Planning the 2021 Garden

Around this time of year, I usually start to get serious about garden planning. I like to begin ordering seeds about now, and before I can do that I need to do a seed inventory as well as get some ideas about what I want to grow in the coming year. I’ve been working on my 2021 plan for some time now, and I believe it’s about finalized. There are always last-minute changes to my list of course, and sometimes things change even at planting time if I run out of room or lose seedlings.

2021 seed catalogs

Last year I made a conscious decision to scale back the garden by 30-40%. I was literally gardening more and enjoying it less, and I am happy to say I was pleased with the 2020 plan and how things turned out. I spent a lot of time working in the garden, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than I had in previous years. Even with less planted, we still brought in over 700 pounds of fruit and vegetables, which kept us well fed with fresh food and filled the freezer and pantry with preserved foods. I also feel like I did a better job keeping up with things like weeding and mulching. So this year’s garden will be about the same size as it was last year, with the idle beds devoted to cover crops.

early July harvest

My desire to cut back is always tempered by my love to experiment with growing new things, so my growing list is always long. It’s hard for me to cut back on things like tomatoes and peppers where the list of varieties I want to grow exceeds my garden capacity and my energy! But I cut back last year anyway, and most varieties I am growing in 2021 are the tried-and-true ones, plus of course a few new ones to trial.

2020 parsley seedlings

I usually begin starting seeds here in February, beginning with petunias and herbs like parsley. I’m a big fan of the Wave petunias, and this year I plan to grow several of my favorites including Easy Wave Burgundy Velour,  Tidal Wave Red Velour and Misty Lilac Wave. Later in the month I’ll start lettuce and brassicas, and a few early plants of eggplant and peppers. I’ve had good luck the last few years growing Fairy Tale and Patio Baby eggplant in containers, and this year I want to add the white fruited Gretel to the mix. It has done well for me in containers in the past. In the main garden I want to try Annina and Asian Delight eggplants, along with old favorites like Dancer, Galine and Nadia.

Easy Wave Red Velour petunia

While my list of tomatoes might be a bit less than previous years, I’m still growing quite a few including old standbys like Better Boy plus newer favorites like AAS Winners Chef’s Choice Orange and Galahad. For small fruited tomatoes, I plan on growing the hybrids Sun Sugar, Jasper, Sunpeach and Cherry Bomb along with the open-pollinated Amy’s Apricot. One new one I want to try is Citrine, bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It is crack-resistent and has bright orange fruits. I am also trialing several named and unnamed tomatoes from Artisan Seeds.

small-fruited tomatoes

I grow quite a few plants of paste tomatoes every year, and the indeterminate Granadero is a new favorite that was loaded with fruit here in 2019 and 2020. Juliet is a 1999 AAS Winner that is one of my all-time favorite tomatoes. The vines are always loaded with the plum shaped fruits, and we use them fresh as well as for drying, roasting and making into sauce. One new one I want to try this year is Verona, which Johnny’s says is “similar to Juliet, but with even tastier, somewhat plumper, deep-red ‘cocktail plum’ fruits”. With a description like that, I plan to grow it side by side with Juliet in the garden and see how they compare.

Juliet tomatoes

Summer and winter squashes are always a big crop for us here, and this year I plan on growing some of my favorite yellow varieties like Tempest and Zephyr plus zucchinis like Astia and new favorite Green Machine. One new one I want to try is called Mexicana, which is a grey zucchini much like we saw everywhere in the markets when my wife and I visited Mexico early last year. I’m growing another grey zucchini called Hurakan this year too. And the prolific and vigorously vining Tatume will be back too.

Tempest squash

Lately I have grown fond of collard greens, and I found several heirloom varieties I want to try here in 2021 including Nancy Malone Wheat Purple, Whaley’s Favorite Cabbage and Variegated. From the Seedsavers Exchange I got North Carolina Yellow and Georgia Blue Stem.  Many of the ones I grew in 2019 and 2020 will be back too, including White Mountain Cabbage, Hen Peck, Yellow Cabbage and Jernigan’s Yellow Cabbage. The collards I planted late last summer are still keeping us supplied, and they have become a fall and winter staple green for us.

