Harvest Time


Tomatillo Fruit in its Paper Wrapper.

Garden-wise this has been a rather odd year. It started out quite warm with us getting our last frost for the spring on April 22nd. For our area that is amazingly early. Normally we get frosts right into early to mid-June. Unfortunately that wonderfully warm weather was accompanied by a great deal of rain which drowned our first two plantings of corn, squashes and other crops. Lesson: Plant on a slope and use a raised bed for smaller gardens.

This was followed by a brief period of warm sunshine and then a lot more rain. I think the plants did not get enough solar energy even in high sun areas that had exposure for the full day. Many of them looked stunted as if they had not had enough light, like they had been crowded by weeds or in shade even though they were clear. Ironically, much of the rest of the country had drought this year.

Just as we got a very early last frost date in the spring, our first frost this fall was very late occurring in the morning of September 30th. It was an extremely light frost that just damaged a few pumpkin leaves. This Saturday morning, the 7th of October, we got a harder frost that took out the rest of pumpkin plants but did not damage peppers or tomato plants, two other frost sensitive plants. I have not even covered once.

This means our growing season was over five months – unusually long for us. Down in the valley pockets they did get frost a week or two earlier. Our being on the slope of the mountain actually protects us from early fall frosts a little since the cold air runs away down the slope to settle in the valley. This week we are due for a string of clear nights so I suspect the frosts will get harder. The moon is full, which some people associate with frost, although I’m not convinced.

  • Apples & Pears – The old apple tree actually produced this year, the first time in a long time. Our new apple and pear trees, planted last fall did not fruit of course but they doubled in size except for three that we lost. Three losses out of 28 is not too bad.
  • Asparagus – Poor harvest.
  • Basil – Basil grown out in the open did poorly. Basil grown in hoop houses did great.
  • Beans – First planting died, second planting did middling to fair.
  • Beets – Fewer but excellent.
  • Blackberries & Raspberries – Good crop and long season.
  • Blueberries – Poor crop.
  • Broccoli – Productive but tended to bolt early and most plants produced smaller than usual heads.
  • Brussel Sprouts – None survived rains.
  • Butternut Squash – Five fruit that did not ripen fully before hard frost took the fines. We’ll see if they were old enough to ripen on the shelf.
  • Cabbage – None survived rains. Damp-off?
  • Carrots – Very thick although not as great in number.
  • Chives – Good.
  • Comfrey – Excellent.
  • Corn – First crop 99% failure to germinate. Second crop slow to germinate and weak to grow. Corn on slope looked nutrient poor, possibly from the heavy rains. Corn on the terrace flats drowned. Maybe 300 corn plants actually survived. Most grew to less than five feet. Those that did germinate did produce corn. Crop was a failure.
  • Cucumbers – Very poor production, most plants damped off early on.
  • Garlic – Our first year growing garlic. It did well.
  • Horseradish – Excellent growth.
  • Leeks – Didn’t sprout.
  • Lettuce – Enough but it went bitter early.
  • Marigolds – Excellent.
  • Mint – Good harvest, enough, but smaller plants than usual.
  • Onions – Yellow globe onions did okay but not large. White and red did poorly. Not sure why the difference as they all grew near each other.
  • Pasture – The pastures did well this year. It never got too dry and the intensive rotational grazing has helped mow down the brush in the far end of the south field.
  • Peas – First planting died but subsequent plantings did well.
  • Peppers – Smaller plants, weak production – both sweet and hot.
  • Potatoes – Good crop.
  • Pumpkins – Big vines. Excellent quantity although smaller fruit than usual. We did not get any huge pumpkins this year with the largest being about 50 lbs. The best pumpkins grew on the slopes. Pumpkins on the flatter terraces suffered from flooding damage.
  • Rubarb – Excellent growth.
  • Spinach – Most of it bolted but we did get some good salads.
  • Strawberries – This year we planted 200 strawberry plants of three varieties from Nourse Farms and they are doing well. Next year I expect we’ll have fruit. Amazingly we got 200 plants for less than what we normally spend going to a Pick-Your-Own place to pick our year’s worth of strawberries. The wild strawberries were sparse but large.
  • Summer Squash – Very poor germination. Only one plant produced any fruit and then only a few.
  • Sunflower – A little shorter, none over 12′ tall, with slightly smaller heads than usual.
  • Tomatoes – Good productivity although I have seen better years. The first tomatoes were very late, not ripening until mid-August. A lot of splitting of fruit probably due to the excessive water followed by a week or two of dry. Had soaker hoses.
  • Tomatillos – Fantastic crop. Excellent growth. Huge number of large sweet fruits. This is our first year growing these. Very encouraging. Wish I had started growing these years ago.
  • Turnips – Low germination rates but good growth in those that came up.
  • Watermelon – A total loss. Planted 50 seedlings of four varieties. All died of damp-off. Replanted directly in the soil in early June but none germinated. Same for other melons.
  • Zucchini – Poor germination. Very poor production, most plants damped off early on. Survivors were small plants producing few fruit.

The overall trend is that things were smaller this year. My guess is this has to do with the plants getting less light during the extended periods of rain. Plantings on a gentle slope did best. If I had this year to do over again I would have run a trench down the middle of the terraces that ended up so wet in order to create pseudo-raised beds. I also would have tried to do a third planting of corn and other things that failed in the first two plantings. The rains did finally end and we have had such a long warm spell in the fall I probably would have gotten a harvest despite the delay.

We have a few plants like broccoli that will continue to produce for a while. For the most part though, we’re harvesting, canning and bedding down the gardens for next year. I would like to plant a lot more garlic but I don’t think it is going to happen this fall. Soon we’ll be letting the piglets through the various gardens to clean them out and till up the soil. Then the chickens to smooth out the soil and get weeds and pests so they don’t winter over. Winter, repeat and plant in the spring.

56째F/27째F Sunny

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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3 Responses to Harvest Time

  1. jessie says:

    Thank you for the round-up. Considering that until this summer we’ve never had the land (or full sun) for even a small garden, I’m impressed. But even next year, we’re going to start small.

    I don’t know to what extent you are dependent on your garden for food, but it sounds like quite a bit. The list you gave makes me think of old farm diaries. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to lose crops when there was no supermarket to run to in case of emergencies. Yikes.

  2. Bob says:

    Walter,

    I continue to learn as I work through your posts and responses. I notice that you list comfrey here. May I ask, do you grow much comfrey? Do you have thoughts about it as pig forage? I read such conflicting opinions, ranging all the way from touting it as an ideal food to a very dangerous one.

    Thank you!

    Bob

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