You’d think that in late August we’d be enjoying all sorts of vegetables from our garden. And while we are pulling fresh carrots on regular basis, the state of our 2013 harvest is decidedly mixed.
- The spinach, chard and mixed lettuces seeded in late April grew well. Every day for about 5 weeks starting late June, I enjoyed a salad made with mixed greens picked fresh from our backyard garden. The first crop is finished and now we’re waiting for the next round of lettuce and spinach seeds to grow large enough to harvest. Most of the second seeding went into pots, which can be moved into our garage each night when frost season rolls around.
- We’ve enjoyed the best baked potatoes EVER! Last week I harvested our small crop of Ruby Gold potatoes, which I planted in a large fabric pot purchased from Lee Valley. In hindsight, I probably planted too many seed potatoes in each fabric pot, as we only got about a dozen potatoes from 4 “hills”. They were pretty healthy, with just a few surface blemishes which I suspect are related to our extremely wet spring weather. Anyhow, these are the most flavourful potatoes I’ve ever had and are currently at the top of my 2014 planting list.
- Finally, after being chewed back to almost nothing for weeks (squirrels? birds?), the peas are doing well. This late in the season, it’s a treat to be able to shell fresh peas to add to a mixed salad or to throw a few pods into K’s lunch kit for school.
- We successfully grew garlic for the first time. The heads aren’t particularly large, but there are about a dozen small heads in the garlic keeper in the fridge and another 20 or so that I braided together to hang in the garage to dry for a couple of weeks.
- We’re also enjoying fresh red onions – small (like the garlic), but very mild and great for seasoning omelettes and hash browns and fried up with peppers for fajitas. I’ve also cubed some to thread onto skewers with marinated beef or chicken for barbecued kebabs.
- After a tough start in the spring (especially for the basil), most of the herbs are doing really well – nothing beats fresh rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, sage and mint when you’re feeling especially creative in the kitchen.
- Although the leaves are plentiful, the raspberry canes we planted last year aren’t bearing much fruit. Only the golden variety has produced any fruit at all. We’ve had a very scant raspberry harvest – mostly from the newest runners off raspberries we planted about 20 years ago. I guess there’s no need to schedule a day to make raspberry jam this year!
- The beets did nothing. I’ve taken to snipping the greens off the few beets that sprouted and grew large enough to bother with. The seeds were fresh, but maybe there are some tricks to increase the odds of a good beet harvest. Any suggestions?
- After three separate plantings in late April, May and early June, we finally had some carrots sprout. They are not thriving. And one of the raised beds seems to have some sort of small-diameter wriggly worm that enjoys carrots, so anything longer than 3 or 4 cm has to be trimmed. We’ve had really good success with carrots in past years and I used the same type / brand of seed this year, so have to assume the cool, wet spring had a negative effect on this year’s crop. We also planted some mixed-colour carrots. The white ones are tough and the yellow ones are bitter. The purple ones look interesting, but taste pretty much the same as the orange ones, so a planting note for 2014 is to stick with the ol’ standby – Scarlet Nantes.
- Other fruit: the squirrels and robins have enjoyed this year’s strawberry crop. There are two strawberry plants in a large pot that are just starting to bear fruit that have – at least so far – avoided any attention from backyard wildlife so I expect we’ll enjoy a few that we eat right off the plants. The Evans cherry tree was trashed by a deer in late June. It ate almost all the leaves off (which have since regenerated) and there’s only a single cherry on the tree. The Norland apple tree didn’t even blossom this spring. The September Ruby apple tree has about a dozen apples that are slowing reaching a decent eating size, so there’s some hope for at least one apple pie from our garden this year.
- Although I was under the assumption that anyone can grow zucchini in any garden, I now stand corrected! Our three zucchini plants started the season in planter pots. I was hoping to avoid the ant problems I had with zucchini last year. But apparently they need a little more room, so about 3 weeks ago I transplanted them into space vacated by the early lettuce and spinach. Unfortunately, they’re still failing to thrive. So unless a neighbour, friend or relative zucchini bombs our front porch one evening, I’ll be forced to purchase zucchini for our favourite chocolate zucchini cake recipe.
I haven’t yet formed an opinion on the tomatoes and peppers (which are just starting to ripen), the parsnips (which I grew for the first time last year) and the other two kinds of potatoes that are still growing in their fabric pots. I knew the Ruby Gold were ready for harvest because they grew some tomato-like fruit (see photo below) to send the message that the tubers were ready for harvest. These potato “fruits” are poisonous, however, so be sure to remove and safely dispose of them if they make an appearance in your garden plot.
How’s your garden growing this year? I’d love to hear about your 2013 stars and dogs as I begin some preliminary planning for next year’s vegetable garden.