“The Garden” is the general colloquialism for several plots that grow our food, and the food we sell and give to others. It a way of life, a presence of its own, an oasis of rebirth, a battlefield. The Garden is an ongoing experiment and institution.
We fence areas that grow the crops that are high on the wanted lists of groundhogs and deer - all greens, carrots, peas, beans, cabbage family crops. Potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, rutabega, zucchini, and other squashes usually do fine coexisting with the predators - they don’t seem as important in their menu preferences. We practice “lasagna gardening”, mulching a la Ruth Stout, companion planting, succession planting, intensive gardening, and the use of beds instead of rows. We also are moving into new territory with hoop houses and row covers to extend the season. The goal with The Garden Project is staying out of the grocery store, away from high-mileage produce, and eating really well. Add to that a desire to leave the soil better than we found it, welcome pollinating insects, and avoid poisons and fertilizers.
We really like growing more unusual or gourmet vegetables. Long skinny Asian eggplant, fingerling potatoes, celery, trombetta squash and baby summer squash, chervil, groundcherries, leeks, Costoluto di Genovese tomatoes, and ancho peppers are a few. They are exciting to grow, and delicious to cook with. I love to garden because I love to see growing things and watch the miracles unfold over and over. But gardening is a way of life for me because I am fussy about fruits and vegetables being diverse and top-quality, nutrition and taste-wise.
2011 was a strange year of unusual weather. Spring was wetter than usual. We lost the ends of rows of potatoes that extended into what became a mucky swamp and drowned and rotted them. However, the celery and celeriac grew amazingly, loving the mucky wetness. Midsummer gave way to intense heat, producing many days when it was too hot to work outside for several hours at the peak of the day. Okra was in its element, and was a hit at market - should have planted more of it.
We tried a bunch of new things this year. Celeriac, puntarelle, radicchio, giant kholrabi, tatsoi, minutina and endive were all either new things or expanded repertoires. We tried some new interplantings as well - some worked, like basil and eggplants together under row covers, and some did not, like arugula rows on either side of a bed of leeks - good at first, but then the arugula went crazy in the hot weather, grew two feet and toppled in a windstorm on top of the young leeks, burying them.
As usual, the plants that I had failure with last year and concentrated harder on this year were a bigger success - namely carrots and cabbage. And conversely, those that produced stunningly last year I gave less attention, resting on my laurels, and had some crop failures. Most squash were in that category - it seems that a curcurbit fungus was also a problem in many places, and perhaps explained why most of mine collapsed and rotted in the field.
All in all, we had a great year - we expanded our area of planted ground, and we took more and sold more at the Westside Farmer’s Market than any year to date. The things that did well generally did really well.
Produce roll call:
Wild successes: Radicchio, spring Lettuce and almost all Greens, Kales, Chards, Tomatoes, Okra, Eggplant, Hot Peppers, Leeks. Celery and Celeriac. Spring Radishes. Most Potatoes. Green Beans and Shell beans, except where I tried to interplant with the popcorn. Dakota Black Heirloom Popcorn. Tomatillos. Garlic. Basil, Savory, and Parsley. Sugar Snap Peas. Gilfeather turnips (really a rutabega). Flowers and nasturtiums for cut flower market. The usual perennial herbs - Mint, Chives, Sage. Rhubarb!
Moderate successes: Zucchinis and summer squashes. Delicata and Sweet Dumpling Squash, Sweet Bell Peppers. Carrots were small but numerous, for once. Cabbages. Kholrabi. GMO-free sugar beets - grew really well, used for leaves and chicken feed, but then lost most of the crop to deer raids. Shell Peas. Arugula (bolted fast in the heat). Brussels Sprouts - not as nice as usual. Ground Cherries -enough for jam for us, not enough to sell as hoped. Bulbing Fennel kindof worked.
Disappointments: Onions, of all things, after thinking I had onion-growing down. Fall lettuce and spinach - didn’t work hard enough on them. Tromboncinos. Cucumbers. Some Potatoes just didn’t do well for whatever reason. Parsnips. Shallots. Broccoli again didn’t do well, but we got some.
Total failures: Watermelon - AGAIN. Didn’t even bother trying to grow any other kinds of melon, and glad of it, too. All Pumpkins, Butternut Squash, interesting squashes like Musque de Provence and Galeux d’Eysines. Beets -again.
2010 Season’s End Summary:
This was a fantastic year for growing heat-loving produce, and not great for growing the cool-weather crops. Spring was early and hot, and while the lettuce and spinach season ended early and abruptly, the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant got an early start, and needed unusually little frost protection. Some things I had come to take for granted, because they did so well the past two years, were close to a failure this year: Cabbage, carrots, kholrabi, beets and rutabegas, namely. Cabbage I had a deluge of last year, so I didn’t work so hard on it this year, and had almost none. Carrots and Kholrabi get direct-seeded, and it seemed the ground was too hot and dry. I planted/replanted carrots no less than 5 times and amazingly had complete failures each time. I didn’t get them in early enough, and after that it just was too hot for the slow little seeds, and I was too busy to fuss over them daily. Seems like it was the same for rutabega, parsnip, savory, and beets. Likewise, the fall greens - it was too hot in the end of the summer - lettuces planted in late August that would normally be gorgeous in late September were bolting at the beginning of October.
The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash and potatoes though, Oh My! We had bumper crops on all fronts. We sold a lot of tomatoes. I have longed to grow Rosa Bianca eggplant for several years, failed to get much for 2 years, but had big success this year.
Two pests were heavily present this year that are usually not this much of a bother: Cabbage butterfly worms, and Tomato Hornworms. The cabbage worms don’t limit themselves to cabbage, but are quite happy feasting on brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli as well. Tomato hornworms…were not something I had ever had in the garden until I found *one* last year. This year - dozens. Many people mentioned the phenomenon of record numbers of this pest this year in their gardens. As usual, our treatments were handpicking and squishing, drowning, or feeding to the chickens.
Wild successes: Spring lettuce, spinach, and greens (8 or 10 lettuces. AnueAnue and Oreilles du Diable were surprise favorites); Dakota Black Popcorn!; Dragonwood’s own breeding of Cherry Tomato; Most tomatoes (about 8 varieties); Eggplants (3 varieties); Kale (3 varieties); Onions (3 varieties); Shallots (thanks Wayne!); Potatoes (oh, multiple varieties); Thai hot peppers; Sweet peppers (4-5 varieties); Green Beans(4 varieties); Tomatillos; Squashes (5-6 varieties); Summer Squash/Zucchini (6-7 varieties); Chives, Basil, Dill, Mint, Sage; Cucumbers(1 variety);
Moderate successes: Garlic (good amount, but missed a harvesting date and many went past the beautiful point); Brussels Sprouts (2 varieties); Shell Beans (1 variety); Leeks (2-3 varieties); Swiss Chard (3 varieties), Mache, Cilantro; Endive (1var.); Pumpkins (3-4 varieties); Arugula (didn’t plant enough); Celery (1 variety, lots for us, none good enough to sell); Peas (several varieties, sugar snap, snow, and shelling; didn’t plant enough); Rhubarb; Aparagus; Green onions;
Disappointments: Okra (seeded too late); Carrots; Radiccio; Ground cherries; Turnips; Watermelon(never seem to work for me); Nasturtiums; Broccoli; Maple syrup - short season.
Total failures: Lacinato Kale; All carrots; most of 3 varieties of Cabbage; Fall-planted lettuces and spinach; Summer Savory; Rutabega; Beets; Muskmelon; Also apples and cherries - bloomed to early in the hot spring?
Oddity: Parsnips plantings failed like the carrots, but I had let enough parsnip seed spread on its own in the garden, that we ended up with enough self-seeded parsnips for our own uses! Same for Dill.
End of the Season 2009 Garden Summary:
It was a hard year for gardens! Potato and tomato blight, late cold spring, early hard frost, drought in between, generally cool temperatures all summer. And then there were the moles. If I’d seen that all coming, I would have grown more kholrabi and greens, and not tried so hard for the peppers and eggplant! (As it was, there wasn’t much pepper-and-eggplant left to worry over, after losing 50 plants to young rabbits in 2 nights of rampage…) But we were blessed with plenty overall, and some wonderful rewards!
Garden produce this year:
First the wild successes: Lettuces - about 7 varieties, including saved seed. (Heirloom Green Deer’s Tongue and red “Merlot” were the greatest hits), Mache, Cabbages (3 kinds), Arugula, Broccoli (2 kinds), Leeks (2 kinds, one saved seed), Garlic, Tomatillos, Shell Beans, Most Herbs: Parsley, Basil, Summer Savory, Chives, Dill, Mint, Chervil, Sage; Quinces; Nasturtiums. (Wild arugula, mustard greens & weedy greens are always there)
Moderate successes: Swiss Chard (2-3 kinds), Kale (3 kinds), Brussels Sprouts (2 kinds), Kholrabi (2 kinds), Hot Peppers (4 types ), Radiccio, Celery (2 kinds), Beets (2-3 kinds), Turnips, Tomatoes (8 kinds), Potatoes (11 varieties, 5 saved seed), “Redwing” Onions, Sugar Snap Peas - after foiling moles, Radishes, Fall planting of Spinach, Summer squash (5 varieties), Rutabega, Cucumbers, Green beans (several kinds), Carrots (several kinds), Asparagus.
Disappointments: Eggplant (3 kinds), Cilantro (would not grow or bolted), Most Peas -moles ate, both other varieties of onion, Bulbing Fennel, Ancho and Bell Peppers (3-4 varieties), Ground Cherries, Parsnips.
Total and abysmal failures: Nearly all Winter Squash and Pumpkins, except a few Butternut squash; Fall plantings of lettuce (voles and slugs got it all); Spring planting of spinach; Watermelons & Other Melons, Okra, Apples. (Melons are about to go the way of sweet corn for me - I can’t grow it, never have, will probably give up trying and buy it from people it grows for!)
This year’s garden produce list included:
Tomatoes (Several kinds), tomatillos, ground cherries, potatoes (6+ varieties), leeks, onions, rutabega, parsnips, celery, carrots, patty pan squash, zucchini (2 kinds), yellow crookneck squash, trombetta squash, basil, cilantro, dill, chervil, chives, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, golden hubbard squash, cucumbers, green beans (3 types), “Snowcap” shelling beans, sugar snap peas, pod peas, snow peas, amaranth, broccoli, swiss chard, kale (2 kinds), eggplant (3 kinds), mache, lettuce (4-5 kinds) , arugula, mustard greens, spinach, garlic, watermelon, brussel sprouts, pumpkins, radishes, kholrabi, florence fennel, hot peppers, bell peppers, ancho peppers, okra, beets (3 kinds), cabbage (3 kinds)
We sell and trade to individuals, and we expect to be at the Westside Farmer’s Market in Ann Arbor again in 2009.