Garden in Review 2010

The leaves are all on the ground and the garden is almost ready for its nap. I figured now is a good time to reflect on this previous year.

Probably most interesting is that all vegetables aren’t out of the garden. I still have beets, brussel sprouts, swiss chard, cilantro and a beautiful bed of artichokes.

Artichokes: I pledge to not plant artichokes again. They are a biennial and the amount of work to try to convince them to set flower in the first year isn’t easy. Furthermore, I don’t know of a successful way to get them through a Zone 5 winter. Please leave a comment if you have successfully overwintered your artichokes. Lastly, I would have to say that I really am indifferent to artichokes. They fall into that group of plants that I want to grow because no one else around me is growing them. There is a reason for that.

Brussel Sprouts are still quite healthy due to our mild fall. I don’t know that I will rush out to plant more sprouts either. I love them, but they have a very long growing season and take a huge amount of space. I would definitely grow them if I had more space, but they tend to be the hogs of my small plot.

The season itself was fairly uneventful. No hail storms or plagues to report, just normal hot dry Ohio summer weather. Gardening with raised beds has advantages but it also has a lot of disadvantages that no one wants to tell you about. The beds are easy to access, look a lot nicer than a normal garden plot in an urban setting, the soil warms up quicker and drainage problems aren’t an issue. Now for the things no one tells you. Raised beds are just giant containers. If you let them dry out completely and your soil isn’t perfect the soil will pull away from the sides and create a watering nightmare. The only thing to do at this point is to fill in the edges of the beds with additional soil to prevent the water from just rolling across the top and down the sides. One other thing I have noticed is that cultivating the beds is a pain. Maybe you have one of those nifty Mantis tillers? I doubt it will matter. I borrow a small gas powered cultivator from my brother-in-law and it does an excellent job of spraying soil outside the beds into my paths. You are probably blessed with beautiful loamy soil that you can sink your arm elbow deep in; I have heavy clay soil that resembles concrete when completely dry so experience may vary. It is hard to amend the soil because you are limited by the volume of your beds. The only way for me to put more compost or other amendments is to remove some of the soil already in the beds.

Peppers did well as always. I didn’t isolate any of my plants this season. I wanted a year off from seed saving and it was nice to see my plants growing outside of their usual protective sleeves. I as usual also ended up with WAY too many hot peppers, but my freezer is my friend and all of them are safely tucked away awaiting some fantastic recipe. Standouts included Mustard Habanero which is definitely the largest Haberno I have grown. Some of the fruit was close to 3 inches in diameter. Zavory is a fairly new variety that has the aroma of Habaneros with none of the heat. They produced ridiculous amounts of fruit. Jalapeno Gigantia was a large producer with nice crunch and heat. The pepper that I probably wont grow again(at least in the garden) is Tabasco. It is a pain to harvest. Pulling off hundreds of tiny fruits just isn’t worth it to me. It would make a nice ornamental however.

Tomatoes did ok. I would have liked to have more slicing tomatoes but many of my tomatoes just didn’t produce as well as I would have liked. I had one gifted hybrid called Red Alert that almost immediately died (take that stupid F1). My Brandywines did ok. What fruit I got was exceptional but the yields were low. Opalka is still one of my favorite paste style tomatoes. Absolutely huge elongated tomatoes with wonderful flavor. The tomato that tried to take over the garden was called Matt’s Wild Cherry. Interesting tomato that grew over 20 feet in multiple directions covering everything in its way with large clusters of Currant like tomatoes. If you haven’t grown or seen Currant tomatoes before, they are extremely small and a nightmare to harvest. The fruits are about the size of a pea and might be in clusters of 50 plus tomatoes. Of course, the catch is that they also don’t ripen at the same time. Matt’s Wild Cherry did mostly ripen at the same time, allowing you to cut the cluster from the plant. The tomatoes also broke freely at the first joint above the fruit. This prevented the tomatoes from splitting while picking.

The rest of the plants. I had mentioned in a previous post this year that I was growing more South American herbs. Two were Papalo and Culantro. Both were interesting but failed to make the cut for future years. Many people had described Papalo as soapy tasting. I would have to agree. It has an almost astringent smell and taste that I found distasteful. When I pulled the plants out at the end of the season the smell gave me an intense headache. They probably knew that they weren’t coming back soon. I can say that the plant is very easy to grow and grew to about 7 feet tall and was quite attractive. Its leaves almost resemble a Gingko leaf. Culantro… hmmm. Tasted to me exactly like Cilantro! Yeah! Well, not so quick. The plant is really nothing more than a single rosette of leaves. You must continually pull off the flowers which start to grow the second you transplant it to encourage further leaves. Even though Cilantro bolts before you can get it in the soil, it is still far easier to do succession plantings rather than work with this curious little plant.

I also decided to grow Lemon Balm. Bad idea. The stuff grows more rapidly than mint and has an almost medicinal smell. I couldn’t see using it in cooking so it got the axe. Grew a yard long bean called Dragon Langerie that was quite successful. Very sparse foilage but fairly large yields of long beans. Note, the beans were very delicate. Don’t overcook them. Also grew our favorite pole bean called Gold of Bacau. Wonderful Romano style bean that melts in your mouth.

All in all the season was a success. I would like to figure out a more permanent water solution for my raised beds this coming year… but that is next year. Time to waste away some cold days looking through seed catalogs.