Monday, October 3, 2016

Harvest Results...How Did the Seeds Do?

It's been a heck of a start to the fall season, my dear friends. There's been quite a lot of heartbreak around these parts lately and I've decided to take a pause from the serious stuff for a minute and talk about something pure, simple, and joyful.....

....growing food. 

There's something very soothing and calming about taking a seed, shoving it in some dirt, giving it a little water, and watching it grow into a little plant. I don't think there's a single hurt in the world that cannot be soothed by just a little time outside in the dirt. It's therapeutic and natural and brings us back, quite literally, to our roots. Garden therapy is all about the process. The food that comes afterward is just a bonus.

I started growing my lil seedlings this spring - remember the Growing a Garden series I wrote alongside my 2016 gardening efforts? If you're thinking about gardening, or want to see how I started it up all by myself, check out that series. I planted a plethora of veggies this year, almost 10 new varieties, all of them heirloom and purchased primarily from Seed Savers and Baker Creek, with a few random little packets I got for free from the Mother Earth News Fair last year. PS: I am in Zone 5 - check here to find your zone. 

So which seeds panned out and which ones didn't? Let's find out :)


Zucchini
My zucchini rocked the house again this year. They got a late start because of the Chipmunk Fiasco of 2016 but regardless, they've given me a number of huge, quick-growing squashes that I've diced and sliced for pasta, freezing, and of course, the best, easiest zucchini bread ever. This is my second year using these seeds from Baker Creek and they didn't disappoint either year. I was able to save some seeds from the largest zucchini I found and am excited to see how they germinate next year. 

Cucumber
Last year I tried these in a bush-like habitat, planting them at the base of my corn and pole beans as a weed shade. They gave me one, yellowing little cucumber and almost immediately became afflicted by mildew. This year I tried them in a climbing pattern, up a trellis made of chicken wire, and unfortunately, nothing. I will be trying a new variety of cucumbers next year. Snow's Fancy, I wanted to love you, but alas, I fear it wasn't meant to be.

Pumpkin
This lil' packet was free from the Jung table and booth at the Mother Earth News Fair. I am excited to say that despite getting them in the ground late, and seeing some pretty significant mildew on the leaves this past week, I've harvested four beautiful, adorable little sugar punkins this year. I will be planting these again next year :)

Beans!
Both of these bean types germinated like crazy. My kids have furiously gathered and shelled these guys for the past few weeks. Trail of Tears had the most gorgeous flowers that were a favorite among the garden's pollinators. The Brinker Carrier's are huge and hilarious, looking like chunky little caterpillars at first glance. I let both these bean types dry on the vine and we will be storing them for use this winter as a dry bean. My only complaint (and this is more Jen Error than anything else) is the vines are quite strong - I need to work on my trellis skills. They toppled the corn over while trying to stretch to other plants!

Spinach
I don't know what it is with me and spinach but man does my spinach ever bolt quick! I tried this variety last year too and had the same issue - the seeds germinated wonderfully, but the plants grew tall and spindly and seedy within 2 weeks. Maybe that's normal? I've been spoiled by my kale, I imagine.

Kale
This kale. I cannot even describe how amazing this kale is. The bunches are huge, healthy, beautiful, and hearty. Every seed I direct sowed into the ground this spring grew into a beautiful, bountiful bush of kale. I harvest the bottom leaves and work my way up and this stuff doesn't quit - it just grows more leaves. Last year it stuck around until the first major snow of the season. A definite keeper!

Strawberries
I didn't think I could ever get strawberries to love my garden but alas, I'm having the best luck with these two varieties. The Old North Sea berries are new and were just planted this year so no fruit yet. They have grown substantially since planting and of the three little root bundles Baker Creek sent me, two of them took off like lush, leafy rockets. My Alexandria berries were planted last year and they came back this year with delightful success. They were working hard well into the heat of the summer and although the berries are small, my girls loved plucking them off and popping them into their mouths for the majority of the spring. Fingers crossed both varieties survive the winter!  

Insect Control
I plant marigolds and nasturtiums every year for insect control. Nasturtiums are also edible - very tangy and gorgeous in salads. Last year both varieties exceeded my expectations and provided me with beautiful blooms from summer through the fall. This year, however, I was down on my nasturtium luck. Instead of direct sowing them, I started them indoors. That will change next year - back to direct sowing them once the frost passes! My marigolds are gorgeous - honestly they made me tear up on this crisp fall morning - beautiful orbs of gold and orange. *le sigh*

Peppers
My peppers did not make it at all this year. I've grown the purple beauties and napoleon sweets before and had wonderful yields. This year I added the sweet chocolates and was so excited to see all three varieties grow into healthy, gorgeous, productive bushes. I simply did not get them warmed up quick enough. I also tried companion planting them with tomatoes this year and the tomatoes went crazy, which I think made it hard for the peppers to get that precious sunshine they love so much. Next year they get their own space on the south side!

Tomatoes
Tomatoes, oh the tomatoes, dear readers. I tried tomatoes in 2015 and it was a bust. Only one or two orbs and they had blossom end rot like crazy. I was so sad, especially when I'd read about how they're the easiest things to grow, ever. This year, much to my joy and pleasure, I had the most incredible bumper crop of tomatoes. Of the four varieties I planted, only the Bonny Best did not grow. The Hillbilly Potato Leaf are ginormous, but extremely sensitive to water. Almost all of them split, which was fine with me because I don't sell them, I eat them. The Green Zebras were perfect, but smaller than I expected. And the Moonglows were my favorite. Beautiful orange orbs of extremely fleshy, delectable goodness. Fantastic year for tomatoes!




Cauliflower
My cauliflower decided to high-tail it to Rot City this year. In 2015 this variety produced some of the best cauliflower I'd ever eaten. This year, the heat of the spring made the leaves wilted and attracted earwigs to my precious, yellowing bundles of goodness. I have not given up on this variety yet and will be trying them again next year in a different bed. 

Herbs!
My herbs soared with the eagles this year, my friends. The only variety that did not go nuts was the cilantro. Everything else, including the basil I put between plants and as an insect deterrent, grew strong and healthy and bountiful. I absolutely love the purple basil and the lemon balm, they are perhaps my two favorites. My herb spiral is looking gorgeous!!

Onion
This is all my fault, really. This variety did so so good in 2015. I went nuts starting these guys and started them too early. The planters I used stunted their growth and I didn't use enough soil in the raised beds to allow them to really spread out and get big. I was able to harvest some onion, but not the gorgeous, beautiful braids I imagined when I planted them. Next year, onions are getting more space!

Carrot
These little babies survived what I consider to be a murderous attempt on their very lives. I planted them way too close together, in restrictive planting material, with nowhere near enough soil for them to root. Regardless, they gave me some adorable (even if kinda funky-lookin) orange roots. They also gave me a couple yellow-tailed swallowtail butterflies. I'll do them justice next year!


The harvest isn't quite over yet but if it were to end tomorrow, I would leave the season feeling quite successful indeed. Happy gardening!!


What did you grow this year, dear readers? What are your favorite varieties? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading! 

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Jen



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