Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Garden

Here's my garden, sleeping beneath the snow. Time for snuggling into my warm little burrow and planning for next year. I am still growing things: sprouts! I got a nifty sprout-growing set for my birthday and it's fun (not to mention, delicious) to have fresh, green growing things around. Stay warm everybody! My next post will be when I'm readying to buy seeds for the spring.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 Garden Awards and Yearbook

And now, ladies and gentlemen, awards and accolades will be presented to the best garden performers of 2008!

Most Aptly Named:
Provider Green Bean

Most Adorable:
Hakurei Turnip
8-Ball Zucchini (runner up)

Biggest Disappointment:
Carson Yellow Wax Bean

Least Successful Category:
Bell Peppers (runner up)

Most Successful Category:

Category I wish I had more of:

Category I wish I had less of:

Most Pleasant Surprise:
Amour Pickling Cucumber
Celery (runner up)

Most Useless Vegetable of All Time:

Most Underutilized (by me):
Summerfest Komatsuna Greens
Goldberg Golden Purslane

Most Prolific per Area:
Purple Top White Globe Turnip
Sunburst Patty Pan Summer Squash


Most Rewarding per Effort:
The Herb Garden

Cool Names:
  • Scarlet Queen Turnip (most evocative)

The Scarlet Queen

  • White Satin Carrot (sexiest)

White Satin
  • Sugarsnax Carrot (most descriptive)
  • Provider Green Bean (most apt)
  • Purple Top White Globe Turnip (most obvious)
Exactly what it looks like.

  • Cupidon French Filet Bean (most lyrical)

Cupidon, by W. A. Bouguereau.

  • 8-Ball Summer Squash (most amusing)

Eight Ball

Described as "Moon Food":
Purple Kholrabi
Toscano Kale
Sunburst Patty Pan Summer Squash

Most Beautiful:
Redleaf Amaranth
Garnet Giant Mustard Greens

Most Unpleasant Tasting:
Garnet Giant Mustard Greens

Agreed Upon as Most Delicious:

And finally...

If I had to take one variety with me on a space ship/desert island:
Provider Green Bean (greatest overall nutrition, yield, and ease of growing)

If I were to sow one variety in the garden of my enemies:
Garnet Giant Mustard Greens

End of the Growing Season

After the light frost at the beginning of October, the heartier plants kept producing into early November, when we were hit by several hard frosts. I'm not sure of the dates on these photos, but they're from early November, just before the hard frosts that happened around the 6th-8th. The tomatoes that were close to the soil and protected by foliage from the October frosts continued to ripen as the plants no longer were putting energy into the leaves. Some of the green tomatoes I picked also ripened on the counter and as of December 20th, I have one left!

One of my last acts in the garden was to cover the herb bed in a thick layer of straw and cardboard. I'm hoping that this will protect the iffy perennials from temperature extremes and root damage, so that I might find my oregano, thyme, sage, and marjoram greening in the spring. So far we've gotten a lot of snow, so there's a good chance they'll be insulated enough to survive.

Behold the carnage! After the october frosts, all the tender crops looked like this.

I simply can't imagine how many cucumbers I would have had if I'd started earlier in the year. As it was, I struggled to use them all!

The green beans weren't as thoroughly decimated as the squash or cucumbers. I was able to keep harvesting small amounts for a few weeks.

The obstinate wax beans surprised me with their cold tolerance and I wound up harvesting more in October than earlier in the year.

This is what harvesting tomatoes was like: searching for ripened survivors under the protective layers of dead foliage.

One of my final harvests of tomatoes and beans. The hearty onions were usable well into November, and I may even find some of them still alive in the spring.

These were harvested after the hard frosts of early November and were just fine, if a bit spicy. I'd like to find a milder variety for next year.

Of course my brassicas were going like gangbusters after the frosts, happy that the evil caterpillars were finally dead. This cabbage became delicious sauerkraut.

The hardiness champion was the Brussels sprouts, naturally. I harvested many right out of the snow!

These were the very last thing harvested from the garden, for the occasion of Kristine's visit. They were fantastic! (The visit was a great time too!)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

First Frost! October 3rd

This blog has been desperately in need of an update! I think I got overwhelmed with processing photos and vegetables and kept putting it off. Basically, at the end of September I harvested a ton of veggies for a mini-CSA for mom and Joe, and then a week later (October 3rd) we had our first frost in Zumbrota.

In town it supposedly only got to 34, but I think it must have been colder here on the farmstead. All of the cucurbitaceae died, and most of the upper leaves of my beans wilted. My tomatoes got all wilted at the top, but I think the ground kept the lower branches warm and I'm finally harvesting some ripe tomatoes from them a week later. It warmed up immediately after the frost, and rained a couple of times, so the rest of the garden is doing great. The brassicaceae and cruciferae are just thrilled about the cool, wet weather, and are thriving. Another frost isn't expected for a while, so I can continue harvesting most of the vegetables. I'm still not sure if the beans are continuing to grow or not, since they just look so unhappy.

