Thursday, January 6, 2011

Garden Reflections

I am beginning to dream of summer. Barefoot muddy children running wild, the heat of the sun on my bare arms, and green things growing everywhere. I received the first of many seed catalogs this garden dreaming season - and it is a Fedco! I'm not ready for it to be summer yet, not ready to work that hard. I'm still enjoying last summers potatoes, onions and garlic. I still have a couple winter squash, lots of frozen tomato sauce, canned green beans, frozen broccoli, leeks, kale, beets, carrots and lots of frozen vegetable soups.

Looking back at last summers garden, there are a few things I would have done differently and will remember for this coming garden season. Not having enough mild summer greens early enough in the season haunts me still. I was too preoccupied getting a head start on more exciting vegetables like tomatoes and squash, that I somehow missed the early salad green boat. Having crisp and tender greens when all that is really ready is greens is essential. I planted way to much bitter greens and hardy greens such as endive, escarole, swiss chard, radiccio, tatsoi and other mustard greens, arugula, as well as too much spinach. I do succession plant greens, probably three times over the course of the summer. This past summer I got too early of a start on the final planting. So by late September, early October, my late hardy greens were flowering and too bitter to

Everything else seems minor after dropping the ball on early salad greens. This was my first summer eating beets and carrots by the end of June. We enjoyed carrots so much all summer that by the end of September there were not a lot left. Carrots and beets have got to be our favorite winter vegetables. So, this summer I'm going to sow beets and carrots in early May, and then again in early June. The early harvest for summer eating, the late sowing for winter storage.

We love peas. I planted thirty feet of peas and between snacking on them and eating peas fresh for dinner, none made it into the freezer. I'd like to grow enough to have some frozen. I can't imagine ever having too many peas.

There are some things I plant because they do well, but we don't eat them, like turnips, rutabagas, radishes and to an extent, bitter greens. I love that they thrive in our cool climate. Radishes are the jewels of the garden, red, pink, purple and black. Once washed they glisten and shine. And yet, once they are in the fridge I avoid them. I like them occasionally when they are young and tender. We braise them a couple times a summer with butter, onions and greens. For the most part, I plant way too many of them. So, unless I plan on shredding them for the goats, which I never get around to the shredding part, way less radishes, turnips and rutabagas.

We had a moose eat several cabbage heads, a goat eat several cauliflower plants. So I think fencing might actually take priority this year.

Leeks, onions and shallots took up a lot of room this year. As much as I adore leeks and shallots, I may resist the urge the order them this year. I planted three sets of Copra storage onion, and they didn't get bigger than golf balls before they stopped growing and stood at a standstill for a couple months before I pulled them. Looking for a different storage onion this year.

Some vegetables we had just the right amount of for once, enough for eating our hearts out plus enough for preserving or winter storage. I planted to four by six raised beds of green beans and planted provider and bountiful along with just a few others for variety. I also sowed them earlier than usual and covered them with plastic while they germinated, they were up before June 1st. I planted ten pounds of potatoes and still have quite a bit. I mostly planted Yukon Gods and German Butter Balls, both great all purpose potatoes. We don't eat a lot of potatoes. I planted about two dozen heads of broccoli, including Romanesco, and that was about perfect. We mostly just eat it fresh all summer, although I freeze a small amount for soups. I planted at least six different types and the main advantage was that I started them all at the same time, but had a staggered harvest from June to September.

I didn't realize till the end of summer that I hadn't grown enough thyme, basil and oregano. After harvesting and drying the last of the basil and oregano I had less than a pint of each. Not sure how that happened.

Those are my main thoughts as far as what to plant more or less of. We had a nice early start on just about everything but squash. I'd like to build a couple more covered beds, hot frames or cold frames for squash and cucumbers. You might recognize some of these photos from this past summer. I couldn't help pulling them up again as I dream of summer days to come.

 Lunch in the garden

I can almost see the warmth hanging in the air. The night I took these last to shots was right around solstice. It was one of the balmiest nights of the summer, low eighties. Just perfect. Avery took a bath in the garden, after trying to catch a chicken. We looked for raspberries. I can't remember if there were a few ripe by then or not. 

