Monday, March 11, 2013

2012 Garden Journal

Throughout each gardening year I keep a journal.  Last year I learned a lot!  And I am glad I wrote it all down.  It is helping me immensely in my preparations for 2013.  If you haven't started keeping one for yourself, I highly recommend it!

2012 Garden Journal



In an attempt to become more self reliant, this was my first year growing almost all of my plants from seed.  It was not as difficult as I imagined it would be.  Since I had to purchase them anyway, nearly all of them were heirloom seeds.  I am hoping to rely on my own plants to produce seeds for next year, rather than having to buy them over and over again (thanks for that, Monsanto... and by thank you, I mean you suck)


Fertilizer:
I fertilized the entire garden just before planting with a mixture of:
3 parts 16-16-8 with 1 part ironite.
1 quart (4 cups) will fertilize a 180 sq. foot garden.
I didn't do any additional fertilizing throughout the year.



Because UT soil is so alkaline, I also added sulfer to try and lower the pH level.  2 quarts sulfer pellets per 180 sq. feet.  This was the first time I had added sulfer, which is why it was so much.  Generally, you can decrease this amount by half each year.


2012 Fruit and Vegetable Recap

Here is a recap of everything I planted, and most importantly, what I liked, disliked, and learned:


Tomatoes:
Super Beefsteak (red), Beef Striped Blend (orange) Tom's Yellow Wonder (yellow)
Planted tomatoes from seed on April 4th in square foot garden soil in plastic cups.  I put them in a container to collect the water, and placed them in the closet of my baby's bedroom.  With the heater set at 75 for his room, this was the warmest area of the house.  Transplanted to bigger cups on April 13th.  Transplanted tomatoes into on May 16th:


This year I tried 8 different tomato plants to determine which ones I liked the best, and would continue to grow each year.
If I remember correctly, I got all of my tomato seeds online from Winter Sown.

This was by far the worst tomato year for me.  I did not get the yield that I usually do, especially since I had 8 plants.  It could have been the varieties I planted; all of them were a first for me.  There are a lot of reasons why this could have happened.  I know it was primarily because they were not planted from seed soon enough, and they took longer to mature than they would have if I had purchased plants from a greenhouse.  However, it was also extremely windy (in my neck of the woods), and twice I had to "save" my tomatoes by wrapping blankets/towels around their cages to keep all of the leaves from blowing off.  Despite all of that, I still got plenty to eat daily and a few extra for canning.

Here are the varieties I chose this year:

Long Keeper Tomatoes:

Long Keeper tomatoes with 2 Beauty King to show color
These were a first for me, and somewhat of an experiment.  Just as the name implies, they are supposed to keep for a long time once picked.
And they did.  We ate the last batch in a fresh salsa just before Christmas.  I kept a few in my garage to see how long they would keep before molding, and I just threw them into my compost the beginning of February.

These tomatoes had a thick skin, which was lighter in color (as you can see from the contrasting two red ripe tomatoes in the photo).  However, the flesh is a wonderful red color.  These didn't have quite the distinct 'garden grown' amazing taste that most home grown tomatoes do, but they were much better than what you can buy at the store in the middle of winter.

I was wonderfully pleased with these, and will definitely grow them every year from now on.  It was awesome not having to buy tomatoes until the new year started!

Beauty King Tomatoes:
The two dark red tomatoes in the picture above are Beauty King.  They had more of an oval shape, and had lots of curves and indentations running towards the stem.  This made them difficult to skin, or to slice.  They were also extremely juicy; not as much flesh as I had hoped for.  They also did not yield very many tomatoes.  Not many AT ALL.  I want to say under 10 tomatoes total.  I don't plan to continue to grow this variety anymore because of the amount produced, and I really prefer a "meaty" slicing tomato.  

Tom's Yellow Wonder Tomatoes:

Tom's Yellow Wonder tomato

This wonderful yellow beefsteak variety was my favorite of all that I grew!
These tomatoes were huge, meaty and delicious!  I loved the color!
We used these in salsa, on sandwiches, in salads, plain, you name it. 
Absolutely loved them and will plant again!
  



Beef Striped Blend Tomatoes:

Beef Striped Blend (top), Tom's Yellow Wonder (bottom)
These tomatoes had awesome stripes of different colors throughout the flesh, and were about the size of a large plum.  Skin colors ranged from gold to red to orange.

Great garden fresh taste, but my one plant did not produce very many tomatoes.

I liked them best for their decorative look in dishes, but probably wont plant them again because of the size and yield.





Super Beefsteak:
The variety I planted didn't seem very "beefy" - the tomatoes were very juicy and smaller than your average slicing tomato.  Wasn't very pleased, I will not plant again.

Roma:
Not happy with this variety; very very small!  I will not plant again.
As a side note, I saved seed from the biggest, meatiest, heirloom roma tomato from my mom's neighbor... cant wait to try it this year!

Beefmaster:

Beefmaster Tomato

I much preferred this Beefmaster tomato over the Super Beefsteak variety.  It did not yield as much as I had hoped for, but I liked the tomato enough to try again.

