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Late Fall

November 16, 2011

Though I’ve still got lettuce, kale and broccoli out there, it’s time for me to assess the end of the season, more or less.

Fall Lettuce

Broccoli and Kale Hanging In There

What Went Right:

  • Peppers.  Thrived like no other veg I’ve grown.  With a longer, warmer growing season than Maine and no discernible pests bothering them, those plants produced pounds of bell, shanti and jalapenos month after month.  I gave away around half of each harvest.  If anything, I need to reduce the number of plants (though I do want to introduce more varieties next year).Final Pepper Harvest
  • Lettuce, Spinach, Kale and Swiss Chard.  I finally planted spinach at the right time, e.g., in a cool spring, and it did really well.  Felt good after prior years of utter failure.  Lettuce (I’m including arugula and other varieties in that term) and kale did great, though midway through the season a lot of small white flies set up housekeeping in the kale.  Didn’t adversely affect the plant itself, but cleaning cut leaves was time consuming.  Got some seeds for lacinato kale for next year.  I think we’ll eat that more often by itself as well as mixing it in with my traditional variety.  And swiss chard made its first appearance in my garden, doing well despite being dug up a few times by critters.
  • Cucumbers.  Another victory after years of failure.  A combination of consistent heat, no pests to hinder growth and a new trellace to climb on, these guys did well.
  • Broccoli.  I didn’t quite achieve any grocery store-looking bunches this season, but I consistently got stalks from my plants, which was a vast improvement.  My broccoli was also infested with white flies for a time, and either they or some other pest did some minor damage to its leaves.  Something to watch next year.
  • PotatoesThe bags worked their magic and we had us some great yukon golds and fingerlings.  After a 3rd year of success with this growing method, I can’t recommend it enough.  Pretty much foolproof and suited to gardening just about anywhere you have a little bit of space.
  • Yellow Gourd Squash.  A surprise bonus of around 10-15 of these at the end of the season from a volunteer vine at the side of the house.  Made me notice that area receives a good amount of sunlight throughout the day, so I’ll carve out some space next year and put in a 4th bed.

What Went Mostly Right, But Had Issues:

  • Tomatoes.  As mentioned in a prior post, I didn’t harvest hardly any until late September, due mainly to overcrowding.  Way too many varieties were crammed in that bed.  I had some blossom end rot on my Japanese Black Trifeles, which I don’t much care for anyway, so they’ll be out of the rotation.  And I’ve got to look for tomato hornworms now and then.  But all in all, we ended up with a bumper crop of maters.  Next year, more spacing, culling the herd and planting fewer varieties (kind of like deciding which children to keep and which to leave at the orphanage if you ask me) and application of soil amendments (calcium, etc.).
  • Corn.  I grew an heirloom variety, Dorinny, again this year since the seeds were free from Wood Prairie Farm.  It grew fine and it has a good flavor, but we just weren’t happy with only one ear per stalk and a short ear at that.  I bought a different variety for planting next year for comparison.
  • Beans.  Pole beans did great.  Something better to climb on would have given me a better yield – I didn’t harvest as many as in years past, but still ate a respectable amount.  Bush beans did poorly.  I placed them in a bed between corn and tomatoes and they were completely overshadowed by the time they should have been producing like crazy.  Lesson learned.

What Didn’t So Well:

  • Squash / Zucchini.  My summer squash hybrid had a complete infestation by the dreaded vine borer as recounted in an earlier post.  It eventually got to the zucchini as well, though I had a reasonable output for most of the season.  Hard to be vigilant and get the eggs off the plants before they get inside, so I’ll have to be ready for some combat next season.
  • Peas.  No idea what the heck happened here.  I tried to grow them in spring and in fall in different areas and they just didn’t grow well at all.  Hard to take after great success in Maine with these.  I have a new support system and will try direct sowing some next season to see if they do better that way.
  • Beets.  Still not able to get these to grow.  I had plenty of seedlings, but all died or were taken/eaten by critters. Other than placing part of a bed on lockdown somehow, I may have to give these up.
  • Melons.  I was able to get one charentais out of a vine before the SVB got to that too.  Canteloupe seeds didn’t germinate.

Overall, I think I did pretty good with the space I had to work in.  I’m getting enough sun in the front lawn in pretty much the proper time of day.  The hindrance of having to clear land and build 3 beds from scratch will be gone next season, which means more time to concentrate on growing things, amending the soil and actually using the compost that’s been breaking down in our bin the past year.  Can’t wait.

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