What Did You Learn Last Season?
The equinox has passed and our new seasons are upon us. In the southern hemisphere, the spring is warning the earth, I’ve noticed the first plantings are sprouting in your gardens. In the northern hemisphere, fall is upon us, we’re covering our tomatoes and other summer crops to get that last little bit of harvest before our gardens give way to winter crops.
So… I figured we might be able to learn one another: we northerners can share our information with the southerners just beginning their big growing season, and southerners can teach us what they’ve learned in the cooler months. Shall we?
Here Are 10 Things I Learned This Summer:
1. Growing tomatoes in a cooler climate makes a huge difference: a ten-fold difference in harvest! So next year I have a lot to learn about warming up the tomatoes. I did, however, find some AMAZING new varieties. Every type we planted was new this year: Sub-Arctic Plenty, Tonadose Des Conores, Ignoli Gigante Liscio, Mama Leone, Dr. Wyche’s Yellow, Black Cherry, Japanese Black Triefele, Anana’s Noire, and Hillbilly Heirloom. And I liked all of them, but my favorites are the two black varieities: black cherry tomatoes and Japanese black triefle. Wow. Sweet, chocolaty goodness. Yum.
I also found that the Sub-Arctic and “Japanese” (which are really Russian) ripened faster and did much better overall in the cooler Seattle climate. I’ll be looking for more such types next year.
2. Garlic is extremely forgiving. We planted in Geyserville in late winter – far too late. But it came up just fine – every single one of them! Then when we moved, I put some of them in a garbage bag inside a box, where they sat through the move and long after (weeks!), before we put them back in the ground. Once in the ground, they kept growing and flowered, and then… made garlic!! Tasty, spicy, scrumptious garlic. I’ll be doing that again!
3. Huckleberries. Thrived in Seattle. The tiny little seedlings made it through the move, past weeks of neglect, into the garden, and then they grew taller than I am very quickly. Problem: they went in too late and most of them are still green. But there are thousands and thousands of them!! Another problem: I’m not sure I like huckleberries.
So my thought is that maybe instead of huckleberries next year, we can do tomatillos and ground cherries, which are related. Audrey found them to be prolific here, so I’m thinking that might be better for us. That is, assuming the huckleberries don’t make it through the winter. Anyone know if they survive frosts?
4. Peperoncinis and Italian peperoncinis aren’t the same thing. Heh. Just learned that, as ours are skinny and turning red. Apparently what we wanted for pickling were banana peppers. Is that right? Anyone know?
5. Squashes do terribly in a cold, wet summer. So terribly that I wonder if we should bother growing them next year, considering the space they take up. At the NW picnic, we all comiserated about this, so we were not alone. I believe more than anything, it was the bees that never came out because it was so cold. And the powdery mildew and stem rotting. And the fact that the female and male flowers never got in sync because the sun didn’t come out. Sigh.
I’ll be looking into varieties that do better in cooler climates next year, and we can do a better job of building high beds for better drainage. We can also do some hand pollination. But most likely we’ll put in just a couple of plants next year, and reserve the rest of the space for something else.
6. Potatoes! Hooray for potatoes! Easiest plant to grow, beautiful plants and flowers, and it’s lots of fun harvesting them. And I had no idea they produced potato berries – so strange!
The variety that did best for us were yellow finns and yellow fingerlings. YUM.
7. Grapes, currants, and raspberries are doing very well. I was worried that the grapes in particular wouldn’t do so well in the cold and wet, but that is not turning out to be the case. They don’t produce fruit the first year, but I have high hopes for them. Very happy. We’re going to visit an organic vineyard on Saturday, as a part of Farm Day, so hopefully I’ll learn a little more about grape growing in the northwest.
8. I wish we’d grown cauliflower, as both Matt and I have found a love of roasted heirloom cauliflower. Particularly varities with a bit of purple in them. YUM. Broccoli I like, but it only did ok this year (though last year it did really well, so it could be that we used starts this year instead of growing them from seed ourselves).
9. There are two different kinds of brussels sprouts. Did you know this? The early and the late. The early, which is apparently what we grew last year, produces sprouts quickly: as the plant grows, the sprouts grow. The late don’t grow sprouts right away. The plants grow first, and then many weeks later, as the weather cools, the sprouts start.
This has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your situation. I’m hoping the aphids will have died off for the season before they do much to our sprouts. They’re more of an annoyance than anything, but they were QUITE annoying last year! (They didn’t actually do any real damage other than make me waste water. I had to wash our sprouts extremely well to make sure we didn’t eat any extra aphid protein with our vegetables.)
10. Lettuce does not do well in pots. At least shallow pots. They continuously went to seed for us. It was very frustrating! The seedlings never got more than a few inches tall before going to seed. So my only guess is that as soon as the roots hit the bottom of the pot, they panicked and went to seed. Next time we’ll try deep, deep pots (eg, wine barrels) and see if that helps because we love greens so much, it will save us a lot of money if we can figure this out.
So there you have it. Those are the big things I learned.
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Please share with your fellow gardeners what you learned! And again, as always, feel free to link to your gardening posts here.
So… what did you learn last season? What would you do differently? Did you try any experiments, and if you did, were they successful? Have you found any new favorite crops or types that you can’t wait to plant again?