2009 Garden Recap

potato harvest

This season’s garden was a big success, thanks to the automatic drip watering system Jason installed. This allowed us to grow an even larger number of plants than I have in the past, and everything stayed green and healthy way longer into the hot summer than prior years when I was watering by hand.

We were all set to keep our garden growing through the whole year…. we planned on pulling up the summer crops at the end of the season, and planting cool-weather crops (garlic, broccoli, etc). But then right at the end of summer the home owners association sent a complaint to our landlord about “standing water” below our back deck. They asked us to reduce the frequency of watering. When we went out back to investigate, there was only a small puddle…they made it sound like we’d flooded the entire neighborhood or something!

The watering system drama really killed the fun for us, unfortunately. It’s no fun gardening when in the back of your mind you are worrying about hearing another complaint from the landlords/HOA again. So we’ve pretty much decided not to plant anything this fall. In January, we’ll start looking for a larger house to rent… one with a real back yard. Where no one is going to complain about water draining below our back deck. So pretty much all serious gardening is on hold till we move. Hopefully we’ll find the perfect place.

Here’s a recap of some of the things we grew this spring/summer, and notes for next season…

Tomatoes
Varieties planted: Amish Paste, Big Boy, Dinner Plate, San Marzano, Black Cherry.
The Big Boy and the Amish Paste were the most successful. We planted Black Cherry upside down in a hanging basket, and it produced a ton of tomatoes, but we probably won’t do the basket thing again because it was too difficult to harvest the tomatoes when they were dangling all the way to the ground. San Marzano produced plenty of tomatoes, but they were very dry in texture. The Amish Paste were not as easy to seed, but they were much meatier… good for sauce. I think we will definitely plant Big Boy again next year. Maybe Big Boy, Amish Paste or Roma, and a grape tomato.

tomato harvest
BLT with Big Boy tomato

Peppers
Varieties planted: Jalapeno, Sweet Italian, Big Bertha (bell pepper), and mini bell peppers.
Our Jalapeno was a huge disappointment… the peppers were not hot enough at all! I’m thinking it was possibly mismarked, because there is a look-alike pepper called “Fooled You” that is not hot at all. This is the second time I have planted a Jalapeno that was not hot. I think to avoid this next year we will plant a Serrano pepper instead, to be used in salsas. Sweet Italian was VERY prolific, but next year we need to tie the branches for extra support… it produced so many peppers that the weight of them snapped a branch more than once and we ended up with a lot of green peppers that didn’t have a chance to turn red. Big Bertha was a waste of space… the only peppers we got rotted or scorched before they were ready to be picked. Next year: Serrano, Sweet Italian, and maybe one other new variety we haven’t tried before…

Melons
Varieties planted: Moon & Stars watermelon, yellow watermelon, cantaloupe
The watermelons were planted in 2 square pots, and trained to climb 2 trellises. This actually worked pretty well! The only problem is we had to tie hammocks or slings under each growing watermelon, because the weight of it would have broken the vines. We got one or two ripe yellow watermelons that were tasty (but could have been sweeter). Never got a ripe melon out of the Moon & Stars variety. The cantaloupes were planted in a large pot and trailing all over the deck… for a while the plant looked REALLY healthy, but eventually it got a bad case of powdery mildew which completely killed the vines before the few melons ever had a chance to ripen. Huge bummer!! We have learned that there are mildew-resistant varieties out there, so next year we’ll choose one of those. And also next year we won’t do the trellis thing with the watermelons… it was a fun experiment but it was too much work worrying about tying slings! Next year: choose a seedless watermelon variety.

Potatoes
Varieties planted: Red potato, Yukon Gold, Fingerling
This was the most fun garden experiment ever! Potatoes grown in pots! We started them in February, but then there was a ton of rainy weather and the potatoes took FOREVER to emerge. Finally they did and the plants really took off. We gradually added peat moss to the pots as the plants grew taller… and finally sometime in June the plants started dying back (we thought something was wrong at first), and when we dumped them out we found TONS of potatoes! Next year: plant red potatoes and try russets this time too. Also start them off with a little bit deeper layer of soil, as most of the potatoes seemed to be in that first layer of soil.

potato harvest
potato harvest

Cucumbers
Varieties planted: Jade
These were nice cucumbers… smooth skin with no bumps. We made Sunshine Pickles with them twice (once with whole cucumbers, and once with sliced). They were SO GOOD. Definitely going to plant cucumbers again… maybe on a trellis next time (instead of the watermelons)… and more than one plant so we can make more pickles.

sunshine pickles

Broccoli
Varieties planted: Emerald…?
We didn’t get a large crop from this one plant, but it was really good! Next time we will choose a variety that has a larger central head, and we will fertilize it.

Corn
Varieties planted: Tahoe Queen
This year’s corn crop was my most successful ever… the corn grew so tall and stayed dark green, unlike past years. I think the key was that I fertilized it every 2 weeks. Also, Tahoe Queen was the variety I planted the first year I tried this, and I got a lot of corn that year and this year. So I will stick with that variety.

Onions
Varieties planted: Walla Walla
This was also a first-time experiment. Turned out really well. We got tons of large onions. Next year we will probably try a regular yellow onion, and also be sure to thin them out at the time of planting, so that each onion has enough space to bulb up. Yellow onions also have a longer shelf life once harvested.

Miscellaneous
Varieties planted: Crook-neck yellow squash, peas, green beans
The squash didn’t do that well… it seemed like we were getting a ton of baby squashes but the bees weren’t fertilizing them. We only got a few big ones. The peas did very well, but the variety we planted was “petite”. Next time we’ll do larger peas, for easier shelling. Green beans did OK.. one pot did way better than the other.

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