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 bee better if I had watered more through July and August. The Yellowjackets were bad in September, as usual, and fro the end of AUgust trough 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.

Roma Harvest

I picked a large batch of Roma Tomatoes today and dried and froze them. The varieties were Roma, Roma II, and Roma III. There didn’t appear to be much difference between the varieties. I probably should have picked a week ago as there were 5 or 6 tomatoes spoiled by being overripe. There should be a smaller batch in a week or so.

Okra

The Okra is producing well. It is good breaded and fried, also just pan fried and served with Teriyaki or soy sauce. They go from small to large very quickly and once they are beyond 5 inches they can get tough and stringy. Best when picked in the 3 to 4 inch stage.

The flowers are beautiful, they look like Rose of Sharon. The plants can reach 4 feet in this climate.

Finally, Tomatoes!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Tomatoes-2020-08-06-1024x801.jpg
The main crop of tomatoes is finally ripening.

It has been in the low 70s since Monday which seems to have encouraged the tomatoes to finally start ripening. This morning I picked two Mortgage Lifters, a Boxcar Willie, a Lemon Boy. and a Champion. Some of the Roma tomatoes are near ripe, I need to see if it is a certain variety ripening first as I have Roma I, Roma II, Roma III from Countryside.

We will soon be inundated with produce. I have lots of Shishitos and the lemon cucumbers are starting to produce very well. We haven’t had any measurable amount of rain in well over a week, so I will need to water today. I fertilized all of the pots over the weekend.

July 25th Report

Makings of a Saturday morning fritatta.

We are well into July and time for an updated status report on this year’s garden.

In this weird “Year of the coronavirus pandemic,” one of my main goals was to extend the growing season, especially on the front end. The container garden did not disappoint. We have had a small but continuous supply of tomatoes from the two large plants that I bought. I am picking one at least every other day, usually one every day. There has been an excellent supply of jalapenos from the mature nursery plant, and the bush cucumbers were our first ones. If I had gotten those cucumbers in earlier, we would have had them a lot earlier. Cherry tomatoes have been continuous, but not extremely prolific yet, but they will likely explode in the next week or so.

I picked the first two Champion tomatoes this morning, they were the first from that patch. The rest are coming along very slowly. It looks like the “Lemon Boy” will be the next one to have ripe tomatoes, but they haven’t started to turn yet. With the amount of hot weather that we have had, it is surprising that we haven’t had more tomatoes beginning to ripen. There are a couple of large tomatillos on those plants, but they went in very late, so I don’t expect a harvest until late August. The Roma Tomatoes are doing well but are likely a few weeks away from ripening.

I picked a bunch of zucchini this past week, including one huge one. We’ve had zucchini for a couple of weeks, but there was nothing today. I haven’t had any cocozelle zucchini yet. I picked my second pattypan squash this morning, and half of that went into our frittata. I should probably plant another hill of zucchini for fall since I have space.

The cucumbers are going crazy, and I’ve had enough to give away. I got my first couple of lemon cucumbers this week, and they were as delicious as usual. The plants are loaded with blossoms, and I planted a bunch, so we will be over-supplied with those. The small jalapeno plants have started to yield very well, but just tiny peppers on the hot Hungarian pepper plant.

The shishitos are bearing prolifically, and the Lady Bells exploded, and I have many large peppers on those plants. I tied up all of the peppers last weekend. I picked a large banana pepper this morning, and there are a few melrose and other peppers out there. The small sweet red peppers are about the right size but haven’t started to turn red yet. The okra is bearing well, and I roasted some last weekend and had to throw a few away this week because they got too big, about 4 inches is ideal. The kale is looking very good, and the fennel is tall, but the bulbs are still small, I need to look up the culture of that. Swiss chard is growing okay, also.

I will probably pull up the fava beans. There are a couple of large pods and a few small ones, but they didn’t do well. I was way too hot for them, and they did not germinate well. That will give the Chinese cabbage some more room.

I think i’ll plant some green beans in the front of the cucumber patch, and save teh space in the first bed for fall greens.

The new herb garden is doing amazingly well. We’ve been using a lot of basil and that has kept the blooms off. I probably should throw some basil seed in. The oregano by the deck is dying, both the old and the new. Not sure why.

4th of July Evaluation

Early July Pickings

It’s the 4th of July and time for an early season evaluation of the garden. Overall I am happy with the way the garden went together this year. Almost everything got in on schedule, despite the early sell-out of plants at most of the nurseries.

The only real failure was that none of the Cucamelons germinated. The other germination issue was with the Fava Beans, where the germination was somewhat erratic. The plants that are just starting to bear are widely different in size. Pak Choi and the Arugula immediately bolted even though they went in on April 7. I guess that was too late. The lettuce from seed went in on March 8, including spinach, but the growth was stunted. The lettuce did well, but the spinach bolted early. I planted lettuce plants from Goebbert’s on April 18, and we got our first lettuce from plants and the seeds on May 17. The lettuce is bolting now, but we are still picking edible lettuce. I will probably pull it in the next couple of days as it is starting to get bitter. A cover over the spring greens bed next year might help.

We’ve been getting tomatoes for over a week from the couple of large potted tomato plants that I bought. The large cherry tomato plant I bought has had tomatoes for about a week. The other cherry and grape tomatoes are at various stages. There are a couple of plants with ripe tomatoes. The first garden tomato might be ready tomorrow and that is an Early Girl II. There are two or three tomatoes on that plant, but after I pick them there might not be any more until August. I bought larger Champion and Early GIrl plants but the other plants have caught up. The other plants were all small because of the plant shortage this year. Here are the Heirloom tomatoes that have set fruit already – Mortgage LIfter, Lemon Boy, Cherokee Purple, Early GIrl II, and the Two Champion Plants. I have three variations of Roma Tomatoes, Roma, Roma II, and Roma III, all from Countryside. They were all small plants that went in on June 8. All of the plants have set fruit.

The eggplants look stunted, but one has an eggplant on it. They probably should have been watered more.

The hot peppers are slow, and the Jalapeno plants have some tiny peppers. Of course the large Jalapeno plant I bought has been bearing well. We have had Shishitos for over a week and I’ve picked a couple of the Gypsy peppers. There are some small banana peppers but nothing on the Lady Bell plants yet. There are some nice sized Sweet Cherry Peppers, but I need to wait until those are red.

The okra have small fruits and we might have a few of those in a week or so. The kale really took off and the fennel and Swiss Chard are doing okay. They will likely take off once I clear ou the lettuce and give them more room. The Chinese Cabbage look okay also.

We will soon be inundated with cucumbers. I picked the first summer dance and a couple of bush cucumbers today and the summer dance has a lot more. There is no fruit on the Goebbert’s plants yet. The vines for the Lemon cucumbers are vigorous and just starting to flower.

The Zucchini are slow and probably could have used more water. I’ll probably have zucchini in a few days, and there are some small Peter Pan fruits on those plants. They will get watered today.

The tomatillos are still leggy, but one has a large fruit on it already. Those sat in the tray for a long time before they got planted.

I fertilized all of the potted plants and the herb garden today. The new herb garden is doing extremely well. I’ll hit most of the rest of the garden with fertilizer tomorrow and do some weeding. I’ll also need to tie up the Roma tomatoes before the fruit gets too heavy.