White Mountain Cabbage collards

I’m mostly sticking with my old favorite sweet pepper varieties like Jimmy Nardello, Cornito Giallo, Cornito Rosso, Sweetie Pie and Carmen. I do want to try Johnny’s new hybrid Corno di Toro pepper called Cornito Arancia. And I am trialing one new hybrid Fresno type hot pepper called Hernandez. I plan to grow AAS Winners Flaming Flare, Red Ember and Chili Pie again too.

Sweetie Pie and Carmen peppers

I love to experiment with growing new things, so my growing list is always long. And there are always last-minute changes to my list too. Varieties I am growing for the first time are marked with an *.

Asian Greens: Central Red mizuna, Miz America mizuna, Mizspoona Salad Select, Mei Qing Pak Choi, Violetta pac choi

Basil: Amethyst, Aurelia, Corsican, Profuma di Genova, Salad Leaf, Siam Queen, Siricusa, Sweet Thai, Thai Lemon

Beans (bush): Orient, Speedy*

Beans (pole): Barnes Mountain, Bertie Best’s Greasy Bean, Gizzard*, Lazy Wife Greasy, North Carolina Long Greasy, Pink Tip, Robe Mountain, NT Half Runner, Turkey Craw

Broccoli: Apollo, Artwork, Burgundy,  Happy Rich, Santee, Rudolph

Cabbage: Farao, Green Presto, Minuet (napa), Primo Vantage, Soloist (napa), Tendersweet

Collards:  Georgia Blue Stem*, Hen Peck, Jernigan Yellow Cabbage Collards, McCormack’s Green Glaze, Nancy Malone Wheat Purple*,  North Caroline Yellow*, Yellow Cabbage Collards, Variegated*, Whaley’s Favorite Cabbage*, White Mountain Cabbage Collards

Cucumber: 7082, Corinto, Excelsior, H-19 Little Leaf*, Itachi, Iznik*, Mini Munch, Nokya, Unagi*

Eggplant: Annina*, Asian Delight*, Bride, Dancer, Fairy Tale, Farmer’s Long, Galine, Gretel, Orient Charm, Machiaw, Purple Shine, Nadia, Patio Baby

Greens: Apollo arugula, Darkita arugula*, Esmee arugula, Speedy arugula

Kale: Darkibor, Dazzling Blue, Groninger Blue Collard Kale, Purple Russian, Red Ursa, Starbor, True Siberian, Tronchuda Beira, Western Front, White Russian, Wild Garden Mix

Kohlrabi: Beas, Kolibri, Konan,  Kossak, Terek

Lettuce:  Baja, Bergam’s Green, Cavendish, Hampton*, Jade Gem, Jester, Mayan Jaguar, Mirlo, Nancy, Oscarde, Panisse, Pele, Red Sails, Salanova, Sea of Red, Simpson Elite, Slobolt, Spritzer, Tango, Tendita*

Parsley: Cilician, Giant From Italy, Hungarian Landrace, Splendid

Pepper(hot): Aji Angelo, Aji Delight, Aji Golden, Aji Rico, Amazing 2*,Biggie Chili, Cayenneta, Chili Pie, Early Flame, Emerald Fire, Flaming Flare, Guajillo, Hernandez*, Honeypeno, Hot Happy Yummy, Kaleidoscope, Kimchi, Lady Choi, Malawi Piquante, Minero,  Red Ember, Senorita Jalapeno, Sugar Rush Peach, Tangerine Dream

Pepper (sweet): Carmen, Cornito Arancia*, Cornito Giallo, Cornito Rosso, Dulce Rojo, Escamillo, Glow, Hungarian Magyar, Jimmy Nardello’s, Orange Blaze, Sweetie Pie, Sweet Happy Yummy

Radish: Alpine, Bora King, Red King 2*, Sweet Baby

Squash(summer): Astia, Dunja, Green Machine, Hurakan*, Meot Jaeng, Mexicana*, Safari, Tatume, Tempest, Teot Bat Put, Zephyr