As far as looking forward, I am eager to pick our first ripe strawberry. This fall Becca and I dug up and transplanted established Toklat perennial strawberries from a friend's garden. We planted a three foot by maybe twelve foot row. Eventually I'd like to have a strawberry plot four times this size. I also planted a row of Boyne raspberry canes, which didn't look like much going into fall, but I have high hopes that we'll at least get a few ripe berries this summer, in addition to our wild raspberries that already grow all over the property.
What changes are you going to make to your garden this summer? What are you most looking forward too?


Steve & Paula said...

We are going to plant Stuttgarter onions this year.
I will be starting the seeds at the end of January.
These are a favored northern MN onion, and store very well.

Ginger said...

I would love your opinion on what onion to choose for my first growing experience! I browsed Johnny's Seeds but it gave me so much anxiety that I left the site with a promise to go back next month! We need to expand our garden to include onions and potatoes! The herbs did great here and I look forward to another exciting year of growing and learning!

Buttons said...

Hello Emily as always a great post. I am looking forward to having a garden this year. Circumstances took the choice away from me last year. I have always had a beautiful full garden. Buttwo years ago while in my garden I came in contact with a weed called wild parsnip. I ended up in hospital with a severe reaction I could not see and had terrible burns. We thought we had gotten rid of it. This year when I went to plant my garden it was there again. My Hero would not let me go in the garden. We hopefully got rid of it all this year. I really love my garden. Looking forward to it this year for sure.

donna said...

Much the same as last year except no Greasy beans planted in with Blue Lake Green beans. They took over the blue lakes and neither one did very well. Love your pictures. God bless.

Emily said...

Buttons, sounds like a horrible experience. I hope you can return to your garden this summer.

Steve and Paula, I've heard of the Stuttgarter onions, I'll be sure to check those out this year.

Ginger, If you plant onion seeds be sure to get an early start, think January or February. They take up lots of seed shelf room. I have always taken the lazy route and bought starts or sets. I do plant scallions from seeds, that do well if planted early. Shipping onion sets is expensive and the more sets you buy the better deal so If you want to go in on an order together let me know. This was just my third year planting onions and I'm still not thrilled with any one variety and am planning on trying new varieties myself.

Kevin Kossowan said...

Ah, to read about gardening. I've got my seeds ordered already, and am waiting for the weather to break in February to build some cold frame setups for early greens and starting transplants. I can't wait!!

I ran out of rutabaga, and will grow more next year. Carrot and rutabaga mash is a fall staple with game meats. Radishes, though, I'm with you.

Tealah said...

This year the biggest gardening change I'm making is actually having a garden - hopefully. We moved down south in March of last year and between getting settled and fixing up the house, we never did get in a garden. The ground here is so hard and rocky that we're going to put in raised beds.

I'm not expecting things to go well this year, since I've only ever grown things in the northern part of the US. I'm considering it a learning experience in advance, haha.

Phoebe said...

That's funny. I found your blog looking for soapmaking. Anyway, I was wondering how you store your veggies in the winter? We have a woodstove and the house gets so hot that everything goes bad in under a week. :( Enjoy your Fedco!

Emily said...

Phoebe, did you find my soap making post. I know it is not much. I just make soap once or twice a year. Enough for our family and a little leftover or gifts. If you buy a soap making book make sure it has you start with lye and not soap. That just defeats the purpose- for me anyhow. Like making cookies out of a tube of dough.

Kevin, I can't wait to set out those first hardy greens, although for me, it won't be till late March. Seed dreaming, seed starting and the sun coming back is going to help get me to March.

Tealah, good luck with your first year garden. Planning out a new garden is so exciting. Our garden soil is only a few years along. We also have very rocky ground and poor soil.

Emily said...

Phoebe, I forgot, as far as storing veggies go. Our house stays warm too. We heat the underneath part of our house to keep our water system from freezing. It ranges mostly in the forties down there, so the potatoes, onions and garlic keep fine. The turnips were quick to start growing. I made the mistake of leaving the carrots and beets outside in the middle of a hay pile, a little too late and they froze. But I'll bet that method would work better for someone in a milder climate. The squash keep fine on the floor in our pantry where it is in the sixties.

Phoebe said...

Emily--I'm up in Fairbanks too. Actually, we've met before once or twice, we had a mutual friend from Michigan. Re the pantry: I don't have running water (yet) so I can't do what you did, but great idea. Tucking it away for the future! Re the soapmaking: I did find the post. I'm probably going to buy a book on soapmaking and try some hemp oil or glycerin bars--I have a toddler, so lye is not the smartest idea right now!