Stars of the Garden in 2018

Once again it’s time for my annual review of what did well in the garden, and what didn’t. In 2017 we had a bumper crop of sweet potatoes and I called it the Year of the Sweet Potato. This time I am calling 2018 the Year of Too Much Rain. We got a whopping 64 inches in total, and it was one of the wettest years I can ever remember. To put it in perspective, the normal for our area is around 40 inches annually. We had right at 10 inches of rain in June, which drowned a lot of the summer seedlings and over 8 inches in September which impacted the fall veggies. The sweet potatoes did do well again this year, and I managed to get them dug in between showers and before freezing rain came. Ginseng and Murasaki were two new varieties I tried that did quite well, and they will be back again this year.

Ginseng sweet potato

Ginseng sweet potato

Many of the bush squash plants suffered from stem rot due to wet conditions. The lone plant of Tempest held up well despite all the rain, and my wife and I both declared it is the best tasting yellow squash we have ever eaten. This squash from Johnny’s Selected Seeds was specifically bred to have better flavor, and has a higher percentage of starches and dry matter than most summer squashes. In the below photo you can see it with another of my favorite great-tasting squashes, the heirloom White Scallop.

Tempest and White Scallop squash

Tempest and White Scallop squash

I had good luck with many of the vining squash last year, at least the ones that were trellised and up off the ground. The hybrid Turkeyneck was an outstanding performer, and alone gave us over 140 pounds of the 206 pounds of winter squash we harvested in 2018. It has a great flavor too, and we’ve been enjoying it in both sweet and savory dishes. The seeds for this one came from NE Seeds.

Turkeyneck squash

Turkeyneck squash

The beans did well too last year, both the pole varieties and the bush ones. The pole beans really seemed to thrive with all the rain, and all told we harvested 50 pounds of them. That was enough to keep us well supplied for fresh eating and for freezing. The Appalachian heirloom beans are my new favorites, and Robe Mountain is an early bearing flat-podded “greasy” bean with great flavor.

Robe Mountain beans

Robe Mountain beans

I also had good luck once again with a fall planting of bush beans. Derby and Jade 2 both did well then and I plan to grow them again. I’ve been growing Derby for many years now, and this 1990 AAS Winner never fails to produce lots of tender pots for me regardless of the weather.

Derby beans

Derby beans

Many of the fall crops struggled though with a double whammy of rain and warmer than usual weather. We really didn’t have much of an autumn, with temps staying hot throughout October then suddenly turning winter-like in November. The regular cabbage was mostly a bust, but the sometimes finicky Napa cabbages actually did better. Go figure! It was a good thing too because they gave me enough to make lots of kimchi.

Soloist and Minuet cabbage

Soloist and Minuet cabbage

The kohlrabi also did well last year. We got 44 pounds of it from a spring and a fall planting, which was nowhere near 2017’s epic 82 pounds but still a lot of kohlrabi. Kossak remains my favorite large kohlrabi for fermenting, and they usually get over a pound each for me here without getting tough or woody inside.

Kossak kohlrabi

Kossak kohlrabi

It was a decent year for tomatoes here. Not the most productive year ever, but we did get 142 pounds of them. The paste tomatoes and cherry types did the best, while many of the slicing types struggled. I used the paste types to make an assortment of sauces, plus a couple of batches of homemade ketchup.

assortment of paste tomatoes

assortment of paste tomatoes

Many of the slicing tomatoes had issues with fruit rot and poor fruit set, but the Chef’s Choice series did well for me. Chef’s Choice Orange is my favorite orange tomato, and once again it did not disappoint. It was the star on many a sandwich, as well as those we sliced up and ate on the side.

Chef's Choice Orange tomatoes

Chef’s Choice Orange tomatoes

It was a decent year for peppers and eggplant too. I managed to bring in 66 pounds of peppers and 20 pounds of eggplant, which kept us well supplied with many for fresh eating as well as peppers for preserving. I love the guajillo peppers for drying and turning into chile powder, and Minero is a hybrid guajillo that is hard to beat.