Squash(winter): Centercut, Thelma Sanders, Tromba d’Albenga, Turkeyneck

Sweet Potatoes: Beauregard, Bonita, Korean Purple, Murasaki, Purple

Tomatoes: Amy’s Apricot, Better Boy, Chef’s Choice Orange, Chef’s Choice Pink, Chef’s Choice Red, Chef’s Choice Yellow, Cherry Bomb, Citrine*, Damsel, Galahad, Garden Gem, Garden Treasure, Golden Rave, Granadero, Health Kick, Jasper, Juliet, Monticello, Mountain Magic, Mountain Rouge,  Red Racer, Sunpeach, Sun Sugar, “W” Hybrid

Turnips: All-Top, Hakurei, Mikado, Topper

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Stars of the Garden in 2020 Part 2

I’m back again with the second part of my annual garden review. In my last post I talked about the above average amount of rainfall we received this year. In 2020 so far we have received 54 inches of rain, with more forecast for the coming days. Greens always seem to do well for me when there is ample moisture, and that was certainly true in 2020. It has been a great year for collard greens, and the seedlings I set out in late July have matured into large plants. Heirlooms like White Mountain Cabbage and Jernigan’s Yellow Cabbage made large tender leaves, while the leaves of Alabama Blue and Ole Timey Blue are colored with purplish-blue stems and veins. The collards have kept us well supplied with greens this fall, and as of late December the plants are hanging on despite a few cold nights here.

White Mountain Cabbage Collards

Jerniigan’s Yellow Cabbage collard leaf

Alabama Blue collards

Ole Timey Blue collards

Kale is another of our favorite greens, and I grow it both outside and in the winter greenhouse. I grow a number of different varieties, from hybrid types like Winterbor and Prizm to open-pollinated ones like Groninger Blue Collard Kale, White Russian and Tuscan Baby Leaf.

Groninger Blue Collard Kale

Tuscan Baby Leaf and Mars Landing kale

It wasn’t the greatest year for peppers here, though the hot ones performed better than the sweet ones. I dry hot peppers for chile powder and gochugaru powder for kimchi, and ferment them for turning into hot sauce. I tend to grow hot peppers with mild heat levels, and Red Ember, Senorita and Biggie Chile are some of my favorites for fresh use and for hot sauces. Amazing 2 is a well-named hybrid Korean pepper that makes a mild and colorful gochugaru powder for kimchi. Cornito Rosso and Corito Giallo are two of my favorite hybrid sweet peppers, while the heirloom Jimmy Nardello is always one of the earliest sweet peppers to ripen for me.

Kimchi and Amazing 2 peppers

sweet peppers

I also grow quite a few of the baccatum peppers like Aji Angelo, Aji Golden and Malawi Piquante. Aji Rico is a 2017 AAS Winner that is one of the earliest of the baccatums to ripen in our garden. Aji Delight is one of my new favorites, and this one has no heat at all but retains the fruity flavor of most other Aji peppers.

Aji Delight peppers

Aji Rico peppers

Once again, it wasn’t a great year for tomatoes here, though the small-fruited ones did quite well. The first slicing tomatoes of 2020 came from my old standby Better Boy, while the second slicing tomato to ripen was the 2020 AAS Winner Galahad. I plan on growing both again in 2021.

Better Boy tomatoes

Galahad tomato

Better Boy(L) and Galahad(R) tomatoes

I had good results from the smaller tomatoes like Sun Sugar, Jasper, Amy’s Apricot, Midnight Snack and Sunpeach. We use these fresh, plus I dry and roast them for use year-round.

small-fruited tomatoes

The paste tomatoes also did reasonably well, and I got enough of them to make several batches of sauce for the freezer as well as a batch of ketchup to can. Juliet is one of my favorite tomatoes, and Granadero is another vining type paste tomato that did well in 2020.

Juliet tomatoes

paste tomatoes for sauce

For the last few years, I have had good luck growing purple sprouting broccoli in the winter greenhouse. Last year I also had good luck with growing the Burgundy variety in the open garden. I grew it for both a spring and fall crop, and it did quite well both times. Burgundy doesn’t need the long growing season that most of the traditional purple sprouting broccoli varieties require, and mine was ready about 50 days after setting out transplants in spring. It made a generous amount of side shoots after the main head was cut.

