Thursday, January 26, 2012

2011 garden review.....

Well, last years garden is done and mostly gone.  I have a few quarts of dried tomatoes, a couple quarts of canned tomatoes, three bags of frozen zucchini and one bag of frozen green tomatoes.  Add a handful of pint size salsa and that's what I've got....and it's only January!  It's time to do some planning for the 2012 season (hopefully I'm not already to late). 
Last year's crop of heirloom Yellow Mortgage Lifters was my pride and joy.  Luckily I did save some seeds from it (and all other tomatoes that actually fruited).  The other tomatoes did okay (listed in order from best to worst) - Stupice, Red Zebra, Black Prince, Amish Paste, Gajo De Melon (although later maturing with a small crop these were awesomely tasty).   The Spear's Tennesee Green MAY have made an appearance, but since my row marking system left a lot to be desired - who knows if they were just overlooked as the unripe fruit of another variety. 
My beans - both Contender Green and Purple Royalty - were pretty much bug food once the Rose Chafers invaded the neighborhood.  Although the the bugs also hit the apple trees quite hard, I still got a very large apple harvest - which the horses, goats, pigs and chickens enjoyed along with us. 
 I saw a handful of Delikatesse cukes but never saw one Fin De Meaux cucumber.   I suppose the weeds were to thank for the cukes I couldn't find until they were as big as a size 10 shoe. 
The weeds also choked out my beets, radishes and carrots.  Although the pigs did find their share of puny carrots while tilling my garden for me. 
 Peas did alright, but should have been put in the ground earlier (along with the poor broccoli and brussel sprouts). 
I think it's hard to do anything wrong with zucchini and I did get a good harvest of zukes until the squash bugs withered all the plants.  The squash bugs also had a side helping of summer squash plants and then moved to my Minnesota Midget Melons,
Australian Butter and Bush Buttercup for desert so I never saw any harvest of the last three.  I did however get a nice harvest of some volunteer decorative gourds for my fall decorations (which I later fed to the pigs - waste not want not). 
Due to a late planting along with some plants I improperly hardened off - the peppers didn't even get a chance to bloom before dying off in the first freeze. 
Lettuce did quite well in the containers this year and I did get a good amount of it. 
I forgot where I planted the onions AND the garlic so I can't properly judge how they did - perhaps they are thriving somewhere under the snow?
As mentioned earlier, the apples did quite well despite a bug invaision.  I planted a new cherry tree this year in anticipation of the slated destruction of the mature one on our property.  However the tree trimming crew only took one branch off the awesome cherry tree - and that was AFTER I had a chance to harvest bowls and bowls full. 
The herbs did awesome this year and I will see how well they survive the winter.

The potatoes were also a success in their towers. 

So, with all the above info I'm going to change a few things this year.  Here is how I plan on changing things somewhat.
I am going to put in at least a few raised beds this year.  I will not use "sterile" soil, but instead our nicely cooked compost. 
Hardening off the plants properly will be a priority this spring.  We have such a windy area that I need to take extra precautions to protect them until they are ready for it.
Plant markers, row markers and a planting guide are all going to be utilized fully this year.  I can't be expected to remember everything I planted and WHERE in the yard or garden I planted it!
WEEDS I think were my number one enemy last year.  I MUST be diligent in my fight this year.  Perhaps the raised beds will help along with the fact that Roto and Tiller did quite a job tearing up and eating all the plants and roots in the garden. 
Bugs, well let us just say a prayer that the plagues of 2011 are only a cyclic occurance every several years.  I will have to do some more research into organic repellants to use on the plants along with companion planting that may help.  Otherwise there is last years standby of the shop-vac again.
I think I will attempt a few different varieties of plants this year in place of the few that didn't seem to thrive here last year. TheYellow Mortgage lifters were awesome as far as  fruit size, taste, amount of harvest and plant hardiness.  I also saved seeds from all tomatoes (other than the Spears Green) and will attempt to increase yields from them by keeping the weeds down. I will purchase a few more heirloom peppers (both hot and mild) and try raising them from seed again. 

 I will plant another batch of Purple Royalty bush beans.  However I will plant some type of green pole beans to utilize my fencing around the garden - or I will try making a nice tee-pee pole type trellis for them to climb. 
I will continue planting my lettuce in containers this year but with two small changes.  Number one - I will NOT place any of the containers below a bird feeder.  Number two - I will make smaller containers and use succession planting a goal.   I found that as the season progressed it would have been nice to have smaller containers to move according to sun and shade needs.
I don't think I'll change anything with the zucchini or summer squash - other than the bugs they did well.   Weeds don't affect these fast growing plants much.  I will have to figure something out on my heirloom squash (Australian Butter and Bush Buttercup) to give them more growing season.  I will start them eariler this year and if that doesn't work well, I will have to find one that can do better in our shorter growing season. 
I will be doing some sort of trellis system for the cucumbers this year.  I think I will also try some type of hybrid "store bought" seed this year.  The vigor just wasn't there in those I bought last year. 
Potatoes will still be grown in their towers but I will have more than three built this year.  I may put another material inside the burlap or fencing to help retain more moisture as the burlap seemed to allow too much drying of the soiI.
I planted a few sunflowers around the yard this year and they did great so I hoping to get a larger amount planted this year to use for the birds in the winter - they have already finished off the harvest of 2011.
The decision will have to be made if I'm going to even try the beets, broccoli and brussel sprouts.  I'll think about that one over the next couple of weeks. 
Corn will NOT be part of our garden this year.  I have never had a green thumb when it comes to corn and although last years crop did pretty well - by the animals standards not mine - I won't do it again.  The ears were puny and mealy and made fine animal treats but weren't meant for my table. 
Melons just don't do well for me either, I think I'll just continue buying mine at the store.  If anybody has a suggestion though for a good Michigan growing variety - I'd love to hear it.

Well, I think the seed catalogs (all twelve of them I received this year) are calling my name!

Untill next time......

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