Great plain or in dishes, but this is also the perfect slicing tomato!





Cherry Tomato:
I planted a Matt's Wild Cherry tomato, but it died in the windstorm.  It was sadly replaced with a cherry tomato plant from my neighbor.  I will always grow cherry tomatoes, they are the best for snacking and salads!

Crimson Sweet Watermelon:


Planted from seed on May 16th.
This was my first year growing melons.  I had always heard that they were difficult to grow, but I didn't find that to be true at all.  I did discover that it is difficult to tell when some of them are ripe, however.

My family loves watermelon.  I grew 3 of these plants.  Each plant produced two watermelons the size in the photo (or bigger), and 1-2 smaller melons.
The smaller melons ended up rotting... I'm not sure if I was supposed to cut them off so the plant could focus on the bigger ones or not, but I think I will do that next year.  Or at least do my research on it.

I had to throw out my two largest melons because I let them sit on the vine too long (worried that it wasn't long enough).  I quickly picked the rest and they stored in my basement for weeks until we could get to them.  They were delicious!
I purchased these Heirloom seeds from Sweet Garden Organics, and will plant again.

Noir de Carmes Cantaloupe:
I had heard about these amazing cantaloupes that turn from green to yellow/orange overnight once they are ripe and new I had to try them.
Obviously they are easy to know when to pick; often times they would detach themselves from the vine once ripened.  But the best part is how quickly they mature; at least 20 days earlier than the 'regular' cantaloupe variety.  Next year I will stagger plant them to prolong them all through the summer.
Planted from seed on May 16th.
Harvested around August 25th - so delicious!
They look more like acorn squash, rather than the netting type skin on cantaloupe you see in the grocery store, but they were hands down the best, sweetest, juiciest cantaloupes I'd ever tried.  Will plant every year from now on!

I purchased these Heirloom seeds from Sweet Garden Organics, and then ended up buying more from a local gardener, Caleb Warnock.

Honeydew:
Planted from seed on May 16th.  Harvested first on September 11th - delicious!
Delicious and sweet.  I only got 3 or 4 melons (from the one plant I had), but will definitely grow again.
Seeds were purchased from Mountain Valley Seeds - at a local gardening store.  

Yellow Canaria:
A honeydew type of melon, only more oval and skinny.  My one plant produced one small melon, and I picked it before it was ripe.  Probably wont plant again due to the small yield.
 Seed was purchased from Sweet Garden Organics.  Planted from seed on May 16th.

Strawberries:
I finally put in a strawberry patch, and it was great to pick fresh berries in addition to the raspberries!  I purchased my plants from Smith's Marketplace and planted them on April 13th.  I bought two different varieties of everbearing berry plants, but only one of them produced berries in the summer.  I am crossing my fingers that the other variety will produce this year.  I should have gotten the plants somewhere else...

Onions:

On April 4th I transplanted yellow sweet spanish, walla walla, green and red onions.  The red onions didn't grow, but I think it was due to the location (corner garden).

The green onions were amazing and I can't believe I hadn't grown them before now.  I wont go another year without them!

The yellow and walla walla were wonderful, and I had fresh onions all throughout the summer.  I kept them in the ground even through the hottest months, picking the ones that the tops had fallen over first.

In November I harvested the remaining in the ground, having to cut the tops off of several of them.  I left them in a dry spot to dry, and stored them in my garage.  I just cut up the last one (end of February).  
All of my onions were purchased from Cooks, and were transplanted into the garden.


Carrots:
Carrots are the one thing I didn't think would be worth planting, since you can buy a hundred of them for a dollar.
This is my 3rd year growing them, however, and the taste cannot be beat!  SO MUCH BETTER than store bought!

I planted seeds on April 4th.
Planted additional carrots from seed on July 10th where half of cabbage was.  
I have never had much luck in getting them to keep once dug up, so I would gather a few at a time when I needed them.

I still have some out in the garden, covered with a thick coating of straw, as an experiment to see how well they last in the ground over winter.

These are Danvers Half Long carrots from Walmart that I bought a few years back.


Parsnips:
Parsnip in between two carrots


I have tried to grow parsnips before, but never with success until this year.

I don't know if it was the variety or me, but they were very stringy, flimsy, and pithy.  

These I purchased from Mountain Valley Seed Co., and won't be planting again.






Ruby Red Swiss Chard:
Started from seed indoors on April 4th.  My poor swish chard plants were eaten alive soon after being transplanted into garden on April 23rd.  And I have no idea by what.  They were planted right next to the kale, broccoli, carrots, turnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga and onions in the corner garden but was the only thing that was eaten.  Broke my heart...

Dwarf Blue Stotch Kale:
Started from seed indoors on April 4th.  This was about a month too late, but I actually didn't have much trouble getting it to grow once transplanted into garden on April 23rd.
  I planted 4 plants, and it was WAY too much for my family.  Even though I planted in the spring, they lived straight through the hot summer months (even in the hottest area of my back corner garden), and well into the fall when I finally pulled them up.  I still have a lot in my freezer.  Next year 1 plant will suffice!
Bitter, as most kale is, but am open to trying a different variety.

