It’s been a while since I updated over here. I have a few notes that have been rolling around in my head for next year, and I really should get them down, so here they are.
We love the Indian variety of cucumber, Poona Kheera. When it’s allowed to get a deep yellow with brownish-orange patches on it, it’s ready to pick, and oh, so delicious. They’re sweet and extra crispy, easily the best slicing cucumber I’ve ever had. Knowing exactly when to pick is tricky though. Pick too soon and the seeds are bitter, pick too late and the cucumber begins shriveling up overnight. The drawback to the Poona kheera is that the perfectly ripe ones don’t last long at all- maybe 2 or 3 days tops in the fridge, after that, they begin shriveling and turning into compost. Overall, a keeper. We’ll be planting this one again.
The Marketmore 76 variety of cucumber that I planted had poor germination, and thus far, only one pathetic cuke has grown to any size. I now know that my soil is seriously nitrogen depleted, and I will try these cukes again next year after my soil has been repaired.
The three winning varieties of tomatoes this year are easily Green Zebra, German Red Strawberry and Dr. Wyche’s Yellow. The kids favorite is the Dr. Wyche- a vibrant orange tomato packed with flavor. My personal favorite is the Green Zebra. The tomato flavor is bright and fresh with a touch of acidity. It’s my idea of the perfect tomato.
The losing varieties of tomato are the Fox Cherry and Roman Candle. I am sorely disappointed with the Roman Candle, there just isn’t much flavor there in my opinion, which is a shame since the bush is loaded with fruit. I also don’t care for the lack of moisture- I prefer juicy tomatoes over fleshy ones. The Fox Cherry is only a loser here because I didn’t get any fruit off my plant. It keeps budding, but the all fall off. The plants flanking it are doing great, but that one Fox Cherry is pretty sad.
I’m on the fence about the early varieties of tomato I have, the Siletz and the Sub-Arctic Plenty. The Siletz are a very nice tomato- a smaller one, but not too small, and for first tomatoes, they are delicious. Still, the plants aren’t as productive as I’d like. The Sub-Arctic Plenty, while prolific, are small. The fruits are quite small actually, and since they’re determinate, the last week has seen a majority of the fruit ripen. We’ve eaten some, but I still only have 2 quarts of canned tomatoes. They’re flavor is nice- I like just picking them off the plant and eating them. Between the two, I prefer the Siletz over the Sub Arctic Plenty. However, given that they’re early varieties of tomato and they’re producing the same time as the indeterminate varieties, I don’t see any value in planting them as an early tomato.
Speaking of Sub-Arctic Plenty, on my one plant I have a bit of an anomaly. It’s planted right next to the Green Zebra, and some of the Sub Arctic tomatoes have come out as red tomatoes with a pretty orange stripe- looking like a red and orange cousin of the Green Zebra. I had been under the impression that cross-pollination only affected subsequent offspring. Clearly, that is not the case here, unless the seed came from a strange hybrid itself. I have to remember to take a picture of these, and perhaps save some seeds from this specimen.
As to seed-saving, I won’t be doing it. My plants are planted too close together, the seeds are clearly not safe from crossbreeding.
On to the tomatillos. They’re doing well. I made two batches of very different salsas and then shared a large picking with friends. I’ll perhaps get one more picking off the plants before they’re done. Like the rest of the garden, they could have used a little better fertilizing activity on my part.
The eggplant have been interesting. I wouldn’t say I’m totally a devoted eggplant lover, but the Asian varieties have been nice. They haven’t been overly productive, so I’ve been able to use them here and there as I see fit. We like both the Ping Tung and the Applegreen. Neither one is bitter or tough, and they’ve been a delight to add to stir-frys and roasted veggies. My only complaint is that they brown almost instantly after being exposed to air, making them look a little unpleasant. Still, they’re smaller plants, which produce modest amounts of fruit in a compact amount of space. We’ll be growing these again, maybe trying a few more varieties as well.
This is the picture above of the ping tung- long purple one. The small round green one on the bottom is the Applegreen, and then a patty-pan squash rounds out the picture.
Patty-pan squash… you’ll sense a theme here on my veggies that aren’t doing so well and I think that theme is nitrogen depletion. I get little tiny baby patty-pans, but then they turn brown and rotten and fall off. I suspect a lack of nutrients, but given the number of ants in the garden this year, it could be the ants as well.