Burgundy broccoli

spear of Burgundy broccoli

I’ll close this recap with one of my favorite fruits. Our blueberry bushes gave us 19 pounds of berries in 2020. My wife is in charge of those harvests, and she likes to say she knew every berry personally! We eat them while they’re fresh, and freeze the rest for use throughout the year. Like many other fruits and vegetables, the homegrown blueberries seem have a lot more flavor than ones we buy. They are rarely bothered by pests here, though birds always manage to steal a few.

blueberries

I hope you have enjoyed this review of some of the veggies and fruit we grew here in 2020. I’ll be back soon with more adventures from HA, including my plans for the garden in 2021.

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Stars of the Garden in 2020 Part 1

Once again it’s time for my annual review of what did well in the garden, and what didn’t. Local weather certainly has a big influence on home gardens, and Happy Acres is no exception. The amount of rainfall, temperatures, and even the wind can have a big impact.  For instance, in 2018 we got a whopping 64 inches of rain, which was a record amount. I had a lot of issues with rotting of plants that year. In 2020 so far we have 54 inches, which is at least 25% more than normal but a lot less than 2018. This year the rain seemed to help most of the veggies, especially the cucurbits. So I am calling 2020 the Year of the Squash here, as we hauled in over 300 pounds of summer and winter types combined.

squash harvest

I tried several new varieties this year, and all did really well. I grew a couple of vining C. moschata Korean squashes that were really productive and very useful in the kitchen. One is commonly called an Avocado squash due to the shape, and I grew a hybrid variety from Kitazawa Seed called Teot Bat Put. I trained it to a trellis and the vines were quite vigorous and healthy for me.

Teot Bat Put squash

The other Korean squash I grew is shaped much like a zucchini and used much the same in the kitchen. It has a mild flavor, and the flesh is drier than regular zucchini which makes it very good for roasting and stir fries. I grew a hybrid from Kitazawa Seed called Meot Jaeng I Ae. I plan on growing both these Korean squashes again in 2021.

Meot Jaeng I Ae squash

Centercut squash is a vining C. moschata type from Row 7 Seed Company that is edible at both the green and mature stages. I’ve been growing it for several years now, and it never fails to produce loads of fruit for me. The green squash have a firm texture and a sweet nutty taste, while the mature squash are tasty in both sweet and savory dishes. I bake and puree the mature fruits, and we use them in our fruit smoothies along with other ingredients. The mature squash are good keepers for me and last for several months after curing.

Centercut squash

Centercut squash

I set out eight bush summer squash plants, and all did well with the exception of Magda. I’ve grown this light skinned Mid-East type zucchini before with good success, but it didn’t do well in 2020. Thankfully the other bush plants grew and produced pounds of fruit. I freeze quite a bit of the summer squash for later use. This year I grew Green Machine, Dunja and Safari zucchinis, and the yellow varieties Tempest and Zephyr. I also grew Astia zucchini in grow bags, and it did quite well that way. I plan on growing all of those in 2021 with the exception of Magda.

Tempest squash

Dunja and Safari zucchinis

Astia zucchini

I grow all our cucumbers in the summer greenhouse, and as such I choose parthenocarpic varieties that don’t need pollination. I harvested just under 20 pounds in 2020, which was more than enough to supply us with cukes for fresh eating and a few to pickle and ferment. I grew Mini Munch for the first time and it was a big hit for fresh eating. I’ve grown Corinto, Nokya and Itachi before and they did well this year also. 7082 is an experimental variety from Row 7 Seed Company that I think has an outstanding flavor, and it was a standout performer for me this year.

