Well, we finally got a hard frost on Oct. 22 (!!!) and I think I’ll get the last of the potatoes in this year.
This year’s tally was a whopping 1200 pounds of produce! Seven hundred of that (and change) was squash. Those pink bananas were da bomb – prolific, tasty, and craaaaaaazy big. I’d grow ’em again just for the laugh factor. They are also by far the best producers per square foot of conditioned garden soil (somewhere around 4-5 lb per square foot) because I let them run out into the lawn.
Of course, I can’t eat 700 pounds of squash. I have several recipes I like, and a few even the sweetie will eat, but c’mon. So most of that goes to Food Gatherers. Still – it’s great to be able to grow that many calories of seriously nutritious food with that little effort. I’m happy to be able to donate something besides mac-n-cheez.
Other crops that did well were potatoes (holding tight a 1lb/sf), kale/collards, and sweet potatoes. Had some good green beans, but my “succession” plantings utterly failed and they all came in around the same time. Spring peas were great. Lettuce and rutabagas bombed – both probably because they were planted too late for their species. The lettuce went bitter and the rutabagas (planted after the summer heat wave) didn’t really bulk up. Most look like carrots.
I did manage to grow carrots this year, thanks to the wet spring, I think, but none of them taste fabulous.
The best discovery of the season was crowder peas. They are a dry bean of the cowpea family (so I’m not allergic to them), and are they size and shape of a garbanzo bean. They grow 10-15 to a pod, though, and are by far the most prolific dry beans I’ve ever raised. Without staking or anything – I grew 2.5 lb in a 25 sf bed. I don’t know about you, but that’s phenomenal yields for me for dry beans. And did I mention how completely tasty they are? Less “green” tasting than cowpeas, with a skin that holds shape without being tough and nice melty insides. I’m in love.
I also spent far less time in the garden this year than most. I barely went out there in July and August, except to harvest green beans in July. Man, I love raised beds and avoiding Vegetables of Obligation. Though that did lead to me whinging a bit mid-summer that “there’s nothing in the garden” – meaning “I can’t make dinner out of what’s currently ready to harvest.” It was an odd sort of stress, and it’s faded now that no one else has anything in the garden…but I’ve got kale coming out my ears, carrots and a few potatoes and rutabagas to dig, and a cellar full of squash and potatoes.
I did spend an awful lot of September and October digging tubers – I will NOT be planting 350sf of them next year. I think probably 100sf of white potatoes, and maybe no sweet potatoes. Sweets are tasty, but a pain to plant and dig, and relatively expensive. For the record, the Georgia Jets were most prolific, followed by O’Henry (a much less-sweet whitish variety) and Bush Porto Rico. Together, they produced about 68 lb of sweets. Only about 1/2 to 2/3 of the plants survived to produce any tubers, and ironically, the Jets had the greatest slip fatalities (Hmm, Sharks in the garden?) but the most pounds harvested. At harvest, they were all pretty bland and un-sweet – I’m hoping curing them has improved the flavor, but haven’t tried them yet. (And seriously? Who can cure sweet potatoes at 85 degrees? I’m pulling the plants out because it might FROST tonight, people – 85 degrees is not an option.)
This year also showed our first notable harvest of perennial crops: hazelnuts. I got half a grocery sack of pods, which yielded 3 pints of nuts in the shell. Many are quite tiny (these are the wild native type, not bred for size). I plan to shell them this weekend – I expect a cup of nuts, max. But still – it’s pretty exciting, and I really want to plant some hybrids next spring that we can really count on for full-size nuts. They’ll go on the Berry Berm, which should also produce some strawberries next spring. Oh, and elderberries. Serviceberries will be a few more years.
I still haven’t decided on whether I’m growing tomatoes next year. I may try some determinate ones that all ripen at the same time, or I may repeat this year’s tactic of buying or trading for the tomatoes I need. I had a pretty nice deal with several neighbors: they gave me tomatoes, and I provided squash and canning gear and organization expertise for big canning events. That worked out reasonably well, so I might do it again. Just not sure yet.
I’m definitely doing 100sf of peas (pod and shelling), 100sf of crowder peas, 100sf of potatoes, 100sf of brassicas, and some big winter squash. I’ll fill in the details over the winter. At the moment, it’s a little hard to imagine enthusiasm about noodling out that puzzle, but that’s always how it feels at the tail end of harvest season.
For now, it’s enough to be thankful that the cellar is full of great things to eat, and that we’ve made it through to the rest season again, healthy and happy.