The pole beans go right along with the patty pans. Darn bean plants aren’t producing. I planted poles because you’re supposed to be able to continuously pick, the plant continues to put out blossoms and beans. I got the first crops… and that’s about it. It’s sad because the kids looooove beans and would snack themselves silly on pole beans. Late in the season I planted some bush beans in empty spots, purely because the roots of bean plants produce beneficial nitrogen, and I figured if I didn’t get beans, at least I’d get the nitrogen. I sure hope that’s the case because the bean plants themselves have been completely eaten by ants. How there are still growing portions of plants, I’ll never know.
Radicchio… apparently these guys need to be started much later so that they’re growing in the fall and not so much in the summer. I was out weeding and went to peek on my radicchio plants and found them literally rotting. It was rather disgusting, they were rotting from the inside out. Sadly, I had to pull them out, and for next year I’ll know to follow the planting directions and start them much later.
The brassicas continue to plague me. I went from planning no brasiccas to deciding to try kohlrabi and kale. Then extra space led me to plant a few broccoli plants, and well, you know those cabbage loopers came back in full force. I’m glad I picked some kale when I could, because the cabbage loopers pretty much have had free reign- I simply cannot keep up. I picked two broccoli heads, blanched and froze them, but from the two heads of broccoli, I easily squished two dozen worms. Yeah… there’s a lot. The kohlrabi leaves are looking like swiss cheese, and in the end, the Tatsoi was covered with eggs. I don’t know what to do about the brassica crops. We do like them, but they take up a lot of space, for one, and secondly, those cabbage loopers are disgusting, and those white moths are relentless- even when you have a guard-daughter catching them with a butterfly net all day long. Maybe next year I’ll try planting them later in the season, and maybe we’ll also try some floating row cover and see if we can’t just eliminate the problem altogether.
The herbs, of all things, are doing fantastic! I have bumper crops of herbs, and I’ll leave them in the ground as long as possible. It’s been wonderful walking out to the garden picking this and that as I need them or want them. And I decided I like having them in with the vegetables. When I’m pulling weeds, I just brush the herbs and a great scent wafts over and makes me smile.
My one fennel bulb is still hanging in there. We’ll be picking it this weekend, I think, as I don’t want it to bolt or get woody. The celery is still hanging out, although looking awfully scrawny. I’ll just let it go as long as I can, and then if it’s not really edible, it will still make an excellent flavoring agent for stocks.
The peppers are disappointing. I planted mini sweet peppers in the garden, and while the yellow ones are finally ripening up and treating my children with a fun little snack, the red ones are skipping the red and turning black instead. The hot peppers, as it turns out, are anything but hot. I think the weather has been to blame, as it was only truly hot a few times this summer, and certainly not overnight. Peppers need that heat to develop their own heat, and low overnights are foiling any attempts at upping the scoville units. Still, I have been using the peppers to make my salsas, they still have nice flavor, just not the heat I’d been hoping for.
Hmm. What have I missed? The Asian Long Beans, uh, that may be another lack of nitrogen, or they just don’t grow well here. The one bean I picked and tasted certainly didn’t make me want another taste. I may try them again next year just to see.
Okra I will not be trying again. Total I got five pods, and when I followed the directions for blanching them, they all but disintegrated. I can tell you, I nibbled on those shards of okra and I thought they tasted fantastic! But I don’t know that they are worth the effort way up here in the North. I can buy decent frozen okra for when I want to make a gumbo or southern style stew.
The rainbow chard is the clear star of this growing season. I have discovered that I love, love, love Swiss chard. I don’t know how my family feels about it really, but I love it, and I love that I plant it once, and then continue to eat from it all season long. I’ve heard it said that in milder climates, it even re-seeds itself! I’ll definitely be growing chard again and again.
Beets and carrots are still plugging away and are like old faithful. I always love beets and carrots from the garden, and we can continue to enjoy them as we pull them from the ground.
The spinaches and lettuces we thoroughly enjoyed, although my subsequent plantings failed miserably. There’s got to be a good way to plant lettuces in the summer to be enjoyed when the tomatoes and cucumbers are ready. I hate having to buy my romaine.
The only thing I haven’t mentioned is the alliums. Those are a puzzle to me, and I guess I need to learn more about planting onions, leeks and scallions. I’ve picked and used the scallions a few times, but the onions are clearly not producing, and the leeks don’t look much like leeks. This was my first time every planting alliums other than chives, and I did so without reading up on them at all. One of my winter projects will be to learn more about how to grow them properly in my neck of the woods.
I also need to research fertilizers. Obviously my fish water wasn’t enough once the plants started actually putting out fruit. I need to find good organic fertilizer that won’t wreak havoc on the soil or on us as we ingest the vegetables.
Filed under: Uncategorized on August 27th, 2008