Minero peppers

Minero peppers

Aji Angelo is one of my favorite and most used hot peppers, and it did well again last year. I used them mostly for making fermented hot sauces, where the fruity flavor and mild heat really shine.

Aji Angelo peppers

Aji Angelo peppers

The large fruited eggplant did well as did the smaller Fairy Tale and Patio Baby. I grew the white skinned Clara for the first time in 2018 and it was a real winner with mild tasting flesh and few seeds. Dancer is one that always does well for me too, and it has a mild white flesh much like Clara but with a pinkish purple skin.

Dancer and Clara eggplan

Dancer and Clara eggplan

Asparagus is one perennial crop that never seems to fail for us here. Last year we got 24 pounds of it, which was the same amount we got in 2017. Our beds are now 10 years old, and they have paid for themselves many times over. We harvest for about 8 weeks, eat asparagus at every opportunity, then we won’t eat it again until the following spring.

last asparagus of 2018

last asparagus of 2018

I hope you have enjoyed this review of some of the veggies and herbs we grew here in 2018. I’ll be back soon with more adventures from HA.

Posted in Gardening | 5 Comments

2019 All-America Selections Winners

The lineup of 2019 AAS Winners was announced a while back, and in the edibles category it includes three national winners and four regional winners. For those who might not be familiar with it, All-America Selections (AAS) is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties of flowers and edibles in trial grounds all over the U.S. and Canada. I grow quite a few AAS Winners in my garden every year, and I always look forward to trying the new winners here at Happy Acres. There are four tomatoes, two melons and one pepper that got the nod from the AAS judges for 2019.

I’m a big fan of the Chef’s Choice series of hybrid tomatoes, and the newest entry is the sixth in the line. Chef’s Choice Black is a 2019 AAS Regional Winner, and has dark red-purple beefsteak tomatoes that average 8 to 10 ounces and mature in about 75 days. The vines are indeterminate and should be staked or caged. I love black/purple tomatoes, so I am really looking forward to trying this one.

Tomato Chef's Choice Black

Tomato Chef’s Choice Black

The Fire Fly tomato is a National Winner in the Edibles category. The sweet pale white/yellow fruits are larger than a currant tomato but smaller than a cherry tomato and grow on indeterminate vines. In trials it compared favorably with Coyote and Snow White, both of which I’ve grown here.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it does here for me, and how it compares to my favorite white tomato Champagne Cherry.

Tomato Fire Fly

Tomato Fire Fly

The third tomato is Red Torch, and it’s also a National Winner. Red Torch has fruits that are oblong and red with yellow stripes. They weigh about 1.5 ounces each, and are borne on indeterminate vines that can produce up to 500 fruits in a season. Judges were pleased with both the earliness and yield of this variety as well as the visual appearance. One judge noted this observation “Very good entry with high yields, great appearance, and great taste. Good disease resistance to the common leaf spots.”

Tomato Red Torch

Tomato Red Torch

The fourth tomato is a striped cherry tomato called Sparky XSL, and it’s a Regional Winner in the Heartland region. It is one of the few X-tended Shelf Life tomatoes available to home gardeners. The round, sweet fruits weigh about an ounce each and are one inch in diameter, and should start ripening around 60-70 days after transplanting. The vines are indeterminate and will require support from staking or cages.

Tomato Sparky XSL

Tomato Sparky XSL

The third National Winner is a yellow mini bell pepper called Just Sweet. It produces thick-walled, four-lobed peppers that are three inches long, and have a sweet flavor that was a favorite with judges and testers. The vigorous plants get up to three feet tall, but don’t require staking because they were bred to have a strong, bushy habit. It compared favorably to Cornito Giallo and Yummy in trials.

Pepper Just Sweet

Pepper Just Sweet

Orange SilverWave melon is a 2019 Regional Winner that produces smooth-skinned 5 inch fruit with sweet orange flesh. The melons are produced on vigorous vines that spread 6 to 7 feet long. Mature fruit can be harvested 75 days after sowing seed, or in 45 days if setting out transplants.

Melon Orange SilverWave

Melon Orange SilverWave

Cal Sweet Bush watermelon is another 2019 Regional Winner. It produces large 10-12 pounds melons on short, compact vines with good foliage cover for the fruits. If grown in the ground, it produces 2 or 3 fruits while container grown plants will produce at least 1 fruit per plant.

