2014 Garden Review

SSCN0391So, the garden is cleared out, ready to be tilled again for next spring’s planting.  Although we didn’t do as well as we’d liked garden-wise, (our goal is to provide our family’s veggies for the entire year) we did have some great successes and gained much knowledge for next year’s garden.

 2014 Garden Review

CUCUMBERS AND TOMATOES: Our cucumbers and tomatoes had terrible yields this year.  This is a huge change from last year, and we’re told that the MN weather, which included a super wet spring, was a big part of the problem.  When we canned salsa, tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce this year, we got the majority of our tomatoes from local farms, but even that was like finding a needle in a haystack: many local farms had tomato busts this year too, which makes me feel not as bad about our tomato failures. 🙂  Which reminds me: I opened and used our first jar of tomato sauce from this summer, and O.M.G – WOW!!!  The sauce was super sweet and rich!!!  Made me never want store-bought tomato sauce again.  I made a batch of Spanish Rice, and it was just extra yummy with the full and rich sauce.  I highly recommend canning your own tomato sauce if you have the time/resources.  BTW, if you’re serious about canning tomatoes, tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce, this handy dandy little attachment that attaches right on to your Kitchenaid Stand Mixer is a life-saver of time and money: I wouldn’t can tomato products without it:

GREEN BEANS AND CARROTS:  We also produced an abundance of green beans and carrots this year.  I would say our green bean yield was twice what it was last year, and our carrot yield was 4 times what it was last year.  We froze LOTS of both.  Next year, we would love to have a root cellar in place so we can preserve them in that manner, having fresh carrots longer.  For root cellar ideas and options, I highly recommend: Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables  This comprehensive book has all sorts of root cellar plans and ideas for even the smallest of yards/areas.

ONIONS were also a huge fail for us this year.  Last year I planted plants, and we had a great bounty: this year I tried from seed, 4 times, and not one plant came up.  Not sure what the problem was, but we’ll be planting plants from the nursery again this year, and we’re not totally onion free, as some dear friends of ours gave us a good-sized bag full of theirs that would’ve otherwise gone to waste.

POTATOES: we also did potatoes for the first time this year.  We planted twelve potato plants, and each plant yielded us about a pound a potatoes.  This is the minimum that a good plant should yield: we should be seeing closer to 5 pounds per plant.  When talking with our onion-sharing friends, Farmer Pete gave me some tips on optimizing the soil ( compost leaves in the fall and 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring) that should, at least in his experience, increase our potato yield dramatically.  This is our plan for next year, and instead of 12 plants, we’ll probably plant closer to 50 plants.  We love our taters around here. 🙂

PEPPERS.  Huge success here.  Green peppers, jalapenos and habaneros all did very well this year.  In fact, all of the peppers we needed for our salsa came from the garden, plus we had some leftover to freeze.

BROCCOLI: Broccoli was a total bust for us, as it was last year.  The plants died about six weeks in.  Thinking maybe this is a nutrient problem and will be solved by our aforementioned soil treatments?  Any insights, fellow homesteaders?

PUMPKINS AND WATERMELON:  The pumpkins did good this year, but our pie pumpkins did not come up.  Our Jack-be-little pumpkins did, but they’re more decorative than edible, so they don’t do us much good as far as food preservation goes, but they sure are cute. 🙂

Aren't they cute??
Aren’t they cute??

 

The watermelon was an odd breed too (we yielded about a half dozen), can’t remember the name off hand, but they were a small, dark green breed that didn’t taste all that great.   Next year we’ll plant a more traditional watermelon breed.

 

 

Gardening and preserving food at a level that is meant to feed your family substantially takes a lot of work and practice.  That being said, we feel it is a valuable skills that everyone should learn if they can.  There’s no feeling in the world like knowing you have the necessary skills to grow and preserve food for your family should grocery stores, for whatever reason, become unavailable.  We feel such peace in knowing that we’ve got the skills to provide for our family in this way.  Aside from all of the work, we’re looking forward to planning and reaping the benefits of Garden 2015.

44 comments

  1. Nicola says:

    Sounds like you’ve done really well! It must be so satisfying growing and then eating your own produce 🙂 in the long term, I’d love to grow some of our own, but as a very rubbish gardener, I’m afraid I’ll just fail.

  2. Kathy says:

    Do you keep a garden journal? My husband kept one and wrote about the weather conditions throughout the season, what varieties we planted, how each one did etc. It helped us decide for the next year whether to plant a certain vegetable again, or try something different. We also learned what veges liked it cool and rainy or preferred drying out between rains. Of course, doing the journal takes time and I’m sure you feel like you already do all you can handle. Enjoy those canned and frozen veges this winter!

    • Laurie says:

      You know, Kath, my sis-in-law gave me one but I have yet to use it. That’s an awesome idea. I will put this on the “to-do” list. Thank you. 🙂

  3. The Jack-be-little pumpkins are super cute! Mildew got to our sugar pumpkins but we still got about seven to purée! Our potatoes did pretty good but looking forward to learning more about the best way to grow them! The green beans kept me fed all summer! Yum!!! You make me want to expand our garden!!! We are thinking of doing a rye cover crop for the winter … how do you prepare your garden for the winter?!

    • Laurie says:

      Oh no – bummer about your pumpkins! For winter prep we don’t do much: till up the garden in fall (we’ll be adding in some compost leaves and some horse manure) and then let it sit till spring. That’s all!!

