2019 Garden Gratitude

In this topsy-turvey time in the world where everything is chaotic and polarized, I feel the need to reflect on the garden and what I was grateful for in the garden in 2019.

First and foremost is that I’m blessed with a big 3000 square ft garden that is almost finished-is anything really finished in one’s garden or is a garden something always in transition?

This last year I had a wonderful helper, named Janine (I always said I wanted a clone!) who I was blessed by meeting her at a class I taught.  Janine came out and weeded ALL the gardens while she was here for 2.5 weeks. Then I put landscape fabric down on the paths and wood mulch over the them to keep the weeds out. Works great. Now I’m not spending all my time battling weeds.

I finished up the last of my raised beds by framing them with wood. Now the soil and amendments don’t run off like my raked raised beds use to do, but instead stay contained inside the bed. Much better.

I bought hail netting which I’m sure will be great but we didn’t get hail here last season!  Go figure! Made me more relaxed though when a storm came rolling in and it kept the deer off of my crops which decided to come into the garden in the fall to nibble.

I am grateful for the abundant fruit crops my friends and I had this past season in 2019. And although we got no apples this year here at the mini farm from the apple trees, (they must be taking off a year after producing hundreds of lbs the previous year,) there was still so much fruit to harvest and share this year. Biggest year ever for me!

We got:

Cherries-10 lbs (from a friend)

Apricots-(last harvest was 7 years ago from our trees) canned lots of apricot jam

Peaches-30 lbs (from a friend’s peach trees)

Pears-20 lbs (from a friends pear trees)

Grapes, strawberries, rhubarb, blackberries and raspberries-all from my own garden. Abundant harvests.

I said when I planted raspberries 2 seasons ago that I wanted so many raspberries that I would get sick of them. Well, I didn’t get sick of them but was so overwhelmed by the number of raspberries that I opened up that patch to some friends to harvest some as our freezer filled up fast. Actually you can never get too many raspberries (or blackberries for that matter).

So what the veggie garden lacked in 2019, the fruit harvest was incredible.

Looking forward to a new gardening season!

Vegetable Varieties Review for 2019 garden

Here’s my report for the 2019 garden season in case of any of you want to grow them!

SUCCESSFUL VARIETIES

LETTUCES-Normally I plant cold season lettuces in early spring so they don’t bolt but in summer. This past season I also planted Summer Crisp (Batavian) varieties. They did well in OUR summer. They didn’t bolt or get bitter and had lettuce all summer and fall too. I love all lettuces but now have found varieties that grow in heat. Check out Johnny’s Seeds.

WINTER SQUASH-Butternut winter squash (any variety) doesn’t attract squash vine borers SVB (their stems are solid) OR squash bugs. So for that reason alone, I will plant more butternut squash as my winter squash. I’ve grown Italian Violini butternut, Tahiti butternut, and Waltham butternut through the years and all did well with no bugs (at least in my garden). How great is that?!

SUMMER SQUASHFriuilana zucchini also doesn’t attract squash bugs although I’m not sure about squash vine borers so I keep it covered with row cover before the flowers come and then uncover them and by then the SVB is gone.

GREEN BEANS-This past season I grew Emerite pole french filet green beans. They are one of my favorites. The Emerite beans did well and taste great.

DRY BEANS-I grew a few varieties of dry beans that I got from Italy but you can find many of them from Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans online.
Rossa di Lucca-(a dark pink bush bean with stripes) that did fantastic (I got them from our local Santa Fe Farmers Market at Zulu’s Petals Farm)

PEPPERSJimmy Narello peppers are our favorite sweet Italian pepper and Shishito peppers and both did well.

CUCUMBERS-My all time favorite EATING cucumber is Poona Kheera, hands down, and I grow PICKLING cucumbers-Parisian for cornichons, Boothby Blonde for Bread n Butter. All did well.

CARROTS-I grew Atomic Red and Cosmic Purple this year- nice, sweet, colorful carrots

BEETS-Chioga and Cylindra beets did fantastic this year.

CABBAGE-I’ve grown Kalibos cabbage the last two years and it is fantastic, producing huge conical shaped heads of red cabbage that are sweeter than most cabbages.

