It’s time for my annual review of what did well in the garden, and what didn’t. In my 2014 review, I called 2014 the Year of Blueberries and Beans, since both did well here and gave us 50 pounds or more of each of them. But what a difference a year makes! Both didn’t do nearly as well this past year, giving us 20 pounds of blueberries and only 17 pounds of snap beans. It was to be a theme repeated for most of the fruits and veggies we grow here at Happy Acres, with a few exceptions.
I had high hopes for the garden in 2015, after testing my garden soil and working hard to come up with a fertilizing plan that would feed our soil with what it needed. But nature had other ideas, bringing us excessive rain in the period from March through August. We got a whopping 37 inches of rain in six months, which is almost the amount we would normally get in a years time! We had more ‘normal’ levels of rain after that, but for many of the crops it was too late. So I am calling 2015 the Year of Too Much Rain.
Cucurbits are dependable performers here, and we usually count on them to give us lots to eat in the summer months and for storage. Last year we got 303 pounds from this family, while the 2015 total was 170 pounds. That’s still a lot of food, and for sure we had plenty to eat. But usually we are giving away summer squash and cucumbers, and this year that just didn’t happen. I got 40 pounds of cucumbers, with fully half of those coming from the greenhouse plants, where they were spared from the rains. Tasty Jade, Manny and Corinto all did well in the greenhouse, while Green Fingers and Summer Dance held up fairly well in the main garden.
Many of the summer and winter squash plants died from stem rot, and I lost a lot of the fruits themselves to rot. I got two of the Thai Rai Kaw Tok winter squash, which was a standout performer last year. One winter squash that did do rather well is Seminole. I plan on doing a Spotlight on it soon. The bush varieties Gold Nugget and Bush Delicata did well as usual, and the vining Honeyboat delicata gave us enough to make me want to grow it again. Most of the other winter squash gave me nothing, including Waltham Butternut which did so well in 2014.
I grew the same pole snap beans I did lin 2014, Fortex, Gold Marie and Musica. I also grew the purple podded Trionfo Violetto, and a couple of ‘greasy’ beans called Robe Mountain and Lazy Wife Greasy. The beans struggled early on but recovered after the rains eased up and the soil dried out. I harvested a total of 17 pounds, down from the 43 pounds in 2014.
Tomatoes are a big deal in most gardens, and they are here too. In 2014 I said it had been a ‘so-so’ year for tomatoes when I harvested 159 pounds of them, and Vinson Watts was a standout performer. 2015 was a terrible year for tomatoes, and the heirloom slicers like Vinson Watts and Cherokee Purple were nowhere to be found. Thankfully I always plant a mix of hybrid and o/p slicers, and the hybrids came through with enough fruit to keep it from being a total bust. The AAS winner Chef’s Choice Orange was a real standout, and kept our sandwiches from being tomato-less. The total haul was 97 pounds, with most of those being processed instead of eaten fresh.
The pepper plants struggled too, and I actually had a few of them die due to all the rain. I had plenty to dry and roast, but the sweet peppers we eat fresh were a bit scarce. Ironically the eggplant did much better, but I will mark that up to me doing a better job in controlling the flea beetles. I harvested 21 pounds of eggplant, but nothing like the 45 pounds in 2013 or even the 36 pounds from 2012. That’s one benefit of keeping records I guess, since it lets me review past performances.
It wasn’t all bad news in the garden though. Some of the crops actually seemed to like all the rain. The garlic did great, and it was my best crop ever in both the total yield and the average size per bulb. I did a Garlic Harvest Review back in August so I won’t do it again here. The best performer was an artichoke type called Simonetti, though most of the cultivars I grew did well.
It also was a great year for asparagus, giving us 35 pounds of spears. Once again I have to say I can’t think of many vegetables that give you so much, for so long a time, for such a small outlay of both money and time. For my wife and I our homegrown asparagus is a good example of eating seasonally. We enjoy it fresh for two months and then freeze a bit for eating throughout the rest of the year. I can’t remember the last time I bought asparagus, because the homegrown stuff spoils me for anything else! We made a meal off the Asparagus Mimosa in the above photo.
It proved to be a record year for sweet potatoes too. It was one crop I actually had to irrigate in September, when the rains finally subsided. Apparently they got what they needed, and gave us almost 100 pounds of tubers! Purple continues to be a reliable performer here, and the white fleshed Bonita was a surprise favorite in the kitchen.
As for the brassicas, many of the spring plants struggled with wet conditions, especially the broccoli, though the kohlrabi and cabbage didn’t seem to mind too much. And in fall, the kale and turnips grew lush with the rains that returned in October. Leafy greens like lettuce and spinach liked the wet conditions too. Viroflay was the last spinach to bolt for me last spring, and it and Giant Winter have proven to be two of my favorite and most productive spinach varieties.
I already mentioned it wasn’t a great year for blueberries here. Thankfully, other fruits helped make up for it, including raspberries. We also got our first real taste of gooseberries and currants. The blackberries didn’t give us much though, and I have come to the conclusion that something is eating the ripe fruit, probably raccoons or possums. I think I will have to put my Havahart trap in use this year when they beging ripening, and see if I can relocate a few of the fruit bandits.
The total harvests for the year added up to 759 pounds, down from 1028 in 2014 and way down from the 1332 pounds in 2013 where we had lots of goodies to give away and donate to the local food pantry. In fact, the 2015 harvests were the smallest since I began keeping totals. You can review all the details here, and all the previous years harvests can be seen from the top menu.
I hope you have enjoyed this review of some of the veggies and fruit we grew here in 2015. I imagine we will see a reversion to the mean in rainfall, though who knows when it comes to our changing weather patterns. For sure, I hope 2016 is a great year for all of you out there. I’ll be back soon with more adventures from HA.