  4. Amy says:

    Gardening sure is a learning process, isn’t it? I tried planting onion seeds this year, too, also with no results. 🙁

  5. Iforonwy says:

    We did not do so well this year either, But I have been gathering blueberries, blackberries and raspberries each evening to have on top of our cereal in the mornings. The rhubarb produced its usual jungle and is still going strong. The large Bramley apple tree is groaning under it’s weight of apples but there are not so many windfalls as we pruned it well last year and also gave it a treat of grease bands and apple codling moth catchers.

    We had a few cherries, a very young tree, a few plums again a young tree and just one pear. We have discovered that we should have clear ground around our trees and so that has been done and I intend to companion plant beneficial herbs around them in the spring.

    No potatoes this year. We were away early in the year and came home to next doors fencing collapsed on our veg patch. Took a long time for them to fix it and so it will be next week now when I am having help to dig the patch over ready to plant in the spring.

    We have just eaten the last of our peppers seasoned with my home made Italian seasoning mix made from garden herbs that I dried in the warmth of our conservatory. I did not grow tomatoes this year and the strawberry plants gave lots of leaves and not many berries.

    The garlic was very disppointing too.

    • Laurie says:

      We’ve never done garlic before but I would love to!!! I was amazed to see my friend Farmer Pete’s bountiful garden when so many people had such a dismal garden return this year. Wonder why that is?

  6. Gretchen says:

    That’s so sad about the onions and tomatoes – they’re two of my favorites! However, I have to commend you for using what you did have success with. I like to make it a game to use up whatever produce we have…almost like iron chef or something like that. It’s always interesting!

  7. This is so great, Laurie! You had a great year and I am sure it will get even better next year as you’re quickly learning more about farming. Tomatoes were also really problematic here in Romania, like many other crops because of the strange weather that we had this year. Hopefully this means that 2015 will be a perfect one for growing crops.

  8. Tomatoes had a tough season around here too. Lots of blight, which hits the heirloom varieties particularly hard. While we don’t have a patch of dirt to call our own (city living!) we help our neighbors in their little garden and share in the bounty.

    Next year I think they are going to get some blight-resistant hybrids to increase our chances of tomato success.

  9. I want to start gardening next year, but I’m afraid that instead of saving money, I’ll spend a lot more. (The whole “practice” part of gardening makes me think that it’s not going to be my main source of produce the first time around.) But if I do, I’ll be sure to come review all these posts to help me out. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Natalie, start with something cheap and easy :-), such as cucumbers or a tomato plant or two. Or maybe a favorite herb such as basil. That way you won’t waste much if it doesn’t work out, but I have a feeling you’ll be a pro at it. 🙂

  10. Sounds like you did well, overall, this year Laurie. Our tomatoes went nuts, not that I really care though as I hate them :), and we had a few other things do well too. Our hot peppers did great and have them coming out of our ears, but you already know about the blasted rabbits that had a field day with our bell peppers. 🙁

  11. I love reading about your gardening and preserving food. I do believe is required and needed skill. I’ll get there some day. I’m so glad I gave growing our food this year a chance cause we truly enjoyed it.

    • Laurie says:

      Brit, you are well on your way, my friend. Keep up the awesome work!!!! Can’t wait to hear more about this weekend’s wedding. 🙂

  12. I am super impressed with your garden results!!! FB Hubby makes the tomato sauce around here and I have to say that I could never buy canned again myself. Most things just taste better when you take the time to make them yourself. Congrats on your results and I can’t wait to see what you do with everything over the fall/winter.

  13. Alexis says:

    Ah I am so jealous. I wish I could grow a garden but with the winter soon approaching I won’t be able to. Our backyard is awfully small as well.

  14. Looks like you really benefited from your garden this year! My wife has been wanting one for a couple years now, but I want to build it on top of our two-tier retaining wall because it’s a perfect spot for something like a garden (otherwise it would be wasted space). I NEED to get around to building that wall next Spring!

  15. Great job on your garden. We did really well with tomatoes and cucumbers but failed at nearly everything else because we ended up with a bunch of wild pumpkins that took the entire garden over! I still harvested plenty of other foods – just in small amounts.

  16. Lyle @ The Joy of Simple says:

    Hey Laurie. Awesome way to rock growing your own food! I have a “black-thumb” when it comes to growing things, but I really do admire those who can toss some seeds onto a pile of dirt and voilà, instant food 🙂

    I’m being silly of course, but relying on your own food production is a serious ability to have and does your family good I’m sure!

    Take care and my best to all.

    Lyle

  17. Your last paragraph was spot on! I hope to get Jay on the bandwagon. He just needs the time to read some super posts like this. I know it would get those latent farming juices flowing in him too! Thanks for sharing, Laurie. 🙂

  18. well now I’m officially very hungry. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I really admire people who can grow their own stuff, and freeze it, can it, etc. I seriously lack any of those skills. I’m glad cali has farmers’ markets year round! 🙂 Homemade spaghetti sauce sounds so good right now.

  19. I enjoy gardening sometimes. I used to have a big garden but it can be a lot of work. It’s not that bad after you get it set up, but you definitely have to put few hours in a week maintaining it. As I don’t have the space for a true garden now, I have a few herbs I can grow indoors and some plants in a small pot. Preserving is probably one of the more important parts of that sentence. Every year (when I did have a garden), I ended up with too much stuff and had to give a lot of it away.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, John!!! We spent HOURS weeding this summer. And you’re right about the preserving too: definitely has to be done if you don’t want it all to go to waste.

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