Stars of the Garden in 2015

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.

the rain from Bill

the rain from Bill

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.

Tasty Jade cucumber

Tasty Jade cucumber

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.

Bush Delicata squash

Bush Delicata squash

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.

September harvest of pole beans

September harvest of pole beans

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.

Chef's Choice Orange tomatoes

Chef’s Choice Orange tomatoes

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.

Biggie Chili(L) and Anaheim(R) peppers

Biggie Chili(L) and Anaheim(R) peppers

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.

Simonetti garlic

Simonetti garlic

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.

Asparagus Mimosa

Asparagus Mimosa

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.

Purple sweet potatoes

Purple sweet potatoes

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.

Tsugaru Scarlet and Hakurei turnips

Tsugaru Scarlet and Hakurei turnips

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.

Viroflay spinach plants

Viroflay spinach plants

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.

gooseberries

gooseberries

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.

harvest of red and white currants

harvest of red and white currants

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.

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11 Responses to Stars of the Garden in 2015

  1. David Velten says:

    Good write up. You had too much rain and we had too little. No significant rain here for two months, but humidity was high so diseases still spread. Just goes to show you can plan all you want but you are not in control. I am glad I don’t have to make my living farming, my hat’s off to those who do. Anyway, you did well with what you were given and it’s a new year.
    David Velten recently posted…Punched PotatoesMy Profile

  2. Phuong says:

    We had the same experience with the flooding rains in 2015 which devastated the tomato crop. I might have to plant a few hybrid tomatoes as insurance, the way you do.

    Hopefully 2016 will be a better gardening year.
    Phuong recently posted…Harvest Monday, 11/30/15My Profile

  3. Michelle says:

    All that rain was so hard on your garden! It must have been so frustrating to watch as plant after plant succumbed to rot. We had the opposite problem here, another year of drought, but at least I had the option to irrigate my garden, there’s not much you can do to alleviate too much rain. But 759 pounds of fresh produce from the garden is a joy. 2016 has got to be a better year!
    Michelle recently posted…Harvest Monday – January 4, 2016My Profile

  4. Sue Garrett says:

    I would be more than happy with 20 pounds of blueberries. How many plants have you?
    Sue Garrett recently posted…Something ventured ,,,My Profile

  5. Margaret says:

    I suppose when you compare to prior years, 759 lbs is disappointing, but I would be VERY pleased with that number!

    It’s so funny that our experience in the garden this year was so very similar – reduced harvests on most things with a few exceptions – but for such different reasons! One thing that is clear from your experience is that it’s worthwhile to try to incorporate a few varieties of each veg into the garden, as their tolerance of whatever the summer throws our way may be very different. Sometimes even past good performers suffer depending on the circumstances. Having different varieties can mean the difference between a harvest and none at all.
    Margaret recently posted…2015 Harvest SummaryMy Profile

    • Dave says:

      Having a ‘variety of varieties’ was definitely important last year. And it also reminds me why I plant as much as I plant. In a good year, we have some to give away. But in a bad year, it doesn’t seem like overplanting at all!

  6. Susie says:

    I realize it’s disappointing to get less than planned, but 759 pounds is rather outstanding in my opinion! You never fail to mention so many varieties that I’ve never heard of in your posts – I’m now researching “greasy” beans, very interesting!

    And I know I said it before, but those turnips look so great they almost make me want to grow some. Maybe I should buy one from the store first to see if I even like them …

    With the weird winter weather we are having, I’m sure 2016 will bring its own set of challenges. But the rainy spring really was difficult!
    Susie recently posted…Harvest Monday: January 4, 2016My Profile

    • Dave says:

      The so-called ‘salad’ turnips helped make me more of a turnip fan than I used to be. I’ve always like the greens, but the white turnips usually have a more delicate flavor than the purple top ones that makes them more useful in the kitchen.

      As for the greasy beans, I had never heard of them either until I read a book about Appalachian heirlooms. Many of the beans have been passed down from one generation to the next, and beans were an important part of the diet. After reading about them I had to try them, and it turns out they are quite tasty!

  7. Norma Chang says:

    Your 2015 harvest may not be as much as the previous year but still a fantastic harvest, congrats. Like Dave Velten I too am glad I don’t have to make my living farming, we can plan and work hard but mother nature always has the upper hand, fortunately us gardeners are an optimistic bunch and always look forward to a better harvest the next season.
    Norma Chang recently posted…Harvest Monday, January 4, 2016 – RadicchioMy Profile

  8. Mary N. says:

    Observing the crops that did well with all that rain is important – it indicates the crops that need a lot of irrigation in the dry years. Interesting about the sweet potatoes. I think underwatering, along with over crowding, is the reason most sweet potatoes planted in pots fail.
    Mary N. recently posted…Maryiesveggiegarden blog: 2015 in reviewMy Profile

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