheap but every single one of them seems to come up.  They are among the most resilient of crops. Slugs love to devour them in childhood, but as long as they have the tiniest growing tip left they will bounce back. They are so tolerant of a gardener's neglect they almost make me feel guilty. Did they have to wait too long in a crowded starter pot before getting thinned and transplanted? No problem. As soon as they have been potted on they take off. They withstand both frost and heat. The heads will wait patiently till the gardener is ready to pick them. If they get overripe, the worst that happens is that the outer leaves get slimy. The heart may look small but they are so dense that there is still a lot of salad material in there. They keep forever in the fridge. I like them best raw, chopped fine with a ranch dressing. Raw purple onion and crisp chunks of a sweet apple really make it a treat. Bonus for us dentally challenged seniors: the crisp texture makes them easier to chew than regular lettuce.
And last but not least: they look so beautiful in the garden while they are growing, like roses.

How I love those red bursts of health boosting deliciousness! In this case the love is mutual. This is not always the case, see cauliflower and winter squash. Raspberries grow well here, this is a natural habitat.
One of these days Project Raspberry, about moving canes around, will get its own post. Meanwhile we had another excellent crop, earlier and more concentrated than usual. We have eaten lots, made some drink base, and this half bushel fruit box, raspberries all the way, is still waiting in the freezer.

We knew it was a going to be a hot summer so I devoted a whole bed to them in the top garden. However, they had to wait their turn under the grow lights till after an Easter trip to the offspring on the coast. April 13 is later than I would have liked. Most of them went outside, just a few stayed in the greenhouse. Surprise: they did much better outside.  We enjoyed tomatoes for fresh eating since the second week of August, Stupice leading the pack as usual. Once again, too much leafy growth, not quite enough tomatoes till late in the season. By the time I finally had Romas just loaded with trusses it was early October. Frost was late too, but tomatoes ripening in October lack flavour and tend to succumb to rot before they ripen. I never had enough at one time for canning. However, I did dehydrate quite a few. I keep them in the freezer just in case. They are delicious and so handy when you just want a few.
I did not mark each starter plant separately, so when it was time to give some away I lost track of which one was which. I ended up with 3 out of the 6 being patty pans, not my favourite but what does it matter. I did not bother preserving any. We ate various kinds of zucchini to our heart's content from early August to late October, and that is that till next year.

And that's a wrap! Oh yes, there were flowers too. Lots of them though never enough.


  1. So nice to see a review of your year. I'm very envious of your BEAUTIFUL brussels sprouts. I tried them once years ago--and they were so infested with white fly I thought -never again!
    But I'm seeing lots of folks with their best year ever of them and now I'm reconsidering.

    I laughed when you said "dentally challenged". Ah, never fun to get older, is it?

    You had a great year. And next year will be even better! How do I know? I don't , but it's what keeps us going!
    Merry Christmas and looking forward to next year's posts

    1. Yup. I am 72, spouse is 79. Age is starting to bite spouse. So it goes.

  2. What a garden. I feel very humbled. Once again I over planted for the size I am working with. Carrots got voled as did the beets. But kale and chard and lettice did very well as did the potatoes. Zucchini never works for me and a friend says it is not the temps but the altitude.

    You are an inspiration. I didn't even keep up the garden journal this year.

    1. I am nowhere where I'd like to be, but it was fun. The garden is to me what your art is to you, it is where most of my energy goes in summer. And I have a better climate. I am amazed how much you grow in those few beds. I thought your animals kept the voles down?

  3. Inspirational. I'm planning to cut my garden way back this spring, so I can really do what's left the "right" way. Maybe even rig up some kind of PVC irrigation. Proper-sized beds that I can really reach to the center of. I need to see some success before I succumb to despair and quit entirely.

    1. You'd be amazed by how much can be grown in a few well tended small beds. When it comes to the garden, the lesson I keep having to learn is LESS IS MORE. It goes for spacing and for the whole enterprise. One of these days I must do a blog on the special joys of small gardens. Do not compare the garden of yourself, with a growing household with demanding children, with someone in that Goldilocks age for gardening: old enough to get a pension, young enough to do the work.


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