garden review: A to F

Garden Planning

APPLES: My dwarf Fugi apple tree is near a maple in my backyard. This year we only had one apple set. I bagged it, but a squirrel picked and ate it. This fall, we had a giant branch trimmed from the maple and I’m hoping more light will increase fruit set this summer. Bagging has worked well to protect from apple maggots, the only pest we’ve had so far (except for the squirrel). I’m hoping for a good crop this year!

ASPARAGUS: I am looking forward to harvesting my first asparagus this year!! Very exciting! I planted 25 crowns 2 years ago. It has grown well, it seems to me. I’ll have to look up how much I can harvest. This year I have plans to make more room for the asparagus plants by moving the compost bin that is next to it. At some point, I will move some of the plants over and give all of the plants more space.

I grew two varieties of basil last year, Nufar and Genovese. I usually grow Nufar and thought I’d try Genovese. I guess I didn’t really like its spicier flavor or the smaller leaves. This year I will go back to only Nufar. Also, I grew too much. I had a patch about 4 by 4 feet, probably 4 rows of 10 plants per row. This was more than we used. We made pesto from a first harvest in early August, then did not use the big September harvest. Two 4 ft rows of Nufar sound good for this year.

BEANS: A disastrous crop last year!!! And I allocated 2 full beds for beans. I planted them, got one harvest from beautiful plants – and then the Mexican bean beetles showed up. They devastated the plants fast. I learned what this bug looks like and how to squish them. I tried Captain Jacks Dead Bug Spray, which slowed then down a little, but there were so many it really was hopeless. I think this is one of the problems with gardening in a large community garden. Many plots had beans and the beetles were out of control. I am thinking of asking this year if anyone want to share an order of parasitic wasps, which are supposed to be a good organic control, but a bit expensive. Maybe a good group project. However, I am planning grow all of my beans at home in my side yard garden this year. Not only am I hoping this will avoid the bean beetles, but in the past beans have done well in the partial sun of my side yard. One of the things I am worrying about is the very tiny batch of Chinese pole bean seeds I was able to save. This is a crop I was given by a friend and it is not available commercially (or anywhere else). I have been saving my seeds a couple years. This years I eat the first harvest, and was sure I’d have plenty more, but then the beetles came. I have a few seeds in tiny pods to plant this year. In the future, I’ll save the first seeds for growing the next year. One more thing about beans next year, I’m going to skip the shell beans – we don’t end up eating them.

BEETS: It was another great year for beets in my garden. I love how big and fast they grow in bright full sun! And I like the 3 varieties I have: Lutz, Chiogga and Detroit White. I had a few too many last year. I’ll scale back a bit this year.

BROCCOLI: We eat a lot of broccoli and I don’t think I could grow too much of this crop, but I can try. I grew Blue Wind and Marathon last year, both of which are very nice. Two years ago, my spring planted crop produced side shoots all year, but not so this past year, which was very hot and dry. I got nice big heads in early summer, but not much for side shoots. Then I planted my fall crop too late. The fall crop is still in my cold frame and I think it has a good chance to start growing again in late winter and give an early spring crop. I will try this year to succession plant a couple plants of broccoli every few weeks. Also, I was given seeds for a perennial purple broccoli that I look forward to trying this year.

CABBAGE: I love how nice heads of cabbage look in the garden, but I rarely eat it. Oh well. I did well with savoy, red, green, and bok choy the past two years, but don’t eat much of it. I will limit myself to one ornamental row this year. Except for radicchio – does this count as cabbage? and baby bok choy, which is fantastic grilled.

CARROTS: My carrot germination was TERRIBLE. I must have killed ten packets of seeds! Here’s a link to Tiny Farm Blog, where they had success with a heavy landscape fabric. I will definitely put this on my to-do list! I want more carrots. My favorite varieties are Mokum, a great fast growing variety from Johnny’s, and Bolero. I grew Oxhart a few years ago, which is also nice – a big fat short carrot. But my goal this year is to somehow grow LOTS of carrots. I may experiment with seeds started in pots if I need to.

CELERIAC: This year I got 9 sprouts from my celeriac seeds and lost most to a watering mishap (oops). Only one seedling survived to harvest. But this was a good number for me. I will plan to grow 1-5 roots this year. A tiny crop goes a long way.

CELERY: I plant to try this for the first time this year.