Watermelon Bush Cal Sweet

Watermelon Bush Cal Sweet

One non-edible Winner I want to mention is the Carmine Velour Wave petunia. It’s a National Winner with large 2 to 2.5 inch carmine rose colored flowers. This newest color of the Wave petunia series did very well in the 2018 trials, with judges noting “Unique red/purple color bloomed all summer long” and “Great landscape performance during a hot, humid summer.” I grew Tidal Wave Red Velour last year, which was a 2015 AAS Winner. It was covered in blooms all summer long, and I am looking forward to trying this new addition to the series.

Petunia Wave Carmine Velour

Petunia Wave Carmine Velour

I hope you have enjoyed this review of the 2019 AAS vegetables winners. For a full list of both present and past winners, visit All-America Selections Winners. Their website also has information on where to Buy AAS Winners.

For more information about AAS Winners check out:

  1. Growing the 2016 AAS Winners
  2. The 2017 AAS Winners
  3. The 2018 All-America Selections Winners
  4. My Favorite AAS Veggies

All photos are courtesy of All-America Selections.

 

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Harvest Monday December 31, 2018

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. I got a few harvests here last week. My wife celebrated her birthday on Saturday, and requested a salad for lunch.  So I cut some frilly Ezrilla and a bit of smooth butter lettuce from the greenhouse just for the occasion. I dressed it up with a dark cherry balsamic and walnut oil vinaigrette and a few dried cherries. This is one of her favorite of our salad creations, and I was happy to oblige.

lettuce from the greenhouse

lettuce from the greenhouse

And I cut a few leaves of curly Darkibor kale to go in a soup she made last night. I love to use kale in soup since it holds up well.

Darkibor kale

Darkibor kale

In one more tiny harvest, I chopped a bit of I’itoi onion and flat leaf parsley from the greenhouse to top a dish I made with Christmas Lima beans, marinated artichokes and roasted carrots. Dressed with a little olive oil and a few springs of oregano I have growing in a pot, it made a filling meal. This sounded like a somewhat unlikely combination when I read it on the Rancho Gordo blog, but I have learned to keep an open mind. I added the roasted carrots to make it a bit more substantial, and my wife and I both declared it a winner.

Christmas Lima bean and artichoke bowl

Christmas Lima bean and artichoke bowl

And let me announce a temporary change for Harvest Monday. Michelle (From Seed To Table) has again graciously agreed to take over hosting Harvest Monday next month (January, 2019) to give me a little break. So to linkup next week, please visit From Seed To Table instead of coming here to find Mr Linky. I’ll be back as host on February 4, 2019.

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!


Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Photo Friday: 2018 By the Month

Lacking any real activity in the garden this time of year, I thought I would share some photos today to show some of my 2018 activities. January saw us undertaking a big kitchen renovation. We had been planning this for years, and the main goals were to replace the flooring and countertops plus increase our storage space. The kitchen was torn up for a couple of months, and we did much of our January cooking out in the garage where we setup our microwave and Instant Pot.

a work in progress

a work in progress

In February I was doing what I usually do that time of year, starting seeds for the garden. I start most of my plant indoors, using light stands I have setup in the basement.

arugula seedlings

arugula seedlings

In March we finished the kitchen remodeling, and the results were well worth the disruption. We love the new flooring and quartz counters, and we now have more storage space for the most-used kitchen gadgets and appliances. The floor is easy on the feet, and the counters are a big improvement over the old laminate we replaced.

finished kitchen

finished kitchen

Every April my wife and I eagerly await the first spears of asparagus to emerge from their beds. This year they showed up on April 14th, and we harvested 24 pounds of them in the following 8 weeks. We love homegrown asparagus, and we generally enjoy our fill of it for two months then don’t eat it again until the following year. We shared the first two spears.

first asparagus of 2018

first asparagus of 2018

My wife and I both stopped running several years ago, but in 2018 we walked and ran several races together. In May we did a local race which finishes on the Ohio River. We managed to run it in to the finish while smiling and upright, which is always a good thing!

