So, 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. 🙂
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.