CUCUMBERS: A bumper crop last year! 3 cheers for the cukes! I grew Diva, Sweet Success, North Carolina Pickling, Boston Pickling, and Takewa. The Boston Pickling’s didn’t do anything. Diva is the best cuke there is in my opinion. And North Carolina Picking runs a close second with enormous yields, very reliable and an unusual block white fruit. Takawa is also very nice. I think I will repeat the same combination again this year. I grew the cukes in my cold frame with the tops removed, which they seemed to really enjoy. However, they take up the whole thing and vines run all over. I plan to run one row along the back of the frame this year and a few more rows in the sunniest areas of my side yard beds (with the big maple tree branch removed, I hope it will be sunnier this year). I don’t know why cukes didn’t grow well at my community plot the one year I tried then there. My guess it they like more shelter. In any case, I will grow then at home again this year.

DILL: I planted lots of dill this year and it was great! I will do this again. Any free spaces should be planted with dill. I probably won’t even need to plant it next year, since it self seeds so well.

EGGPLANT: Last year was the first year I tried to grow eggplant from seed. It did not do well. Probably because I did not plant them in full sun. The spot I have allocated for this year is in full sun. I will hope for better luck.

FENNEL: I will try this for the first time this year.

15 Comments. Leave new

  • I like your reflection on growing experience. I never document any of this stuff but maybe I will. Iam looking forward to spending my Winter watching and learning from you.

  • Thanks for the link on growing carrots. This is one crop that I tend to have a hard time growing. It's also a crop that we use a lot of. I am definitely going to give this a try.

    With regard to celery, I grow Golden Self Blanching variety. It does very well and is easy to grow. We live in zone 6B…so, it should do well for you too. (started my seeds on 2/19 and harvested the first on 7/12)

    I have found that eggplant take a long time to grow from seed. Last year I started mine on 2/17 and really could have started them a little earlier. They were still very small when I planted them outside on 5/5.

    I'm looking forward to the reading the balance of your garden review!

  • If you leave the first beans to mature for seeds, won't it slow down production for the rest of them?

    My favorite pole bean for fresh eating is Emerite. A 5' row gives me all I can eat plus some for family and friends. I don't have a problem with bean beetles, although I do see them, occasionally. My Blue Lake beans for freezing were nearest the woods last year and got eaten, vines and all. Probly deer.

  • Maybe I could just leave one entire bean plant/vine to mature for seeds.

  • I usually am intimidated by carrots. They usually never do well for me, but last year I read about a trick taking carrot seeds and gluing them to paper towels,then planting that. It worked! I did carrots, beets and radishes that way and had nice neat grids. Germination % was almost 100 for all 3 things. I first got the idea from 'A Growing Tradition' blog. Might be worth a try since you do raised beds as I do.

  • I like that idea! Thanks. I will give it a try. I will look up the link.

  • I'm going to try to grow string beans this year. I know zilch about growing any beans. Any advice for someone starting from zero? My motivation is string beans zapped lightly with sesame seed oil. Thanks very much.

    As to cukes, I have planted them the last 2-3 years in a very windy, exposed area and I had them coming out of my ears. They were Marketmores. I tried Divas, but they succumbed. I grow them in sturdy tomato cages.

  • Green beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and I bet you will have good luck with them. You don't need to know much of anything – except maybe to watch for the ugly yellow Mexican beetle larvae and squish them ASAP if you see any. Get the sesame oil ready!

    Good idea for the cuke support.

  • Eggplant from seed is the only way for me, I grow at least 10 plants because I love it grilled. I started my Eggplant already from seed in the South-east window. Don't devote that much space to purple broc – I had huge plants but no broc to eat last year, so its just ornamental.

  • I thought the purple broccoli produces in its second year.

  • But the purple broccoli is BIG (3 ft wide, 4-5 feet tall). I would only grow 2 or 3 plants at the edge of the garden.

  • I see that you have trouble with carrots too! I'm glad I'm not the only one.

    I find it odd that many children's gardening books suggest carrots as one of the easiest and most satisfying crops for young gardeners. I'm an experienced gardener and I couldn't grow decent carrots if my life depended on it.

  • About asparagus:
    "The year after planting, asparagus can be harvested several times throughout a three-week period, depending on air temperatures. Research shows there is no need to wait two years after planting before harvesting. In fact, harvesting the year after planting will stimulate more bud production on the crown and provide greater yields in future years, as compared with waiting two years before harvesting."
    This is from the OSU extension fact sheet. My husband was pleasantly surprised. Anna

  • Carrots are one of the tastiest, but NOT the easiest for me. You need lots of sun, rock free soil, good drainage, not too much fertilizer and good irrigation for germination. Plus they don't transplant well, so you can't start inside. And the critters eat them.

    I'm sad I didn't eat my asparagus last year, but looking forward this year. Three weeks of eating fresh baby asparagus sounds great. Thanks!

  • —Purple Broc, My patch is about 8 plants, really the 2nd year? Well then Im in luck because in the fall it looked so pretty that I never pulled it out ; ) I will keep ya posted!


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