Mini Munch cucumbers

7082 cucumbers

Itachi and Corinto cucumbers

It was a great year for green beans here too. I’ve been growing the Appalachian heirloom pole beans for several years now, and they produce for me for several months to give us an extended harvest. Lazy Wife Greasy, Turkey Craw, Robe Mountain and Non-Tough Half Runner are a few of my favorites. I grew a few of the bush types as well for an early harvest, and we use these often for roasting. I trialed Orient bush bean last year for the first time and it did well. I harvested 46 pounds of green beans in 2020, which was enough to keep us well supplied for fresh use and to fill the freezer for eating later.

harvest of pole beans

Orient bush green beans

It was a great year for kohlrabi in the garden, and I got over 30 pounds of it from both a spring and fall planting. Beas, Terek, Kolibri, Konan and the giant Kossak are all favorites of mine. We use these fresh, cooked and fermented into kraut, kimchi and kohlrabi ‘pickles’.

kohlrabi harvest

Kossak kohlrabi

It was pretty well an epic year for eggplant. I didn’t set out any more plants than usual, but they seemed to be way more productive. I got over 33 pounds of them in all, compared to 15 pounds in 2019 and 20 pounds in 2018. I grew the small fruited Patio Baby and Fairy Tale in containers, and these two AAS Winners always keep us well supplied. I had good luck with the long Asian types too, and Bride, Orient Express and Purple Shine all did well. The larger fruited types like Nadia, Galine and Dancer are longtime favorites of mine.

Fairy Tale and Patio Baby eggplant

Asian eggplants

Dancer and Nadia eggplant

I decided to break up the report this year since I had a lot of veggies I wanted to mention. So I’ll be back soon with Part 2 of the 2020 garden recap!

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Fermenting The Fall Harvest

I have been busy the last few days fermenting some of the fall veggies I have harvested recently. Fermenting is one of my favorite ways to preserve the harvest as well as to add flavor, and fermented veggies in particular are loaded with probiotic bacteria that are beneficial for human health. I have many different recipes I use for fermenting, and I also love to experiment with new ones. This time of year I am usually using members of the cabbage family to ferment, and in this case I used cabbage, kohlrabi and daikon radishes.

chopping cabbage for curtido

First off, I had a head of cabbage from the garden that weighed just under two pounds, and I used it to make a batch of Fermented Curtido, also known as Salvadoran Cabbage Slaw. In addition to the cabbage it has carrot, onion, garlic and hot peppers in it, though I have made it with sweet peppers as well. I add a bit of oregano to it also, either fresh or dried. I do most of my fermenting in wide mouth glass jars, though crocks are also a popular alternative. This was enough to fill a quart jar.

jar of Fermented Curtido

Next, I made a jar of kohlrabi kraut using a couple of the big Kossak kohlrabis from the garden. This is a simple recipe with two ingredients: kohlrabi and salt. I generally use 2% to 3% salt by weight for this kraut, and I peel the kohlrabi and grate using a grater with medium to large holes. I usually use an antique grater that belonged to my mother and is likely as old as I am.

grating kohlrabi for kraut

grating kohlrabi for kraut

Once grated, I mix with salt and let sit for a few hours before packing into a jar. I had just under two pounds of kohlrabi after peeling, and it was the perfect amount to fill a quart jar and leave about an inch of headroom. I do sometimes add a few cloves of raw or roasted garlic to the kohlrabi, but for this batch I didn’t.

salting the shredded kohlrabi

salting the shredded kohlrabi

Last but not least, I used some of the purple daikon radish from the garden to make a couple of pint jars of kkakdugi kimchi. This fall I grew Sweet Baby and Bora King radishes, and both do well in my garden and when fermented. For this recipe, I peel the radishes and cut into cubes about 1/2 to 1 inch or so in size. Then I soak the cubes in a 5% brine solution for 6 to 8 hours.

radishes for kimchi

Next I make a seasoning paste from onion, garlic, ginger and gochugaru flakes, using a bit of the brine to add moisture and get the right consistency. My full recipe for the seasoning paste is here: Homemade Kimchi Two Ways. After soaking in the salt brine, I drain the radishes and mix with the seasoning paste before packing into jars. This batch of radishes was enough to make two pint jars of kimchi.

radish kimchi in jar

The radishes retain much of their purple color after fermenting, and mine generally stay crunchy too. I found a jar from a year ago that has held its color and was still crunchy and flavorful. It made for a tasty side dish for lunch the other day.

radish kimchi from fall 2019

I will let all these ferments sit for two to three weeks before refrigerating. Most experts say the best temperature for fermenting sauerkraut is 65°F to 75°F. Our kitchen generally runs around 74°F this time of year so I let the jars sit on the kitchen counter. Once refrigerated, the kraut and kimchi will keep for several months. In the case of the radish kimchi, it is still quite edible after one year of refrigeration.