TOMATOES-Eight tomato varieties did really well and 17 did not fare so well. So they ones that did well this year were: Black Cherry, Cherokee Carbon, Cherokee Purple, Large Barred Boar, Original Goliath, Paul Robeson, and Grosse Verte Rose, Sungold.

 

UNSUCCESSFUL VARIETIES this year

DRY BEANS-I grew a few varieties of dry beans that I got from Italy but you can find many from Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans online.
Borlotti bean didn’t do well but has in the past. Will grow again.

Zolphino beans-started out great but a gopher got them all. Zolphino beans are hard to find in the states (I got mine in Italy) but can be found at Uprising Seeds this year. Will grow again.

Tomatoes-17 tomato plants did not do well-poor production. This very well might have been my fault with not enough water as some varieties that didn’t do well this past season have done great in years past. So I’m not counting most of these out this year.

Cour di Bue-puny vines, poor production although the Italians swear by them. Will not grow again

Dark Queen-new to me but did not do well. Will try again.

Captain Lucky-died of unknown cause. Will try this year again

Brandywines-No tomatoes-not enough growing time-too short a season here. I give up.

BKX-died of CTV (curly top virus) Bit by Beet Leafhopper. Will try again.

Santorini-Greek tomato-too small and not sweet enough-will not grow again.

 

MIXED BAG (some success and some not)

SWEET POTATOES
Georgia Jet sweet potatoes- Have a short season (90 days to harvest) and the harvest was fantastic BUT I let them go through one hard freeze and many of them rotted I believe because of that. Will grow this year but will harvest before the first frost, not even waiting for a hard freeze)

TOMATOES-
Ananas Noir-normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Virginia Sweet-normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Big Zac-normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Lucky Cross– This is my all-time favorite tomato that normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Winter in the garden

It’s been a wet winter so far and winter isn’t even officially here till winter solstice on Dec 21st. The picture above was at the beginning of the last snow that came in on Nov 21 and ended up dumping 10 inches of snow with 16 inch deep snow drifts. The place has been a muddy mess as it melts but the plants sure love the moisture and for that I am grateful.

I’m still cleaning out my garden! Got caught off guard with the first snow storm in early October. The picture above is from that storm before the cleanup. The soil looks great in the veggie garden now that all the snow has melted inside the garden. It hasn’t frozen solid yet so pulling the old crops has been easy in the moist soil but time consuming and I want to get it done before the soil freezes. Last year I waited till spring to clean out the garden but feel that it just makes more work in spring for me so I work now when the days are nicer before the ground freezes. I was out of town for half of November, hence the late clean up.

I feel like hibernating with the short days and low light. ZZzzz!

Garlic planted yesterday Oct 26!

Garlic cloves planted and covered with straw for winter protection

Nice day yesterday here in Santa Fe. I planted the garlic I ordered from Filaree Garlic Farm online for the second year and their garlic is great. I ordered 3 hardneck varieties (hardneck varieties do well here in cold climates). They are Penasco Blue, German White and Music. All produce big heads of garlic.  If you plant garlic in late fall (October), you will get bigger heads of garlic in early summer than if you wait till summer to plant it and it’s sooo easy at this time of year. I added about 2 inches of compost on top of my raised bed, lightly dug it in and planted the cloves pointy side up about 3 inches deep. Then water well and add about 6 inches of straw on top for winter protection. Remember to water them in the winter if we don’t get any precipitation and wait for the green leaves to appear in early spring. Nothing  bothers them too and fresh garlic is great! That’s it-easy peezy.

Growing Sweet Potatoes in Santa Fe? Yes!

Sweet potato vines with chard at end of bed

 

I tried sweet potatoes this season. I wasn’t sure if we would have enough time for them to get big. Plus they like really hot, damp climate like in the South where they are grown a lot. Sweet potatoes take between 90-170 days to mature. Yikes! Many varieties would not mature here in our short season. I ended up getting a variety called Georgia Jett because it has one of the shortest growing times—90 days to harvest. It has orange flesh.