The amazing thing is that if it had just stayed a couple of degrees warmer I would still bee harvesting everything. As it is, though I got a week more growth than the median last frost-free date (9/28), so I'm not complaining.

Here are some photos from the end of September (I don't have exact dates):

This isn't even the final harvest of turnips. I got at least 30 large-sized turnips from a 3'x3' area! PS: this was the advanced guard of what was to be legions of Asian Beetles.

Not content to simply grow the vegetables, I have also been crocheting them.

The cauliflower I produced was amazingly tender and flavorful. I'm still shocked I was able to grow this finicky vegetable so well, and it was likely because of my late planting date.

I definitely need to plant more carrots next year. These were one of the tastiest and most useful of all my garden plants. They are also very fun to pull out of the ground.

Well I didn't make it to the Sierras this year, but I was able to pretend I was among the Sequoias when I was picking celery.

My cayenne didn't yield much this year but they were still tasty and cute.

These luscious greens don't know what's going to hit them in a few nights! Everything but the basil and zucchini kept producing for at least a month, though.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Update and Cauliflowers Finally Doing Something

I'm out of batteries from my camera, but my garden looks about the same as last time, but more scraggly in some places and with plenty of insane tomato plants. My tomatoes are still green, but I harvested a few large ones to encourage the plants to ripen the remaining fruit. The sun returned after a long absence and after just a couple days of warm weather some of the tomatoes are starting to yellow.

A couple of days ago I went in the garden to get rid of the gigantic cauliflower plants that, until that point, hadn't done anything but crowd my cabbages. Fortunately I peeked into the center of all the leaves and there I found some tiny white florets! I guess the plants finally got big enough to bear florets and were probably helped along by the cool weather. I may just get a harvest from them, since they're frost-tolerant.

In other cole crop news, I harvested a 4-lb cabbage today. It's absolutely beautiful and I just love it to bits.

I'm also getting cucumbers all of the sudden and put up some fermented Kosher dills yesterday (though I need to add another half pound of cukes as they come ready. The "Amour" pickling cuke is a great variety--it produces attractive, uniform fruit, and many come ripe at the same time. They're very prickly, but I think that's OK. I'm definitely going to plant more of this variety next year, and it's clear that I don't even need to bother starting them indoors.

The green beans are continuing to produce heartily, and "Provider" is my favorite variety (as befitting its name). It was the first to produce, and the beans are tender and stringless, with great flavor and a nice shape.

I've got tons of greens that I'm not harvesting. It's just hard to get excited about them in the harvest season when there are plenty of other, tastier, things to eat. The important thing is to freeze some of the collards, which are so nice to have during the winter. The komatsuna greens have (amazingly) not bolted yet and they have a succulent, spinach-like flavor (like a cross between spinach and bok choy). I will probably grow more of them next year, starting earlier, so I can appreciate having greens early in the season. The big loser has been the "Garnet Giant" mustard greens--they have yucky flavor, bolted quickly, and dye everything blue or purple. I would be more inclined to use them as an ornamental in the future, since they look cool in the garden.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

First Cabbage Harvest

My cabbages came back from the brink a couple weeks ago and are quickly becoming harvest-able. All my cole crops are happy for the cool weather we've been having, though if it continues I fear I will be harvesting only green tomatoes. Today I harvested my first savoy cabbage, picking one that isn't as large as it could get, but which will clear out some space for its neighbor to mature. I cut an X into the stem I left behind, which supposedly will encourage the plant to make 4 more tiny cabbage heads. We'll see.

I'm thinking of making this one into kimchi. It's not Chinese-style cabbage, but the head is loose enough that I may be able to get the salt in.

Not much else has progressed dramatically in the garden since my last post. I harvested my daikon radishes for kimchi, but they were a touch disappointing. I'd hoped they'd be bigger and/or I'd have more of them, so I wouldn't have to buy radishes from the store, but I think I'll have to. Next year I can plant a larger, longer-maturing variety for more kimchi, though.

That still didn't put a damper on my garden enjoyment, as you can see here:

Does my baby have my nose?

This past week I've just been harvesting delicious summer squash and thinning my green onions. My carrots are coming along and I ate one of the white ones today--it was wonderfully sweet and zingy. Next year I'll plant way more carrots, because they're just so much better when you grow them at home.

Hopefully the weather will warm up a bit to give everyone's garden plants the last little jolt they need. I've been talking to other people and most of them have tons of unripe tomatoes still too. My cabbages have set a lot of fruit but they're still too tiny to harvest--I'm hoping they'll all ripen at once for pickling.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Green Bean Update

My green beans are finally producing a usable yield! The Cupidon French Beans are the first ones to be ready. They are actually right on time, it just felt like they were taking a long time because I wanted green beans of my own so badly. The yellow wax beans are probably a lost cause, but the next to harvest will be Provider, and then Giant. So far I've only nibbled on the Cupidons raw, but I think they will cook up well and seem to be stringless.

Everything else seems to be marching down the path to harvest. It's already been a very rewarding garden, and I haven't even harvested my cabbages or any large quantities of tomatoes.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Harvest Hopes and Bright Blossoms

A variety of zucchini squash known as 'Eight Ball' for obvious reasons. I figured that if I was going to venture into the dangerous territory of growing summer squash, I might as well grow something that would be fun to stuff.

My garden continues to mature at an amazing rate. A burst of cool air has descended on Minnesota, but it's brought with it brilliant sunshine. The combination is making my cole crops very happy but is still bringing along my hot-weather-lovers nicely. Sadly, the crisp nights and slanting sunlight remind us how close fall is. I was hoping to put in fall peas and spinach, but there won't be time for the peas to mature. Next year I'll have to plan better.

The median last frost-free date is September 28th here, so I have just over a month for my garden to finish its production. Some of my plants will be OK until it dips into the mid-20s, which generally happens after the first week of October. The full story, with median frost free dates and growing season for many locations in Minnesota, can be found here.

Fortunately, some of my vegetables that were sluggish to start may just mature within that time. I've also harvested many turnips, radishes, and greens, and my summer squash are just starting their profusion. Even my cabbages appear to have survived the evil moth attack of a couple of weeks ago and are beginning to head beautifully. Below is a pictorial update of the garden.

My tomatoes are a complete mess, but starting to be a tasty one.

After some windy storms my tomatoes have blown down, despite my earlier efforts to stake them up. At this point I'll leave them down since I'm afraid of snapping the brittle stems. They will probably mature anyway, and might even do so better now that there's more light shining into the densely planted area.

My beans are finally starting to set fruit, though they are still only knee-high and will probably not produce the yield they would have had with a full season. It's still very exciting. This is the French filet bean, 'Cupidon'.

I planted these watermelons on a lark, but with another month to mature, they may yet be edible. They are certainly adorable either way.

Likewise, I took a chance planting these cucumbers from seed. The ones that had enough space and sun have already begun to flower and make fruit. These are 'Amour' pickling cukes.

Savoy and 'Stonehead' cabbages looking good and forming heads. I think the savoy cabbage will be great for things like colcannon (I'll post the recipe later).

I planted some flowers here and there in the garden to encourage pollinators and add extra color.

A wee spider valiantly standing guard (or maybe just chilling in her hammock?) on a stalk of 'Golden' purslane.

I call this 'Squash Blossom Jungle'.

The flowers are really tucked down in the depths of the plants, which are quite poky, by the way. I haven't made any fried squash blossoms yet because I'm afraid I'll accidentally harvest female flowers, reducing my squash harvest. The male blossoms seem to be on stalks, while the female ones are more sessile against the stem, so I might be able to get some blossoms without causing harm.

Here's a cheeky little bee visiting a female flower (IIRC) with a load of pollen.

I still can't believe how adorable the teensy patty pan squash are right now. They're a bit more slow-growing than the zukes, but they will be SOOO delicious.

Who needs cabbage roses when you can have rose-like cabbages?

My 'Red Acre' cabbages aren't doing so well. In the past my red cabbages have grown better than the green ones, but this time they're struggling. These seemed to have difficulty getting established and are more sensitive to water stress and evil moth nibbling.

Anyone who can name this 'moon food', as Dan calls it, wins a box of donuts!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Harvest Season Gets Underway

The other day I went to all the trouble of taking and uploading pictures and then I completely forgot to update my blog with them! It's 35 days after my main planting on July 17th and already I'm harvesting things. Here are some photos from August 19th, showing the progress of the garden and some of the fruits of my labors. These are in no particular order.

The garden, just over one month after planting. The tomatoes are almost as tall as me and I've given up trying to stake them up. So far they have lots of flowers and green fruit.

I planted this cabbage from seed and it might just have a chance of setting fruit before the snow flies. No flowers yet, though.

Scarlet Queen turnips--they are just so beautiful. Their greens also grew a lot taller and straighter than the other turnips, making them even more distinctive.

My first turnip harvest! Definitely the most adorable vegetable, I am looking forward to making them into tasty pickles this weekend as more mature.

I was too exhausted to do anything with the greens so I guiltily composted them.

Here's a closeup of some of the caterpillar damage.

Amazingly, though, the cabbages are starting to head. I may need to sprinkle them with bug killer again once the rain lets up, but they are well on their way to being sauerkraut now.

My first bean blossoms. Come on little guys, you can make beans before winter, I just know it!

And hooray! My first tomato of the season (Rutgers variety). It was tomato-tastic, though one side was home to some kind of naughty bug. I ate the rest though and it was like mainlining summer.

So that's the update as we zoom headlong into fall. Yesterday at the bakery I took an order for a cake for the day after labor day! It's really just around the corner. It's amazing that I was able to pull off this garden and it's been very rewarding, even though harvest is just beginning. It's my first real garden and the results are amazing. After our deluge a week ago we had more dry weather, so I started watering again. Today, though, we had a nice gentle rainfall that will help the plants to fill out.