Monday, August 17, 2009

Garden Update (Ain't Life Grand?)

We’ve done really well with tomatoes and squash and green beans from the garden. Everything else, we’ve done OK on. We have a big learning curve, which we knew. We’ll probably plant all the same things next year, but we’re going to try using more organic matter in the soil to loosen up the soil. (Our root crops were all stunted this year because of the clay…it’s like they were all able to grow to about the size of the holes we dug to plant, maybe a little larger and that’s it.

But the tomatoes have more than paid for themselves. With me working and trying so hard to catch up and make a little extra money, M’s been doing the canning. We’ve managed to can 4 or 5 pints of pickles, 4 pints of spaghetti sauce, 4 pints of salsa (2 of which we’ve already eaten), and 4 pints of hot salsa. M’s going to harvest our third bunch of green beans today. Our first two batches each yielded about 2 pounds, so we just cooked them in the crock pot. But it looks like there are so many on the plants now that we may actually have enough to can green beans. I sure hope so. And we should have some more tomatoes so we can make another 4 pints of something in 3 or 4 days. All the tomatoes are just ripening—and we’ve got more buds started. We’ve gotten several peppers (Wenk’s yellow hots, jalapenos—though they don’t get very large and aren’t very prolific, cayennes, garden salsa hybrid). By far, the Wenk’s and the Volcanoes are the most prolific.

Potatoes gave a decent yield, but not a good return on investment. We basically ended up with “new” size potatoes. And the peas just didn’t do well. Cucumbers are still producing, and we can make a few more jars of pickles. One of our biggest fights this year has been the weeds. It’s been so temperate and wet this summer (very unusual) that the weeds have thrived. We just couldn’t keep up. We even did companion planting that’s meant to keep the weeds down, and it didn’t help much. So we “lost” most of our greens and our root crops (we hope to possibly reclaim the root crops—aside from potatoes and onions—after the first frost, because most of them taste better after the first frost) in the weeds. And M just tramps through the weeds around the beans (which don’t seem to care about the weeds) and the herbs (which also don’t seem to care about the weeds). We are still trying to figure out a plan of attack for the sunflowers, as we know that the snakes liked to curl up in the weeds in that patch earlier this summer…

Like I said, everything else fared decently (the corn cross-pollinated, as did our squash, so, yeah…we have a lot, but it’s all non-standard). The sunflower patch has all opened now, I think, though there is a wide variety in size. One plant is easily 8 or 10 feet tall with a huge head, and some are only about 3 feet tall with heads that have just opened. But the bees and butterflies have taken off on them. One day, not long after that first (now gigantic) head opened, it had at least 1 butterfly and 3 bumblebees on it. And all the other heads that were open at the time had at least 2 bumblebees each.

So all in all, not a bad harvest we’ve been raking in. Much better harvest than last year, and we’ve been learning a lot about what we can do, what is going to be problematic (cross-pollination of tomatoes, corn, and squash; raccoons; cabbage worms and caterpillars; bean beetles), so we should be able to do a lot better next year. We won’t be building raised beds as we had intended because we’re going to have to put up a fence around our overall intended garden area to help keep out the freaking raccoons. Although with all the fields around us being planted corn next year, we shouldn’t have a problem; it should be like last year, unless the coons have figured out that we have sweet corn and the fields don’t. After all, when they got into our corn this year, the ears that weren’t sweet just had a bite or two taken out of them and then were tossed aside, but the ones that were sweet got stripped—the husks strewn away from the garden and the cobs gone completely.

* Stringham high: Tomatoes and squash and beans, oh my!
* Stringham low: Weeds
* Stringham super-high: 16 pints canned!

Oh, and another mouse fatality yesterday. M saw one running across the living room floor and couldn't get the cats' attention on it, so he killed it. So far, our cats really aren't such good hunters (but really, why would they need to be?). This mouse was fairly small, so we think we've got a fairly new litter around here somewhere...

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