garden review: pears to sunflowers

Garden Planning

PEARS: Three years ago I moved two espaliered dwarf pear trees from shady areas of my yard to my community plot. A Bartlett and a Parker. The Bartlett did well but the Parker died. This spring I replaced the Parker with a Kieffer. I haven’t started training this new one yet, but it grew well over the summer. The Bartlett is looking very good. I’m hoping for my first pears soon – maybe this spring? I do not know yet if the trees will need to be sprayed for any pests – I’ll watch and see what kind of pests find the trees.

PEAS: I had great hopes for peas last year but they were not to be. Actually, the chipmunk wouldn’t say that – he ate so many peas I was really impressed. But no peas for me. I don’t think there’s a way to protect peas from a chipmunk other than covering them with chicken wire, which sounds too aggressive for me. So I’ll grow peas in my side yard this year. They’ve done very well there in the past. The sugar snap variety Sugar Sprint always does super for me in my side yard. I still wish I could grow tall shell peas, so I will keep trying.

PEPPERS: It was prefect pepper weather this past year. I ended up with lots of chiles and peppers. I still have a 1 foot long ristra of cayenne and Thai hot that we are enjoying. My cayenne’s are a variety that I save and grow myself year-to-year. I’m wondering what the variety will end up like in a few years. Sometimes I grow the cayennes in a corner of the garden by themselves, but sometimes I mix it in with other peppers and chiles and let them cross as they will. This year’s harvest was very nice. I’m planning to do the same this year.

POPCORN: My popcorn failed this past year 🙁 It was a lot of garden space to use for a failed crop. I think what happened is I didn’t amend the soil evenly, which gave me uneven plant growth and poor cross pollination. To prepare the bed in fall and winter, I added horse manure and compost with more at one end because I still had plants growing at the other end. I tried to spread it out and turn it in evenly, but it seems this wasn’t enough. Then when the corn sprouted, I went away on vacation for a couple weeks and didn’t notice the uneven growth. I fertilized later, but it didn’t help. The plants grew unevenly and tassels appeared at different times across the patch. Finally, I ended up with ears full of empty cobs. Kernels that did form were eaten by corn ear maggots. Great! So after one super year and one bust, I think I’ll take a break from popcorn.

POTATOES: Because of problems with late blight two years ago, I planted all of my Solenacea in my side year this year. There’s limited sun there – not the best location for potatoes. I got a nice but small crop of 4 varieties of potatoes. With no late blight at all last year, I’m looking forward to growing a nice bed full of potatoes this year in full sun at my plot. I like the russets and little red ones best.

Of the 4 varieties of pumpkins I started this year: Galeux D’ Eysines, Long Island Cheese, Baby Pam, and Jarrahdale, I only ended up with fruits from the Long Island Cheese. I had six 4-8 lb pumpkins. I’m wishing for ones with more color this year. I’ve seen gardeners using a horizontal trellis to support pumpkins anout 6 inches off the ground and black plastic to block the weeds. I think I will try that this year.

I grew a little spinach for the first time last fall and it did quite well. I will plant it again in my cold frame early this spring.

One of my favorites! I love fresh edamame. So much better than frozen store bought edamame. I had a great crop 3 years ago in my side yard, but 2 years ago the chipmunks ate all the soybean seeds I planted at my community plot. Last year, I tried to get my favorite variety, Butterbeans, and never could get any. I now have several packages of Envy and will plant these in my side yard this year.

SUMMER SQUASH: I had tons of patty pan this year. Summer squash must be one of the most reliable crops. I think I will try some different varieties this year: a nice striped zucchini and some yellow squash. I haven’t picked out varieties yet.

SUNFLOWERS: I love tall sunflowers and am planning to plant a row along the west side of my garden this year. Maybe a mix of different varieties, one plant of each. It worked best to start them inside and transplant them carefully last year as the chipmunks eat the seeds and small sprouts. I also like to include a row of dwarf sunflowers.

12 Comments. Leave new

  • I love Long Island Cheese, they are one of my favorites. Hope you get some pears on your trees this year. I have a peach tree that had fruit, but they all dropped before getting ripe. I still have hope.

  • Marian(LondonUK)
    January 11, 2011 7:56 AM

    I have enjoyed reading your alphabetical journal Kathy. After a late start (frosts into May) the last week of July and virtually all August was cool,damp, even windy for us last year so some plants struggled including our Patty Pans the flowers got so damp on the small forming fruits it was hard to stop them rotting. Hopefully Summer 2011 will be just right.
    Marian (London UK)

  • Have a blog of note 10.
    It's on my soul.
    For a week since, studying your posts (have to translate and understand what they say). Standby welcome next post.
    I could give you a tip on the potato crop?
    Inside planting the hole you put comfrey leaves.
    Have a good day!

  • By far the best pumpkin crop I ever had was 2 years ago when I planted them (companion planting) in between the rows of corn. I will do that again this year.

  • Just like everyone else, really enjoying this series of posts. Super interesting.

    I must say, I highly recommend Rouge Vif d'Estampes pumpkins. I've grown them twice and they were so vigorous, SO GORGEOUS (I could live in that color), and made GREAT gifts (and pie). Of course, our climate (zone 8, foothills of Sierras, gets CRAZY hot, but cool nights) is different from yours, but I think it's worth a shot. Sorry about the popcorn flop–bummer!

  • Hmm – I wonder if I could grow a few rows of popcorn mixed in with my pumpkins?

    I will order some Rouge Vif d'Estampes pumpkin seeds!

  • Vasi, why the comfrey leaves?

  • Marian(LondonUK)
    January 11, 2011 8:34 PM

    Hi, was extremely interested in what Vasi said re Comfrey. We have made Comfrey "juice" this year to use as a plant food but have also read that spreading the leaves on the soil around plants and tucking them in planting holes when planting helps to feed plants as they break down in the planting hole or around the plant. Worth a go!!
    Marian (London UK)

  • I too, have used comfrey as a side dressing to my vegetable plants. I have used them as a mulch for my corn, they degrade very quickly, and the year, 2009, that I used them the crop was fantastic. It is high in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and trace minerals, corn being a heavy feeder most likely will be happy with any supplement it can get! I also feed my corn with a liquid sea weed and fish meal supplement on a weekly basis, Neptune's Harvest, available in most garden and feed stores.

  • Planting seed potatoes with comfrey leaves to protect them from diseases caused by Synchytrium endobioticum.
    Janet and Marian have completed what I wanted to say.
    Confrey is gold for garden.

  • Marian(LondonUK)
    January 12, 2011 9:14 PM

    Hi Kathy, wanted to say thanks to Vasi for his Comfrey reminder. It is
    an extremely potent feeder and from one or two plants FREE!
    Companion planting at its best.
    Great blog for sharing etc.
    Marian (London UK)

  • I was very excited to look up photos of comfrey on google images and see that this is a plant growing rampant in many of our paths at our community garden. I weed whack them and they come back fast. I thought it must be a plant with some significance, but no one I spoke with knew what it was. Thanks! I will put it to use!


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