Stars of the Garden in 2013

Now that 2013 is winding down, it’s time for my annual review of what did well in the garden this year. I like to do a recap of star performers every year, and point out some of the also-rans as well. I’ll start with a vegetable that as been a real star here for the last couple of years, though it hasn’t always been that way.

I called 2012 the Year of the Carrot, as I finally had success with this sometimes challenging vegetable. Last year I managed to grow 20 pounds of carrots in a fairly small amount of space (about 16 square feet). This year I upped the harvest to 23 pounds in a similar amount of space. I love homegrown carrots, and the ones maturing in fall are especially tasty. Next year I hope to grow a few more, if possible. Yaya, Nelson and Hercules have done well for me here. Sugarsnax is a longer growing carrot and I ran into problems with it because the soil was not prepared deeply enough for them. The Sugarsnax I harvested were good tasting though. Despite having a loose silty soil, I think I am better off with shorter and more blunt shaped carrots.

fall harvest of Yaya carrots

fall harvest of Yaya carrots

One problem I had with carrots in the past was getting good germination, without the weeds taking over before the carrots were up and growing. Since I started covering the carrot bed with Agribon row cover material to aid sprouting, I’ve had much better results. I talked about how I do it in my Up With Carrots post earlier this year. I used this method both spring and fall this year and the results were great. My thanks go to Daphne for trying it and blogging about it back in April. I learn a lot by talking to other gardeners, and reading about what others are doing in their gardens.

using row cover material over carrot bed

using row cover material over carrot bed

2013 was definitely the Year of Squash here. I harvested 370 pounds of squashes this year, with 200 pounds being winter squash types. We ate lots of the summer squashes, gave away quite a few, and froze some for later use. The summer types produced longer than usual, giving us fruit well into September. Striata d’Italia, Enterprise and Gentry were the biggest producers this year. Next year I plan on adding the heirloom White Scallop and the hybrid Romanesco to the mix.

September harvest of Striata d' Italia, Enterprise and Gentry squash

September harvest of Striata d’ Italia, Enterprise and Gentry squash

One of my favorite ‘new’ things to do with zucchini is make Spelt Chocolate Zucchini Muffins. These freeze well, and I made several batches of them with the end of season zucchini. I like to grate and freeze zucchini too so I can make muffins and bread after the fresh zucchini are long gone. I also made muffins this year with some of our blueberries, blackberries and cherries, which has earned me the nickname of “muffin man”. Below is a photo of me making some zucchini muffins, wearing the apron Lynda made for me. She’s no dummy – make him an apron so he can bake more muffins! I love the apron, and the fact she ‘rescued’ the material from a thrift store.

making zucchini muffins

making zucchini muffins

I planted more winter squashes this year than usual, adding quite a few vining types to the garden. The stars this year were Cornell’s Bush Delicata, Gold Nugget, Waltham Butternut, Kumi Kumi and Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash. The heirloom Amish Pie Pumpkin was a disappointment, giving us only one small lopsided fruit that never matured properly. It won’t be back next year.

Gold Nugget and Delicata squashes

Gold Nugget and Delicata squashes

The Kumi Kumi can be used like a zucchini when immature, making it a great dual purpose squash. I will grow it again for sure. I have already compared five of the 2013 winter squashes in my recent Pumpkin Smackdown.

young Kumi Kumi squash hanging out with 7 pound mature one

young Kumi Kumi squash hanging out with 7 pound mature one

Maybe 2013 should really be called the Year of the Cucurbit, since cucumbers did well also. 2012 was a bust for cukes. The ones planted in the greenhouse did not like the hot spring weather we had that year, and the hungry deer kept eating up the ones I had planted outside. This year the greenhouse crop did great, and so did the ones planted in the protected main garden area. We ate cucumbers and pickles almost daily, and still had plenty to give away. I think maybe I will plant a few less next year, but then who knows if it will be a good year or a bad year for them in 2014. Manny and Tasty Jade are my favorite parthenocarpic cucumbers for the greenhouse, and Green Fingers, Dasher II and Summer Top all did great in the main garden. I tend to be a fan of the thinner skinned and ‘burpless’ types, and my variety choices lean in that direction.

Manny cucumbers from greenhouse

Manny cucumbers from greenhouse

Sadly, 2013 will not be called the Year of the Onion, as this kitchen staple once again proved problematical for me. My 2013 onions did not do well, except for the Red of Tropea, and a few Candy plants. I didn’t pay close enough attention to day length when selecting varieties. The bulbing of onions is linked to day length, and our latitude here in Southern Indiana puts us in the zone of intermediate day types. I set out quite a few of the storage onion Big Daddy, which is a long day type that just didn’t bulb up here at our latitude. We grew mostly Superstar and Candy at the Impact Community garden, and they did better. Next year I will concentrate more on variety selection, and I would like to find a storage onion to grow. Does anyone know a storage variety that does well with our intermediate day length?

onion harvest

2013 onion harvest

It was a great year for blueberries though, as our planting matures and the plants start to hit their peak. My wife did all the work on this crop, from harvesting to weeding to preserving. She managed to bring in over 50 pounds of them this year. I think that makes her the Queen of Blueberries!

blueberries ready for eating or freezing

2013 blueberries ready for eating or freezing

In addition to eating them fresh and freezing them, she also dried quite a few this year. You can read about how she did it on her blog with her How To: Dried Blueberries. They have been lovely added to cooked cereals and other dishes. And it’s great to use blueberries from our own garden that don’t have any added sugar or preservatives, not to mention that they have been organically grown and never sprayed.

dehydrated blueberries

dehydrated blueberries

It was a great year for peppers too. I won’t go into any detail here, since I did a two part recap of them already: 2013 Pepper Roundup Part 1 & Part 2. Last year I made a lot of the hot peppers into hot sauce. I did that again this year, but I really had fun experimenting with dehydrating peppers and grinding them up. I made lots of Homemade Paprika and Homemade Chile Powder. This is a fun way to make your own unique spices, and it was amazing how the different varieties of peppers made such different dried powders. Next year I plan on doing more experimenting with both sweet and hot peppers.