White Egg Turnips:

Planted on August 4th.  Should have planted one month earlier.
I had never eaten a turnip before I grew these.
EVER.
I am hoping it was just the variety that I didn't like, because for the most part, there is nothing great about the taste.  Any good turnip variety recommendations would be great!

Seeds purchased from Heirloom Seeds.


American Purple Top Rutabaga:
Planted on August 4th.  Should have planted one month earlier.  Another first for me; rutabaga.  Supposed to be a cross between a turnip and a cabbage - I liked it much more than the turnips!  I only planted 3 or 4, so I didn't get to experiment that much in the kitchen, but am looking forward to planting again.
Seeds purchased from Heirloom Seeds.

Early Purple Vienna Kohlrabi:

Planted on August 4th.  Should have planted one month earlier.
Such an unusual plant, but so cool!  I had never grown this before, but had read about it and decided to give it a go.  I didn't plant enough!  It was good raw, but I liked it mixed in with roasted veggies best.

Completely different flavor than anything I can describe, but a great addition!

Seeds were purchased from Heirloom Seeds.



Cabbage:
I transplanted purchased cabbage plants from Cooks on April 4th.
First year growing cabbage and it was easy and delicious!  We ended up replacing our lettuce with it and it was great in so many dishes.  Will definitely grow again, but want to try it from seed.

Sugar Daddy Snap Pea:
Didn't plant these soon enough, so the harvest period was not long enough for me.  Planted on August 4th.  Should have planted one month earlier.  Wonderful, delicious snap pea from Heirloom Seeds; I will be planting again.

Broccoli:

Bad broccoli year for me, due to my own mis-planning.  Planted from seed on April 4th and left indoors.  Transplanted into garden on April 23rd.
I didn't start from seed soon enough - everything bolted (went to seed) before it could be harvested.

Planted on August 4th.  Should have planted one month earlier.  Everything froze before I could get a decent head.  Next year...




Potatoes:

Planted potatoes outside on April 4th.   This was the first year I have ever attempted to grow them.  After doing some research I decided to make potato towers.  
I made two smaller towers, with 4 plants in each tower. One tower with Idaho baking potatoes, the other with Yukon gold.
Watered 1" of water which turned out to be about 4 gallons each tower.

The towers were not a success for me.  However, I did have to transplant them to a different area so we could do some unexpected landscaping.  That may have been the issue. 
Two towers were Yukon Gold purchased from Cooks.  The other two towers were Russet potatoes that I purchased directly from the supplier in Idaho in the fall of 2011, and had stored them all winter to plant in the spring.  This is the whole lot of the Russet's - no Yukon Gold's made it :(


Cucumbers:
This year I planted White Wonder Cucumbers and Long Green Improved Cucumbers, both from Heirloom Seeds.  Planted from seed on May 16th.  Replanted Long Green Improved on June 6th; original seeds did not germinate.
The White Wonder were great for a change of scenery, but not necessarily the best tasting cuke.  They were more of a pickling size, and I prefer the long, slender shape of the others.  The white Wonder also died off early with some sort of mold disease.

Blue Lake Bush Beans:
I had 10 plants, and the beans were amazing.  This was my second year growing this variety and I love them!  Long, perfectly uniform, crisp and delicious.  We ate these fresh and steamed, and froze the rest!
Seeds purchased from Heirloom Seeds.  Planted from seed on May 16th.

Bell Peppers:
Planted peppers from seed on April 4th in square foot garden soil in plastic cups.  I put them in a container to collect the water, and placed them in the closet of my baby's bedroom.  With the heater set at 75 for his room, this was the warmest area of the house.

Transplanted to bigger cups on April 13th.

I plant bell peppers every year, and these were by far the best peppers I've ever grown.  They were all good sized, and the flesh was thick and juicy, which has been hard to come by with colored peppers.

They all start out as green, so I occasionally picked them early if I wanted them.
I had 8 plants, and I have 1 more quart bag of them in my freezer.

I planted Orange Bell, and California Wonder (Red and Gold) from Heirloom Seeds.  None of the Gold peppers grew, but I am anxious to try again.  I will plant these next year.

Squash:
Zucchini:
Planted squash from seed on May 16th.  Planted 1 hill of 2 plants, and I think I am ready to cut down to 1 hill and 1 plant.  Still have cubed and shredded in the freezer - so nice having zucchini year round!

Summer Squash:
Planted squash from seed on May 16th.  Planted 1 hill of 2 plants - ready to cut down to 1 hill and 1 plant.

Butternut Squash:
Planted squash from seed on May 16th.  Planted 6 Butterbush plants (a bush variety of butternut).  Smaller squash, but each plant produced 2 or more.  Harvested in November.
Just ate the last ones  yesterday; love how they store over winter!

Spaghetti Squash:
Planted squash from seed on May 16th.  2 plants, but 1 will do us just fine.  Ended up dying off early from mold, but still produced 10 or so squash for storage.  Harvested in November.


My Helping Harvester

I am really glad I wrote down the dates of everything; they are already making this year's plan that much easier!

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