Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Best of 2011

I meant to do a review of the 2011 gardening season a few weeks ago, but didn't get around to it.  I'm already starting to place my seed orders for this year, so decided before I look too far ahead, it would still be a good idea to look back at the successes of last year. Better late then never! Besides, as I sit here and look out the window on this crisp, sunny winter day (-10 at last check), it's nice to see how the garden looked at it's peak summer green.  While everything looks so dead outside, it's hard to believe it ever looked so good!



The gardening season for 2011 was certainly a challenging one.  Lots of rain and little time seemed to be the theme for me this year.  The rain, we all remember.  Thankfully, we finished with a great fall!  I didn't have as much time to devote to the garden this year due to a change of work hours that left me with little time to spare.  The good news, is that despite the rain and my lack of attention, the garden grew, proving it is possible to have fresh food from your backyard despite a full time job and busy schedule!

I thought I'd list a few of my favourite crops and discoveries of the year (in no particular order):

Garlic

What can I say- the easiest thing I grew!  Once the bulbs were planted in the fall of 2010, there was very little work to do.  A little compost here, a little compost there.  A clip of the scapes in July, and given time, I had a little stash of garlic to harvest.  I was pleased with the results as this was my first time growing garlic, so it was really a 'test' crop for me. 

As a result of this success, I have gone a little garlic crazy this fall. Since I used up all the harvest by October- mostly in my homemade tomato sauce-  I figure next year I'll need more-  much more!   I have planted over 40 cloves throughout the garden.  Yes, this will use up a lot of space I could use for other crops, but really the payout will be worth it (if successful).  At the farmer's market the other day, organic garlic was upwards of 10.99/lb.   A better rate of return than say, zucchini, which doesn't seem to grow well for me, but I can buy at the farmer's market relatively cheaply.


Tomatoes

I had  a really good crop of tomatoes.  The Black Plum tomatoes were very prolific and made a really good sauce.  The San Marzano's were smaller this year, but still not bad.  I grew two new larger size tomatoes:  Ernie's Plump, which was great for sauces as it was really meaty, less juicy, not as good for fresh eating.  The "Cosmonaut Volkov" tomato has a lot of promise as a fresh eating tomato- and was prolific as well.  The first one I ate was so delicious!  After that, the remaining ones were a little watery-tasting- a result of too much rain, I'm sure.

I mostly made tomato sauce with the harvest, and had a freezer full by season's end.  "Had", being the key word here as at last check I only had a couple of containers left!



Swiss Chard

I ate swiss chard all summer long, so much so I got a little tired of it.  A successful crop once again.


True Red Cranberry Pole Bean

The red cranberry bean was a 'test' crop for me, so I didn't have a huge harvest. I love the round deep red colour of them.  They tasted as good as they looked- I added them to a pasta e fagioli soup the other day, and they were so creamy tasting, not at all dry like the beans you buy at the store.  I must expand production next year!!!!  Growing beans to the dry bean stage also seems like an economical use of my back yard space.  Organic dry beans are not something you find readily at the farmers market (at least I haven't seen any)...and if they are there, I'm sure they would be pretty expensive.  I also like being able to grow a crop for 'winter' use.



Squash

I only managed to produce 2 sweet dumpling squash from one plant- not a huge harvest. However, they were so delicious,  I must find out how get them to be more productive!!  I roasted them and stuffed them with a quinoia/ground turkey/goat cheese mix and can't wait for next year to make it again.


Soup Celery

I make soup and stock all the time, and this 'herb' (?) has been invaluable over the season.  Whenever I had a pot of stock on the stove, I just had to pop into the garden, clip a few stems and pop it in. It has the same flavour as regular celery and works as a great substitute.  It was also really productive, and I have lots of it frozen in the freezer.  I grew some in my 'winter' garden and at last check (pre- deep freeze), it was still growing strong.  Soup celery will definitely be a keeper in my garden. 

Rossa di Milano Onion (in pots)

I was pleased to discover that onions grow well in pots!  I spaced them a little too close together ( a lesson learned for next year), but still managed to grow a small harvest of sizable onions.  In fact, the pot onions did much better than the ones I grew in the raised  beds.  A definite space saver!


"Green Manure"

I grew both oats and buckwheat as 'green' crops to add to the soil to improve fertility.  Both were really easy to grow.  The buckwheat, I pulled and dug into the soil where it grew, and the oats I added to the compost and to the raised beds after fall clean up.
Purple Orach

A crop I grew on a whim last summer.  A very tasty addition to my summer salads and also provided a nice deep purple colour to the garden.



Now, on to 2012!  Happy growing!

1 comment:

Gardeningbren said...

I loved your photos and your inspiration for next year!!