Homemade Paprika

Homemade Paprika

It was a mixed year for tomatoes, with the slicers struggling and the smaller fruited ones doing well. Most of the paste tomatoes did great also. I did a recap of them too (you can read it here), but I will say again that Viva Italia, Health Kick, Rio Grande, Super Marzano and Ludmilla’s Red Plum all were great performers. Speckled Roman and Amish Paste did poorly, and I won’t be planting them next year.

Super Marzano paste tomatoes

Super Marzano paste tomatoes

2013 saw melons come to Happy Acres for the first time. I planted the muskmelon Ambrosia, galia melon Diplomat and the Canary melon Brilliant this year. All did great, and I plan to grow all of them again. I can only hope they all do as well next year! I want to add the Hollar’s Sensation melon for 2014. Homegrown melons are a real treat and it is nice to grow good-tasting varieties that can’t be bought around these parts.

Burpee's Ambrosia cantaloupe

Burpee’s Ambrosia cantaloupe

And I need to give a shout out to greens while I’m at it. Kale was the first harvest of 2013, and we enjoyed it in spring and again this fall and winter. Red Ursa, Beedy’s Camden and the Wild Garden mix all did great for us this year, as did the Italian heirloom Lacinato. I wasn’t always a fan of this crinkled, blackish-green kale, but now it is one of my favorite treats from the garden. It’s also one of the prettier plants in the garden, and a dependable performer here. It goes by several other names, including dinosaur kale, cavolo nero, and Tuscan kale. It’s tasty and productive no matter what you call it!

dew covered Lacinato kale

dew covered Lacinato kale in September

I hope you have enjoyed this review of some of the veggies and fruit that performed well here in 2013. As the year draws to a close, I hope 2014 is a great year for all of you out there. I’ll be back soon with more adventures from HA!

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11 Responses to Stars of the Garden in 2013

  1. Kit Duffield says:

    I grow 3 colors of onion. I like the long day onions, Ringmaster is white, Red Wing is red and Copra yellow onion. All are harvested for storage, I eat the red and white first, and have just started using the Copra onions. I leave them in the ground until September when i’m ready to harvest, let them dry a day, then bring them up to the house and air dry on bakery racks for at least a week before placing them in bins.

    • Daphne says:

      I hardily recommend Copra and Redwing as storage onions, but they are long day onions, not intermediate. You need to get between 14-16 hour days. I’m 42 degrees latitude and they grow great here. Both are really nice storage onions for the northeast part of the country.
      Daphne recently posted…Harvest Monday, Decepmber 30th, 2013My Profile

  2. Norma Chang says:

    Congratulations on a successful gardening year. I am sure 2014 will be an even better one.
    Wishing you and your family all the best for the New Year.
    Norma Chang recently posted…Harvest Monday, December 30, 2013 – Veggies Under Grow LightMy Profile

  3. Looks like a good year all around! I didn’t have any luck with Amish Pie either, but I had help from the resident gopher in the squash bed, so I’m not sure how much of my failure was rodent damage. I am definitely going to give the agribon a try in the carrot bed though. We buy the stuff by the roll here anyway, and my carrot germination is…well…variable. Would love to have it be more consistent! Here’s to great gardening in 2014!

  4. Michelle says:

    I’m trying bulbing onions for the first time this coming year, I just set out plants last week. This is intermediate day territory as well so I’m growing a couple of the same varieties that you tried – Superstar and Candy, as well as Red Candy Apple. I hope someone tells you about a good storage onion. If the onions do well for me I think I’ll be looking for a good storage one for the next season.

    I use agribon go get my carrots started also, it works great. And it works great for more mature plants as well, the birds would peck my carrot tops down to nothing if I didn’t keep them covered.

  5. Daphne says:

    Sadly I don’t know of any intermediate long term storage onions. There are lots of nice long day ones for different areas.

    I also found this to be a good cucurbit year. Well at least for cucumbers and melons. It was my best year ever for those. If only the winter squash hadn’t had germination issues I think it would have been a decent year for those too. Not quite up to last year maybe, but good still.
    Daphne recently posted…Harvest Monday, Decepmber 30th, 2013My Profile

  6. Liz says:

    I dream of that many blueberries! How many bushes do you have?
    Liz recently posted…Monday Harvest – 30th DecemberMy Profile

  7. Pingback: Vegetable List For 2014 | Our Happy Acres

  8. Zelenina says:

    Hi Dave. Nice informative blog you have here! This is a very late reply but in case you’re still looking for an intermediate day storage onion, here are some I’ve read about that fit that description:

    Giant Zittau – yellow
    Australian Brown – yellow
    Tropeana Tonda – red
    Bronze D’Amposta aka Red Amposta – red
    Vernina – red
    Tonda Musona – white – reasonably good storage

    Romanesco are excellent courgettes, but I’m surprised to see them described as a hybrid. As far as I know they’re an old Italian OP variety.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for the info on storage onions. I will definitely check them out. The Romanesco I grew is a hybrid version of the o/p type, available from Renee’s Garden Seeds.

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