I got a dozen sweet potato slips in spring. They arrived in the mail too early to plant. And they were not in good shape when they came. I had to keep them alive in the house till the weather and soil warmed up in late spring. At first, I put a damp paper towel in a plastic bag with the slips to keep moist. I lost 7 of them. Then I eventually had to put them in a glass of water where they started producing roots. As it got close to planting time, I put them outside in a bucket with water. I planted them in June in Wall of Waters as the nights were still cool, We had a late snow on May 20. Five survived.

Sweet potato flower

Well it turns out those five slips filled and overflowed the 10′ x 4′ raised bed. They are easy to grow and not much bothers them, plus no bugs. They just need water and heat, which we got plenty of heat this summer. They are beautiful plants. I’m not sure where I coulda put the other 7 as they are rampant growers and need space. Plus I didn’t know they are related to morning glories and have a beautiful flower which is smaller than a morning glory flower. Another bonus!

Left side-sweet potatoes still curing Right side-sweet potatoes with dirt brushed off and ready for pantry

They have now been harvested and many of them are very large. They are curing inside the house because they must be kept warm during the curing process. Curing is a hardening off process for veggies like squash and garlic to harden the skins and in this case to sweeten them as well. When you dig them out, don’t wash off the dirt while they are curing. They have to cure for 10 days in a warm space. After that, you can lightly brush off the dirt but still don’t wash them till just before use. Store them in a dark space like regular potatoes. I don’t know about the flavor yet as they are still curing inside the house but they look good. I’ll let you know when I eat some of them about the flavor.

Veggie Garden Finito!

Three boxes of green tomatoes (now ripening inside), Butternut squash, Pink Glass Gem corn harvested Oct 9

The veggie garden is done for the season. Harvesting was intense since the first freeze came about a week earlier this year.

Onions and sweet potatoes and other crops (not pictured) harvested this past Sunday

I harvested the last of the warm season crops like corn, tomatoes, raspberries, squash before the very first hard freeze on Oct 10.

Then this past Sunday, Oct 20th, I finished harvesting the last of my cool season crops-carrots, fennel, kale, onions, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage and sweet potatoes (more on sweet potatoes later). All are inside now. I have so much produce, I brought in some tables to put everything on. I’ve been sharing much of the harvest with friends.

I will clean up the dead vegetation before the ground freezes which will be sometime in early December.

I once waited to clean up the garden in the spring but found it was too much work, what with adding amendments in the soil and planting a new garden, so now I do it in the fall.

Winter is Coming! (tomorrow nite-October 10)

As they kept saying in Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming” and it is coming here tomorrow night. Low temperatures tomorrow (Wednesday) will be 24°F and Thursday night will be 27°F. I’ve been harvesting everything I can before the cold hits. Afterwards is too late.

Most of my garden is done but here are some crops that may still need harvesting. I will pick my winter squash now and put it in the house. While winter squash likes it cold, it does not like the temperatures below freezing and can be ruined if they freeze–they should last months in the house.

Pick any green tomatoes of decent size and put them 2 layers deep in paper bags. The bags will keep the tomatoes in the dark. Then put a slice of apple in the bag (it releases ethylene gas, a natural ripening agent) and close up the bag to speed up the ripening process. Check the bag several times a week and you can move them to your kitchen table once they turn color. They are never quite as good as sun-ripened tomatoes but still 200% better than store bought and you may have home grown tomatoes into November.

Harvest all other warm season crops like beans, peppers, eggplants, corn, cucumbers, summer squash and melons-if they are not already picked.

Harvest onions if you still have any.

Cool season crops like broccoli, kale, cabbage, arugula and other leafy greens may survive but will need winter weight row cover over them to protect them from the below freezing nights. Take off in the day and recover at night when freezing. You can get row cover (winter weight) at some of the local nurseries. Just call around.

Beets and carrots should be ok but should be harvested before the ground freezes rock hard in December.

If you have lettuce, I would pick it as it will freeze. You may be able to save it with row cover over it, but it is chancy.

Herbs can be cut and dried in your house.

Of course if you have a cold frame, your season could still be extended if you cover the plants inside with row cover.

So pick everything you can today and tomorrow and don’t forget to disconnect your drip systems so they don’t freeze either. Get busy!