sprinting for the finish

sprinting for the finish

June was a sad month indeed here at Happy Acres. We lost our beloved 6YO kitty Ace suddenly and without warning. He likely died from a heart condition, and left our hearts heavy with sadness. My wife and I have had a lot of animals in our life, and Ace was a special friend. He was quirky, full of life and very full of himself. We buried him just outside the garden, and I planted catnip on the site to mark the spot and to share with our other kitties.

young Ace on my lap

young Ace on my lap

In July the garden was in full swing, and the summer veggies were rolling in. It was a decent year for cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes, and a really good year for peppers of all sizes and kinds.

harvest of summer veggies

A couple of months after we lost Ace, I was watching the noon local news which has a Pet of the Day segment.  That was when I met Ally, who made an appearance using her stage name Leslie. She was cool as a cucumber in the TV studio, and after a brief discussion my wife and I headed across the river to the Henderson County Humane Society to meet her. She was a real sweetie in person, and we brought her home with us to Happy Acres that very day. She’s had a hard life already, and came with a host of health issues, but she is doing much better now. She is sitting on my lap as I am typing this, and she is a friendly kitty who seems to crave company. She has certainly come to the right place for that!

Ally visits the vet

Ally visits the vet

Another veggie that did well in 2018 was the beans. I planted bush beans in spring and fall, and pole beans came on in early summer and produced right up until the first frost. I harvested 50 pounds of them, and we had plenty to eat fresh and to freeze for later use. We are especially fond of the Appalachian heirloom beans, and they loved our September weather. I learned to take a couple of gallon buckets to the garden with me when it was time to pick them. And I love pole beans because you harvest them while standing up.

Bertie Best Greasy Beans and NT Half Runner beans

Bertie Best Greasy Beans and NT Half Runner beans

October started off hot, with a high temp of 91°F on the 5th of the month. But a couple of weeks later we got our first killing frost with a low of 25°F on the 21st. While it was still warm I dug the sweet potatoes, and it was a good year for them. I brought in 118 pounds of them, which should keep us well supplied for a while and have plenty for sharing with others.

freshly dug sweet potatoes

freshly dug sweet potatoes

In November I was busy fermenting some of the fall veggies. I made cabbage, radish and kohlrabi kimchi plus kohlrabi pickles and sauerkraut. Fermenting is one of my favorite ways to preserve these veggies, and we will be enjoying them for months to come.

fermented fall veggies

fermented fall veggies

December brought our first snow of the year on the 5th. It didn’t last, and the weather warmed up to give us a green Christmas with no snow in sight. My wife and I continued our tradition of making ornaments. I made little stockings with our names on them, while she made a one with her painted and stitched kitties that echoed her theme for a house quilt project she recently made.

homemade Christmas ornaments

homemade Christmas ornaments

I hope you have enjoyed this look back on 2018. I want to thank all of the folks who come here and read my blog, and I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

 

Posted in Photo Friday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Harvest Monday December 24, 2018

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. I managed to get a couple of fresh harvests last week. The greenhouse lettuce is finally large enough to start cutting. Everything grows slowly this time of year, so I am happy to get this modest cutting of greens for salad. This is Ezrilla, a frilly green one-cut Tango type lettuce. I’m also growing Tango itself which should be ready for cutting soon. We enjoyed this batch on a salad I made for lunch one day.

Ezrilla lettuce

Ezrilla lettuce

And I made another small cutting from the turnip greens. Our weather has moderated and warmed up a bit and the fall greens are so far still alive and growing. Some of these went into stuffed mushrooms, and the rest got cooked up for a side dish. The fall garden did not do nearly as well as it usually does, but the turnips have held on quite nicely.

turnip greens

turnip greens

I want to thank Ally for helping me with this post. She does like to sit on my lap, and has been known to jump up and surprise me. She is also fascinated by the computer monitor, especially when I show her cat-friendly videos like this one with Birds and Squirrels Being Awesome. Yep, she really likes that one with the sound turned up!

Ally helping

Ally helping

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 of any size or shape you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And please be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting, or wishing they were harvesting!


Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments