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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. So, 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. So, my original purpose was for my own use, but if you find any of this useful or inspirational, welcome.

Frost and more frost – Garden delayed.

Tonight is the fourth and hopefully final frost warning that we’ve had this week. Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers from Countryside have been sitting on the back porch since last Friday because of the warnings. Despite the warnings, there has been no visible frost in the mornings. I am covering the potted tomatoes each night and the unplanted sensitive plants are spending their time in the back porch. I did lose two small potted cucumber plants, but that was all. I hope to start planting tomatoes and the other warm weather crops tomorrow.

Spring Planting Done

We were supposed to have rain the past couple of days, but it never happened, so between Friday and Saturday, and recording and livestreaming at St. Anne’s, I got the Spring planting done.

I planted Red onion bulbs, shallot seedlings, and Pak Choi seeds in the first bed, filling it. I set out a dozen Green Comet broccoli plants in the second bed and 2 rows of beets in the third bed. I Planted Easter Egg radish seeds in the front of the bed where the peas are right along the front fence. That way I can set in the eggplants without disturbing the radishes.

I have a bunch or parsley left which I will make a new bed for as well as arugula seeds. There is also a full flat of mint which I won’t plant until the new mint garden is prepped. I need to get some Swiss Chard, but that can wait until later.

I watered all of the new plantings because the weather predictions have not been accurate.

Peas Planted!

After two nights of hard freeze, the weather finally warmed up and I had a couple of hours to work in the garden this afternoon. The peas should have been in about three weeks ago but the weather and my schedule didn’t cooperate,,,,,,,,,,,so.

It took longer than I thought to get the bed ready as there was a lot of creeping charlie and other weeds that had crept in and with the pavers and trellis I had to weed by hand. This is the former cucumber bed. The trellis was really not tall enough for cukes, but should work well for peas. I planted the full length of the trellis with Alaska Peas from Terroir. I’ll follow the peas with Lazy Housewife Pole Beans, also from Terroir.

In the front of the bed, I’ll plant the Easter Egg Radish blend and then follow that with eggplant. The bed is fenced which all of the plants except the radished require to protect them from rabbits.

I went to Goebbert’s on Sunday and bought a bunch of vegetables, but held off on planting because of the predicted freeze. I planted the Red Romaine today in the first raised bed. I am trying to limit this bed to greens that will be replaced with another crop in early summer, although I have Kale and celery root in the back of the bed.

I have a bunch more spring vegetables to plant and I need to figure out where to put them.

Broccoli Plants
Shallot Seedlings
Beet Plants
Wild Italian Arugula Seeds
Pak Choi Seeds
Candy Stripe Beet Seeds
Red Onion Sets
Plus, an order I forgot about from Hardy Seeds, but at least there are no spring vegetables in that one.

First Planting!

I finally got a free hour to plant the herbs and vegetables that I bought yesterday at Home Depot. Home Depot had a limited supply of garden plants from Bonnie Plants. They are probably more expensive than my nurseries, but now they are in the ground a week or two earlier.

Here’s what I planted: two large pots mixed lettuce, 6 spinach plants, 6 kale plants, 2 rosemary plants and 6 curly parsley plants. There are 3 or 4 pots of sweet mint that I will plant later in the mint garden. We had a brief shower around 4:00, but were able to eat on the deck for the second night in a row. This warm weather is extremely welcome!

There is rain in the forecast for the next few days, but scattered, so I am hoping to get the peas in the ground tomorrow, along with some other greens and radishes. We should have heavier rain over the weekend.

Spring Herbs

Even though I haven’t gotten to any planting yet, I am harvesting! I’ve had chives for a couple of weeks and now the supply is plentiful. I found enough parsley for a pasta dish a couple of days ago and last night I had sorrel and green onions to add to our salad. Both the thyme and oregano are growing and harvestable as well as the sage. Returning herbs are one of the great joys of early spring.

Seeds Ordered!

I got an email from Terroir that their onion bulbs were ready for shipment, so I got my order in today. Since we use a lot of onions, I thought I might try growing some, which I haven’t done in a long time. I don’t have a lot of space for onions, and a large crop wouldn’t store well so I just stuck with the red ones.

I ordered Alaskan peas for the bed where the cucumbers were, and I’ll follow that with some “Lazy Housewife” pole beans. These beans supposedly will keep bearing until the end of the season, which would be nice. I got some “Easter Egg” radishes as they have been successful in the past, and I’ll give Pak Choi another try. I also got Lemon cucumbers, Crystal Apple cucumbers which are similar to the Lemon cukes, Candystripe Beets, Cocozelle Squash, and Italian Wild Arugula which is supposedly less likely to bolt, and finally, Butternut squash in case there is room.

So, we are off and running.

Final Evaluation

In general, I am happy with the garden this year. The container garden extended the early season by at least a month. Our needs were filled and I was able to give a lot of tomatoes and some other produce away.

As far as the weather, the spring was cold, but we had a nice summer and ate outside most evenings. There were not a lot of mosquitos and we were short on rain from July on. The garden would have likely been better if I had watered more through July and August. The Yellowjackets were bad in September, as usual, and from the end of August through September, a single hornet made the rounds on the back deck about once an hour. I spent hours looking for a nest but found none. She really didn’t bother us, but inspected under the eaves and seemed pre-occupied with the porch windows. Strange.

I think the soil in the old raised beds is depleted and needs enriching as does the edges of the heirloom bed. I’ll put the early girl and champion over the old compost bed next year. The new beds need a lot more organic matter. I ordered a Ryobi leaf mulcher today, so I can grind up my leaves and rototill them in before winter. There was no compost or peat moss available at Home Depot. I’ll have to see if I can find some online.

CONTAINER GARDEN – The container garden extended the tomato season over a month and the Jalapenos were bearing fruit from the start. The cucumbers in the pot were a little ahead of the others, but some were bitter. I have some bigger pots for next year because some of the smaller pots dried out too fast. I’ll mix all of the old soil together with the new so that all pots have the same mix. It would be good to get larger cherry tomato plants earlier. Availability was limited this year.

TOMATOES – Most of the heirlooms did well. The ones over the compost did better and I don’t know if that is because of variety or location. I’ll probably go with the same ones next year. I should probably fertilize when I plant. I didn’t do that this year. I will switch back to Goebbert’s Romas next year because there were way too many unripe tomatoes on the vines from Countryside this year. As far as Cherry and Grape tomatoes, Four or five pots is enough, but I need to get larger plants in earlier. I might have to be out earlier next year and making the rounds to see who has what. It is definitely not the same each year.

TOMATILLOS – The tomatillos got in late and would have done better if I had planted them earlier. I would rather have the purple ones. Three plants are enough.

PEPPERS – In general the peppers did well this year, but I think I planted them too closely in the new beds. Twelve Shishito plants are good. The cherry peppers bombed, they were tough and late to ripen, I won’t plant those again. The Jalapenos and Hungarian peppers did well, but I needed more green pepper plants. Possibly too many of the frying peppers. I may want to add some hot chili peppers next year.

EGGPLANT – Four plants are okay, but they need to go in the new beds and need lots of water.

CUCUMBERS – I still like the longer English style ones. They need taller trellises. I probably need to water them more especially if there is a drought. The lemon cucumbers did well from seed, but they need a tall trellis.

GREENS – Greens from seed are iffy, the weather needs to be just right. A cold-frame might help a lot. My best success was from setting out plants. The chinese cabbage from Goebbert’s did well with little care. I’ll probably plant some from seeds next year. Kale did wonderfully as did the swiss chard. I’ll probably start using them now.

ZUCCHINI – Zucchini was OK, but not super prolific. The Cocozelle from seed only produced a few fruits but they were good, although not all that different from the others. I should probably try some armenian ones next year. The Peter Pan squash was okay but not that different and not worth the effort, probably won’t plant it again.

FAILURES – The cucamelons did not germinate at all. Don’t know if they are worth the effort. The Fava beans germinated irregularly and were slow to mature. They are not worth the space. The cherry peppers were tough and slow to turn red. I didn’t get a single one worth using. The Fennel bolted, I need to see what the proper culture is because I would use it if I could grow it. The eggplant bombed, I probably didn’t get enough water on it early.

ADDITIONS – Early peas would be nice. I should also grow green beans. Mashed potato would be good as well as butternut squash if I have space.

HERBS – Herbs did well except that the flat-leaf Italian parsley bolted early. The curly parsley didn’t. I need to get basil in from seed at the end of June and at the end of July. I probably need more room for basil. I didn’t use a lot of the herbs because I wasn’t doing a lot of cooking with Covid. Just cooking for Natalie and I for the most part.

Chinese Cabbage

I picked the first head of Chinese cabbage today. The outer leaves were full of holes, but there was a nice compact head inside of those. I cut open the head to see whatthe inside looked like and it was mostly good. there were a few black spots on some of the leaves, but there were no bugs inside of the head. I cut off the few bad spots, mostly on the bottoms of the leaves and got a nice full freezer bag of leaves. I’ll make some kind of a stir fry with it on Monday.