For more information on lacto-fermentating vegetables, I can recommend a couple of books I use for reference on the subject. One is Ferment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer. The other book is Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten K. and Christopher Shockey. Both address the basics of fermenting vegetables at home, and also have a lot of useful recipes, many of which I have tried. Both will help to make sure your fermentation projects are successful, as well as to give you ideas.

I hope you have enjoyed this update about some of the foods I have been fermenting lately. I’ll be back soon with more from Happy Acres!

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Harvest Monday November 30, 2020

It’s time for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. It is still salad season here, and with mild weather so far the greenhouse lettuce is plentiful. I think the winter lettuce is often the best of all, with tender and mild flavored leaves. I made several cuttings of lettuce last week, plus other salad greens like sorrel, mizuna and baby kale. The Central Red mizuna has purple stems and a mild flavor I really like both raw and cooked. I’ve got it growing in a container in the greenhouse and in one of the cold frame beds outside.

lettuce for salads

greens for salads

I didn’t plant much broccoli out in the main vegetable garden this fall, though I did set out a few plants. I got a few side shoots of the green Artwork and two main heads of the purple sprouting broccoli Burgundy. I roasted all of this for a side dish one day. I have 10 PSB plants in the greenhouse which should give us broccoli in the January to March time frame when harvests are few.

Artwork and Burgundy broccoli

I also didn’t plant much kohlrabi this fall. It has been a great year for kohlrabi here though, and these two big Kossak kohlrabis weighed a bit over a pound each. That makes 38 pounds of kohlrabi for 2020, and obviously we love it here which is why I plant so much of it. These two will get grated and turned into kohlrabi kraut, and should make a quart jar of it. I still have a couple of the smaller kohlrabis in the refrigerator for fresh use.

Kossak kohlrabi

Collards are still going strong. I took two leaves of the Yellow Cabbage and used them as wrappers for bean enchiladas. First I blanched the leaves in boiling water for about 5 minutes, then cooled and dried them. Next I filled the leaves with refried beans and a bit of cheese, and rolled them up around the filling. Then I topped with some homemade and homegrown tomato sauce and baked for 30 minutes or so. I added a bit of grated local cheddar cheese on top, and it made for a tasty lunch one day last week. I think a bean and rice filling would also be tasty with this treatment.

Yellow Cabbage collard leaves

collard and bean enchiladas

I made a bigger cutting of Hen Peck collards I cooked up for a side dish, and we ate on those for a couple of nights. I only set out two plants of Hen Peck, and there was a big difference in the leaves of the two. The one on the right is a bit more “frilly” and not quite as large, though both have the characteristic notches on the leaf margins which led to the name.

Hen Peck collards

At Happy Acres though, collards are not just for eating! My wife selected a few leaves to use in her art studio for leaf printing. These are best used fresh for this purpose, and once printed they may wind up in any number of art projects in the future.

collard leaf printing

removing collard leaf

I think one of the finished pieces is really stunning, and pretty amazing that something like a humble collard leaf could be used to make art!

collard leaf art

She also put her artistic talents to use in baking up a pumpkin pie last week for Thanksgiving. I baked one of the mature Centercut neck pumpkins and made into pumpkin puree, and she used that for the pie. I have quite a few of the Centercut and Turkeyneck pumpkins in storage, and with any luck they should last us throughout most of the winter. We use a lot of them in fruit smoothies, and I also use some for baking into breads and rolls in addition to the occasional pie.

pumpkin pie

Once again I’ve decided it makes sense to take a break from the Harvest Monday posts until February. Harvests are few and far between for many, and I always enjoy taking a bit of downtime from gardening this time of year, as do many other gardeners. I’ll be back with Harvest Monday on February 1st. I will post about other garden news as it happens though, and you can always follow my Facebook page for harvests and other garden news.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


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