Thursday, September 22, 2011

End of the season

Summer is almost gone, but it's sure going out with some beautiful style, with sunshine and nice cozy temperatures. I've been keeping an eye on the garden—and really enjoying the food I've gotten out of it so far, including my first potatoes—but have been too busy with other things to blog. The sun was up early today and when I looked outside about 7:30, it was coming through the trees and lighting up a bunch of stuff, so I grabbed the camera and went outside.

Bulbless kohlrabi
I had a few failures this year. The big one was the kohlrabis, which never developed bulbs. They ended up with inch-thick stalks and tons of leaves--this is a shot into the base of one—but when they started flowering and still didn't have bulbs, I dug them all up. I found one clue on the web that may be the problem—it said they won't develop bulbs if they're too close together. Mine were about 8" apart in two rows a foot apart. By the time they stopped growing they were really crowded, their leaves all tangled together, so maybe that was the issue.

My broccolis may still turn out to be a success, but I'm going to have to wait till next spring to find out, because they didn't get big enough to flower before the day length started to get shorter, and I think they just decided to wait till next year. They got really big, chest high and 18" across. Yesterday they both fell over:

Recumbent broccolis
I staked them up this morning. I'm sure the reason they fell was because the soil is so shallow there. I thought I had planted them over a spot where I had broken through the hardpan, but apparently not. So I'll wait and see if they make it through the winter. If they do, I should get a lot of broccoli in the spring!

The zucchini I had problems with early in the spring, with blossom end rot. I didn't know squash could get that, but I learned it's a problem in many cucurbits—squashes—including zucchini. It can be caused not just by insufficient calcium in the soil, but a number of other problems that keep the plant from being able to get enough calcium, even though the soil is fine. Among those are cold soil, and insufficient or irregular water. I know the water there has been hard to manage this year and I'm going to put them in a better spot and handle the watering differently next year. I've gotten 3 zukes off of it so far and there's one more on there now, but the clouds are coming in, the temperatures are going to be getting cooler soon, and I think this last one is going to be the end.

My big success was the peas—so many I could hardly keep up with them for a while:

Peas are just too cute
They were supposed to be snow peas, but I ended up eating most of them as peas because I left them on too long! And in my opinion, the peas were way tastier than the pods, even the ones that were young and flat.

My potatoes were the size winners—in fact, they got too big. I planted them in north-south rows, and they all ended up falling over and smothering whatever was east of them—garlic and onions, beans, fennel and squash. So next year I won't be planting quite as many, and I'll plant them in east-west rows, so they'll just fall over on each other. I did talk to a woman who grew potatoes in straw over in Bend, and she put 18" of straw on top of hers as they grew up. That would probably help keep them upright. The only ones that have died back completely have been the All Blues, and I've been pulling them out of the ground for the last week one or two at a time. I've gotten 4 so far from one plant, and have just been amazed at how much flavor they have. With olive oil and garlic salt on them, they're like the best potato chip I've ever eaten. Awesome.

This morning the other two rows, the Pontiac reds in front and the Rose Finn Apple Fingerlings on the upper right, are obviously winding down. The Pontiacs were 18" tall a month ago and 3 feet across (I'm not kidding), now they're only a few inches tall and you can see how much they've thinned out:
Tired potatoes and mildewy squash
I expect I'll have enough potatoes to eat for several months!

I don't have a picture of my garlic, either, but it did well for only being planted this spring. I dug up a couple little 3-5 clove heads two weeks ago to make garlic toast out of them, and they were great! I figure I'll just leave them in the ground, and maybe plant another 10 or so next month—when they're supposed to be planted! The onions I don't know about yet--they're under the potato plants, so I'll be able to get to them soon. The rhubarb grew really well all year, except they had some water problems too at one point. But I think I'll be able to get a good harvest from them next spring, most of the plants developed 6 stalks or more this year.

One other bit of garden eating I got to do was when I made the garlic toast, I garnished them with chopped sage and rosemary from my garden—and some store-bought parsley. Next year I'm definitely going to grow some parsley! Parsley, sage, rosemary and garlic—mmmmmmm! 

As far as the hay mulch is concerned, as a weed supressant and a moisture retainer it worked really great. The places that got too dry were places where I didn't have enough hay down. I did end up having to water 2-3 times a week when it got hot. Next year I'll try to do a better job of getting both the hay and the water distributed evenly. I also need to either get a different kind of sprinkler or use a soaker, or plant my plants better. The broccoli got so tall it ended up blocking the water to the rhubarb. The zucchini didn't have enough hay around it, but by the time I discovered that, the potatoes were overtaking both squash plants and it was really hard to get to anything.

I had one other success, that I haven't done anything with this year except enjoy looking at them—the cardoons:
I love the little artichoke buds! I keep thinking I'll cut some off and try cooking them—there are certainly enough to make a meal for me, even though they're small. Next year. They're beautiful plants, I love their leaves and their big size. Like the other stuff, I didn't put them in the most convenient spot, but they have done well in the crappy soil zone. I'll cover them with hay when they die back, and hope they'll make it through the winter. I definitely recommend them just for their looks! I have noticed their leaves seem extremely fragile—they make cracking noises every time I bump into one hard. Not for traffic lanes.

One more treat that's coming, if the deer don't jump in and eat them before they're ripe next month:

Liberty apple
I have three little apples about 2" across, on my Liberty apple. They've been slowly growing all summer and should be ready to harvest in a few weeks. I'm really not sure how to tell when they're ready if they don't fall off or pull off easily. They've been somewhat red since they were an inch across, so I don't think the color is going to help.

And one more treat that's technically outside the Ruth Stout garden, although I do mulch it with bark:

Canadice grapelets
My Canadice grape newly planted this spring surprised me with four bunches of grapes a few months ago. I broke off two of them and the two I left have been slowly growing. They're quite tiny—the big ones are pea-sized, not as big as this photo makes them look—but maybe they'll ripen. Don't know. Hope they do. They're red seedless. I don't even want to think about how sour they are right now.

So all in all, it's been a really interesting year, and a really interesting garden. I love Ruth Stout! I love hay mulch! I love my garden!