End of the Garden (mostly)

We are having a little snow this morning. I ripped out all of the heirlooms yesterday and disposed of them in the gardening bin. I don’t want to compost most of the waste as it might harbor plant diseases for next year. I had already pulled out the zucchini and some of the peppers last week. I had picked all of the remaining peppers about a week and a half ago and still need to get them frozen.

I have a bunch of Roma tomatoes even though the plants are dying I will wait a couple of days before picking. If a tomato has any signs of ripening, it will finish ripening on the counter. If it is totally green, it will never ripen. Some of the romas are starting to ripen, so maybe I’ll get 1/2 dozen or so I can ripen in the house. There are still quite a few on the vines that are all green. For determinate tomatoes, they all should have been ripe. I think I like Goebbert’s varieties better.

So I have lots of Kale, swiss chard and Chinese cabbage. The outer leaves of the cabbage have lots of bug holes in them. Maybe I’ll make a head this week and see if they are usable.

I’ll probably pull most of the other plants before my pickup on Thursday.

Early Evaluation

The garden is yielding well and the heirloom tomatoes are just peaking. Here are my first thoughts.

The cucumbers were done in early September. Likely I didn’t get enough water on them during the drought, but it could have been fungus or something else. I need taller trellises, the 4-foot ones are nowhere near enough. The lemon cucumbers did well, but you need a lot of plants to get a good yield. Goebbert’s cukes were okay, but they got big and seedy way too quick. The long “Summer Dance” cucumbers from Countryside are by far the best. I will stick with them or and English cucumbers next year. Possibly I should move the patch because of disease. Maybe I’ll do a bed along the back fence next year, or some trellises on the west side of the house.

The Roma tomatoes did well, as i indicated in one of my previous posts. I planted Roma, Roma II and Rome III plants from Countryside but really couldn’t detect any difference among the varieties. I just picked a second batch and got about 1/2 a colendar-full.

In general the heirlooms did well, the ones planted over the old compost area did extremely well and the one farthest away did worst. I don’t know if this is a coincidence and due to variety or do to the soil. Definitely need to do some enriching of the tomato bed to the west and south.

The shishitos did extremely well, twelve plants is enough, and all peppers performed somewhat okay. The jalapenos and hot hungarians were slow to get moving, and I could probably use 3 more jalapeno plants. The old beds could use some soil enrichment. Green peppers did okay, but I could use more plants.

The zucchini did okay, the cocozelles from seed were slow to come and didn’t yield very well. The Peter Pan squash wasn’t worth the effort, it’s really just repackaged zucchini. I’ll probably plant “Mashed Potato Squash” instead, next year. I probably should do a second crop of Zucchini from seed around July 1.

The eggplant did terribly, I probably didn’t water it enough and maybe it needs really fertile soil. Four plants is enough.

The okra did very well, but I’m not sure what to do with it. It is not fussy and there are no insect problems. I’ll try freezing some for soup.

I didn’t get greenbeans in and a couple short rows, succession planted would probably be good.

The container garden worked as planned. I had Jalapenos almost from day one and the first tomato on June 23. There was a daily supply of tomatoes after that. I think bigger containers would be in order for next year as some of them required almost daily watering. All of the soil in the pots needs enriching. It was good having the extra cherry tomatoes. The cucumbers in pots got me some early cukes but the quality wasn’t that great. They were bush cucumbers, likely from Goebbert’s. Two tomato pots is the right number.

Kale and Swiss chard are doing well, but I probably won’t be using them until fall. At least, I’ve been giving some of the Kale away.

Fava beans were a fail as was the arugula and spinach from seed. Spring greens from seed need absolutely perfect even weather and that rarely happens in Illinois. The new beds will need enrichment this fall and next spring since they are mostly clay. Peat moss, sand, compost and as much organic matter as I can possibly work into the soil. Hope we have a nice fall.

The new herb garden is doing well, I need to add organic mater to the area where the basil is. The parsley bolted again this year, whereas the curly parsley didn’t. Maybe I’ll buy from Countryside next year. I need to plant some basil later in the summer, because my plants were in bad shape by mid-august and the plants will need to be replaced.

I need a “mint-garden” next year for weed water. I am thinking of doing that in the area at the northwest end of the garden. Maybe I’ll plant ornamental grasses at the back of it. Three types of mint. Chocolate mint, lemon balm, and another, maybe spearmint. Some flowers along the front would be nice.