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I’ve been a vegetable gardener since we bought our first house in 1972. Record keeping is important to me as I evaluate varieties of plants, planting times, and what works in this climate and terroir and what doesn’t. So, I initially built this site for myself, to record plant varieties, planting and harvest dates, and anything else that might be useful for future gardens. I find web entries easier than notebooks and it’s hard to put pictures in written notes. With my smartphone, I can access this information anywhere, which is not the case with written data.

Planting and working the garden is in itself therapeutic, and thus has a lot of value. But harvesting the crops provides healthy foods and a connection to friends and neighbors who also benefit from the abundance of my garden. Here in the midwest, having a way to create a longer growing season is important. Hopefully, good record keeping will help me to that end.

But of course, once the data is recorded, there other thoughts and reflections that come into my mind and I have recorded those here also, because, as it has been since the beginning, gardening is not only good for the body but also good for the soul. My original purpose was an online notebook for my own use, but if you find any of this useful or inspirational, welcome.

Scarborough Faire Winter Herbs

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Still green and aromatic even though it is the end of December. I am guessing I’ll still be picking well into January. One of the few great joys of winter is going outside into a snow-covered garden and picking fresh herbs. I should probably check and see if the chives are still good.

Cleanup and Evaluation

We have a couple of warm, dry days at the beginning of November, so I am pulling out stakes and cages, removing dead plants, and hoping to rototill. I think I need to evaluate and begin planning, as what I do in the next couple of weeks will help immensely in getting ready for spring

Overall, it was a good year, and we ate well from the garden and gave away a significant amount of vegetables. I did better with extending the season, but getting early production needs work. That said there is a lot of room for improvement.

CARE. I could have done better in watering. I did keep the pots watered, and I fertilized them every couple of weeks, and that made an enormous difference in the yields and the flowers. I didn’t keep up with weeding, and the fenced-in areas made it harder. I need to rethink my fencing. I somewhat gave up in August as other priorities took over. I need to do more watering and know when the garden needs it. I need to be out there weeding more, especially in August.

CRITTERS. The groundhog returned briefly, but Greg dispatched him/her/them very quickly. Rabbits were a problem early on taking out all of the Okra, Celery Root, all of the broccoli, and some of the peppers. The new ultrasonic repellers that I bought were worthless.

USAGE. I had some loss of Romas as I was late picking them. I had to throw out beets and eggplant because they sat around unused for too long and spoiled. Cherry tomatoes need to be picked more often.

SUCCESSES. The Roma tomatoes did well, and I dried and froze a bunch and donated another bunch to St. Anne’s. The Early Girl II tomatoes bore early, were prolific, and kept bearing until the first frost. All of the Heirlooms ripened near the same time which was weird as I had early, mid-season, and late ones. The tomatoes near the horseradish did better than in the past but still died early. Cherry tomatoes were very good. The two plants by the deck grew at least up to 8 feet and got top-heavy and fell over during windstorms. I’ll need to find a way to anchor them next year.

The large jalapeno plant that I bought from Goebbert’s, was ridiculously prolific until the first frost. The Shishito peppers did well.

Malabar spinach was an unexpected star, even though I didn’t start using it until late in the season. I need to grow it on a trellis next year.

The herbs were good, and the basil from seed worked very well, although I should probably start a new pot in both July and August so that it lasts all the season. Curly parsley does really well and doesn’t bolt, so not sure if I need the Italian. They taste the same to me. The curly just needs to be chopped better. The perpetual basil isn’t worth the effort, and the Spanish Tarragon is great for culinary use and as an ornamental. The fennel bolted.

The eggplants did fine; I just need to use them as they are ready.

Cucumbers were a mixed bag, likely didn’t water them enough. The lemon cukes are good, but I didn’t get many of them.

Zucchini did well from the plants and kept going until the frost. The ones I planted from seed came up but were stunted and never bore fruit. I have no clue.

The mashed potato squash did okay, but the fruits were small. The Zapallo de Tronco was marginal – probably not worth the effort for the space.

The peas did phenomenally well.

FAILURES. Peppers bombed this year. I’m sure why, as the ones in pots did well. I think I am planting them too close together in the new beds and they probably need to be heavily fertilized. They also need rabbit protection.

Tomatillos need to get in the ground in mid-May.

Okra needs heavy rabbit protection as does broccoli.

Radishes totally bombed again, I tried some in a pot, and they did no better.

Other than the Malabar Spinach, greens from seeds bombed.

I never got to planting pole beans.

Winding Down

There are frosts predicted for the next couple of nights, with the night temperature dipping down to 27° in a couple of days, so I decided to pick what is left in the garden.

First Frost, October 8th!

I haven’t been out in the garden very much as I am in the middle of a bunch of home remodeling projects. But I looked out around 7:30 this morning, and there was frost on the window of my Subaru and a bit on the front lawn. I have a few beets to pull and a few peppers. Okra, too. Probably time to pick the squash also.

Malabar Spinach

I bought some seeds from Terroir this spring for a spinach that supposedly doesn’t bolt in hot weather. I planted it, and it came up looking like spinach. “Cool,” I thought. I ignored it for a while and then the vines took over the garden! It’s not really a spinach, but a tropical plant native to India and Southeast Asia.

According to Wikipedia, “Basella alba is an edible perennial vine in the family Basellaceae. It is found in tropical Asia and Africa where it is widely used as a leaf vegetable. It is native to the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and New Guinea.” 

The leaves are sweet and thick even into the middle of September. I’ve been picking the leaves and putting them on sandwiches. They taste something like spinach, but have a hint of sweetness like sweetcorn. I haven’t sauteed any yet, but they supposedly taste like spinach when cooked.

This would certainly be a way to have greens all year, and they will grow up a trellis. I need to try more uses before the weather gets colder. Could be the discovery of the year.

Tomato Harvest

It’s definitely been a good year for the Tomatoes, except all most all of them ripened at once. I dried two trays of Roma tomatoes and made sauce from the rest. I was late on the harvest and lost a dozen or more to rot.

Two trays of tomatoes ready to go into the oven.
Cooking the tomato sauce.
Pasta with freshly made tomato sauce and parmesan.

Mint Garden Attracts Many Pollinators

When I planted the mint garden last year, I didn’t even think of pollinators, but it has attracted a myriad of wasps and bees, many of which I’ve never seen. I have been able to identify some of them, but there is even a greater horde of them that are in the area of 1/4 inch in length that won’t sit still long enough to be identified. It is truly amazing! The mint is spreading everywhere!

Mint garden looking South.

Here is a little gallery of some of the visitors to the garden.