I’m back again with the second part of my annual garden review, and I hope you enjoyed reading the first part. Let me start now with another crop that did extremely well this year, and that’s the berries. We have both blueberries and blackberries planted here, and they kept us well supplied with fruit for fresh eating and for freezing for later use. My wife is in charge of the blueberry harvests, and she picked over 22 pounds of them. We enjoy them almost daily when they are in bearing season, and the taste is hard to beat in my opinion. I did the blackberry picking, and our fairly new plantings gave us over 10 pounds of fruit from the thornless canes.
Another thing that did well was the cucurbit family, including the cucumbers plus both summer and storage type winter squashes. I count the moschata types we use in the green stage (like tromboncino and the Korean avocado squash) along with the tally for summer squashes. I harvested 120 pounds of summer types this year, and I did freeze quite a bit of that for later use in soups and stews. The frozen zucchini even makes its way into smoothies. Tempest remains my favorite yellow squash, and it is both productive for me in the garden and tasty in the kitchen. Last year I grew several zucchinis that did well, including Green Machine, Dunja, Clarimore and Mexicana. I plan to grow them all again next year.
I grow the cucumbers in the summer greenhouse, and we use almost all of them for fresh eating. I do add a few of them to ferments, but I rarely make any pickles these days since we don’t really eat them that often. Mini Munch is one of my new favorite cukes, while the dark green Corinto and the white skinned Itachi also do well for me.
I grew two neck pumpkins this year, Turkeyneck and Centercut, and both did quite well. We use the Centercut at both the green and mature stage, while I let the Turkeyneck grow to the mature stage. I also planted Thelma Sanders acorn squash, and Tetra delicata. The 2021 AAS Winner Goldilocks acorn squash was a new favorite for us as well. I have struggled to grow delicata types here for years now, and when I do get them they typically aren’t all that tasty. So, they will not be back in 2022. I harvested 115 pounds of mature winter squash last year in total.
Ample rains make for lush growing greens, and we were well supplied in 2021. The collard greens overwintered nicely without cover, and gave us edible leaves until I pulled the plants in April. I began harvesting from the new plants in October, and with any luck they will give us greens until next spring when they begin flowering again and I pull the plants.
I grow kale in the fall garden outside, plus I set out a few plants to overwinter in the greenhouse. When spring comes, the kale in the greenhouse begins to flower and gives us lots of tender kale rapini. White Russian is a long-time favorite of mine, and always produces lots of tender green leaves to eat.
I grew other greens both inside and outside the greenhouse to add color and flavor to salads, soups and stir-fries. Miz America mizuna is a green with dark reddish purple leaves and a mildly spicy taste. It and Central Red mizuna are my two favorites these days for color and because they both do well in containers. I also grew the Red Veined Sorrel for the first time in a container planting, and it did well also.
2021 was a year when almost everything we grew did well for us, with one exception. That is the asparagus patch, which has been slowly and steadily declining in production each year. We harvested only 9 pounds of runty spears last year, down from 13 pounds in 2020. Only a few years back we were harvesting 25 to 30 pounds each year, so the decline is obvious. With a bit of sadness, we have decided the yield doesn’t justify the amount of work we put into keeping the patch weeded and mulched, so we will be letting it go back to lawn area next year. We may still get a few spears though, since the roots won’t die off immediately. If we want more asparagus, we can always buy it. I debated about setting out a few new plants, but decided at this point in my gardening life it just wasn’t worth it.
NOTE: Here’s an article from University of Illinois Extension about Growing Asparagus. The varieties we have planted (Jersey Knight, Jersey Giant) are expected to remain productive for 15-20 years. Our patch is 15 years old now, so that explains a lot of the decline.
I’ll close this recap with another crop that did very well for us this year. I’ve been growing the Appalachian heirloom pole beans for several years now, and they produce steadily for me for several months to give us an extended harvest throughout the summer and fall months. Lazy Wife Greasy, Turkey Craw, Pink Tip and Non-Tough Half Runner are a few of my favorites. I like to grow a few of the bush types as well for an early harvest, and this year I trialed one called Speedy that lived up to its name and gave us beans 48 days after sowing. I also planted Orient which did well. I harvested over 50 pounds of beans this year, and we ate them fresh all summer and I froze the rest for later use.
I hope you have enjoyed this review of some of the veggies and fruit we grew here in 2021. I’ll be back soon with more adventures from Happy Acres, including my plans for the garden in 2022.