The veggie garden has been a fun experience this year – my little helper is mastering her colors (“Green means go, unless you’re a tomato,” we sing); enthusiastically wields her own bag of rakes, hoes and shovels; and has loved crunching everything we harvest. Now that I’m planning for fall planting, I thought I’d sum up how everything has done so that I can better prepare for next year.
The year started with our spring bed, where we planted a small 6-pack of lettuce leaves, a handful of carrot seeds never truly thinned and four rows of sugar snap peas. The lettuce and peas were a particular hit, although I think the peas needed stronger trellising and maybe even a few more rows. Steamed peas were served at about two dinners for three, the rest my Rose gobbled before they ever plinked against the tin bottom of our gathering bucket. I pulled the first truly sizable carrots here in August, so I think with better thinning and moving them to the deeper bed we might get a better yield next year.
With room to spread, the basil has outdone itself and has yielded five jars of pesto so far, as well as tons of dinner flavoring. I might have had even more if my toddler hadn’t eaten every leaf off of one plant back in May! She particularly loves making the pesto, pushing the green and purple leaves into the food processor and thoroughly licking the spatula once we’re done.
The Roma tomatoes were puny this year. Although I got a decent yield, their stems never seemed to strengthen and they flailed against the bottom rows of their support cages. I’ve canned eight pints, with plenty still to go. I think here I need some serious additives for the dirt, a smaller diameter frame to help the plants grow upright, and I’d actually like to double the space for this for a bigger yield. I’m not sure if I truly need more plants – from six to 12 – or to just give each one more room and attention, but I feel a little silly getting 3-4 jars out of an hour+ of work over the stove. I’d like to have more tomatoes ready for canning at one go.
The Big Boy tomatoes have been fantastic and tower over me. They simply need taller trellising. Oh the BLTs we have enjoyed..!
I picked the onions as their tops grew brown and fell to the side, as recommended by the fantastically comprehensive Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, but none were as large as I half expected. I’m not sure if I harvested too early, if I need more dirt or just better dirt, but I’m also not sold on trying them again.
I got a grand three cucumbers before my remaining two vines shriveled, at which point I reminded myself I hate picking the prickly things anyway. Next year I’m nixing the cukes and devoting a full bed to squash and zucchini. I miss my grilled zucchini and that hadn’t thrived until the cucumbers died and left it a bed unto itself.
The corn has been a treat to watch, if nothing else. I picked three ears that we actually ate, although each was so deformed I wound up slicing the kernels off and frying them. The stalks did make a nice little trellis for the green beans. Still, the green beans have been my favorite success so far. I’ve frozen several bags of them for winter and we’ve had beans about once a week since early July.
Finally, I planted several rows of sweet potatoes only to have some critter (possibly the Akita nosing around in the dirt) eat all but one delicate vine within the week. Disappointed, I decided to give up and planted a pretty sage and a purple dahlia to liven up the empty bed. Ha! My one remaining sweet potato starter is intent on taking over the world. That vine has circled the bed about 40 times and grabs at our legs if we get within a few feet of it. I have no idea what’s going on beneath the dirt, but the results up top are impressive. I’m hoping to move that to the deep bed next year – and free up this space for strawberries … with chocolate mint. Doesn’t that combination sound divine?