Sunday, August 29, 2010

Garden recession

Our expected 2010 vegetable gardens this year appear to have performed about as well as the sluggish U.S. economy. After last summer's spectacular harvest and overwhelming plant growth, we hoped for a repeat or better! Alas, Mother Nature had something else entirely in mind, bringing us underwhelming summer weather. In fact, here it is August 29th, and it's felt like mid- to late-September for at least the last three weeks. Sure, we had about a week of 90+ degree days, but those were preceeded by highs in the 70s to 80s, and followed by even cooler temperatures. Waking up yesterday morning to 38 degrees was the final nail in our pantry's coffin. They're calling for rain in several of the coming days, with temps in the mid- to upper-60s, topping out in the 70s. My dreams of rows of canned tomatoes, packets of frozen beets and green beans, and shelves of ripened squash have been, er, squashed.

Here's the veggie recap:

Tomatoes: after having to replace several plants due to early blight damage on some of the first-comers, we have a harvest of zero. Zilch. Nada. Three of my plants have teeny, tiny green tomatoes on them as of last Tuesday. I don't know why they bothered. They will never ripen.

Zucchini: We've harvested 6. There are a few more attempting to ripen. They might make it. Even the always overabundant zucchini couldn't beat this weird summer weather.

Bell pepper: I harvested 1 overripe pepper after leaving it on the vine, hoping it would actually grow in size and change from green to red (which would indicate ripeness). I gave up after observing no changes in a month, picked the thing, tasted (yuk!!), and threw it to the chickens.

Beets: The beet harvest remains to be seen. The plants got off to a slow start, which is a huge disappointment after last year's spectacular show. Granted, I planted a different variety this year than last. The greens are still small, but perhaps we'll get some decent sized beets in the end. I think we harvested those last year in mid-September.

Radishes: planted as a companion to the zucchini, these did pretty well, although they were hotter than the hubs! Easter Egg II variety, they were quite pretty, but have too much heat for my palate. I'll try a milder version next year.

Squash: oy. The butternuts were very slow to start, didn't bother to climb the ladder I offered, and haven't even flowered yet. I think we can safely call them a dud. The spaghetti squash were slow to start, too, but finally flowered and set some fruit. Only 1 is of any size. I may have to follow the lead of Throwback at Trapper Creek and remove the fruits that won't ripen in time. It would be nice to get at least one good-sized spaghetti. The pattypans, which I planted to replace the twice-uprooted pickling cucumbers, didn't ever take off. I removed one malformed, split squash and fed it to the cows. There's another even more oddly shaped one still growing.

Cucumbers: the original plants were savagely uprooted by a chicken who found a hole in the garden fence. She didn't probably mean to hurt the was more about the mound of dirt it was growing in. Chickens can't resist mounds of dirt and debris, scratching them flat in no time. The poor cucumber plants were left baking in the sun, roots and all, for at least a day before we noticed. I replaced one plant with a lemon cucumber, but that one didn't take off. It's got many flowers now, but since the weather has changed to very fall-like, I don't think it'll set fruit.

Beans: talk about slow to start! Only three plants out of the entire 2 25' rows even bothered to start climbing their poles. For a while I wondered if I'd mistakenly purchased bush bean seed instead of pole! The plants haven't flowered. I'm considering them a bust. Our neighbor did swap us two fat quart-bags of fresh green beans for a couple of pieces of fresh salmon filets, so we did get to eat some. Yummy!

Corn: the 'Bodacious' was slow to start, but has rallied. Most of the 6 25' rows of plants are 8' tall. All have tassles, and all have two little ears showing silk. Given our weather has cooled substantially right when the corn needs hot sun the most, though, we may not get much of a harvest. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. ('Bodacious' is an early corn, but we planted it a little late. Still, it should be ready to harvest on September 3rd. Fat chance!)

Onions: I took a chance and planted my copra storage onion seeds in the big garden, amongst all the rocks. I harvested a fat bunch of green onions this morning to add to our smoked salmon and cream cheese breakfast scramble. There are many more plugging along, but I expect the rocks to inhibit bulb growth.

Broccoli: this has been the start of our summer garden, producing fat heads on all 8 plants (two varieties). Side shoot production has been ok, but not spectacular. We weren't able to find the star variety of last year, 'Umpquah,' but the 'Premium Crop' and 'Packman' have done pretty well. ('Packman' seems to like to bolt early, though.)

Cauliflower: the plants look pretty good and don't show signs of club root fungus like last year. I did have one plant flag in the first week of planting, showing that telltale sign of perking up overnight, then wilting during the day. Suspecting the fungus, I ripped it out and threw it in the garbage. We don't have harvestable heads yet, but the green cauliflower looks promising. I do recall the purple was later last year, so hopefully we'll still have time to ripen those, as were really happy with last year's harvest.

We plan to remove both of our current veggie gardens and move/rebuild for 2011. Plans are still a little fuzzy, but will involve building a new chicken coop (to sit either where the current raised garden is, or maybe where the "big garden" lives now. We will also more likely do raised beds for the whole of the veggie garden, not only for slightly warmer soil and fewer rocks (we're very rocky here), but also because we could more easily install hardware cloth at the bottom to keep the pocket gophers out. (One cut my parsley plant off at the roots this week!) So many projects, so little time!

How did your vegetable gardens fare this year?

All the promise of little seedlings. *sigh*

1 comment:

  1. hi amy,

    up here it's been a similarly slow summer, but i've had good luck with a few things. here's my mini-recap:

    cucumbers drowned, had to be replanted, have a few puny cucumbers (i'm a lazy waterer). tons of raspberries, i have really well established rows, so they're pretty resilient. zucchini coming out my ears for about a month now, but the sweetmeat squash and pumpkins have been much slower (didn't even try to do butternuts this year). first row of corn planted early, it's about 4 feet tall, and has short ears--i ate one yesterday--but the ears are very unevenly pollinated. 2nd planting of corn is about like yours--8 feet tall and tasseling. tons of potatoes, really good year for that. and i actually got a head of broccoli! but only one. (for some reason my always bolts before it makes a good head, i do okay with lettuce, but spinach and broccoli always bolt early on me). oh well, better luck next year. i would recommend growing tomatoes in a greenhouse. i usually do about half-and half in the greenhouse and in the regular garden, because on a hot summer the garden ones eventually outproduce the greenhouse ones, but on a cold year like this the greenhouse is steadily producing and will until november-ish if i keep it closed up really tightly.


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