2016 Recap: Backyard Garden
It’s no secret that I’ve been mourning the end of summer since August 31. But, oh my goodness, today autumn came in like a freight train. A freight train full of drenching rain. I console myself with the fact that we shouldn’t have a frost for at least another month, so I’m not exactly calling quits when it comes to the garden yet.
Except I’m really kind of calling quits.
I had big plans to grow a fall garden, but between end-of-summer laziness (aka forgetting to water) and an assault on the garden by the neighbor’s chickens, that didn’t pan out. And now the rain is back, and my work at the college is starting again, and I am just kind of tired. I think it’s time to look back, sum up what went well and what didn’t, and start planning for next year.
The Good (what I will DEFINITELY grow again)
- Flashy Trout’s Back romaine lettuce: This lettuce was wonderful! I also grew Parris Island Romaine and Red Sails lettuce, but the family favorite by far was the flashy one. It’s taste is crisp and fresh and even a little buttery. The girls liked to pick leaves and eat them plain, just straight out of the garden. It’s a cut-and-come-again variety, so you can just pick what you need for dinner and it will keep growing. The best part was that this lettuce didn’t start bolting until late July, so we got four months of salads out of each plant!
- Sun Gold tomatoes: Well, no surprise here. We love these tomatoes. So sweet. So prolific. So tasty that I have been known to eat them all up without even offering any to my children.
- ‘Roma’ tomatoes: I picked up this plant at my local farm store, and they labeled it as a Roma, but it doesn’t really resemble that particular variety, except that it’s red and a paste tomato. Well, whatever it is, it’s delicious and well-behaved and abundant and perfect for sauce. I’m going to save some seeds and plant 2 or 3 of these next year.
- Basil: Of course. There will always be basil.
- Scarlet Nantes coreless carrots: For the last four or five years, I’ve been planting Yaya and Little Finger carrots. And they were OK. Sometimes they germinated, sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes they grew to acceptable snacking size, sometimes they didn’t. But these Scarlet Nantes Coreless! They germinated en mass with no problem. It took them a couple months, but they grew to maturity with no problem. And the taste! Delicious and sweet! I’m sticking with this one.
- Evergreen white bunching onions: These things just keep going! They were planted back in March, and we’re still eating them. And they are still delicious.
- Elephant garlic: We liked these. They were pretty, they were easy, and the flavor (though milder than garlic) was good.
- Walla Walla sweet onions: This was the very first year in more than a decade in which I was able to grow onions. They actually bulbed up and looked like the big onions you can buy at the store! It was amazing! I’m so excited to grow these again next year on the farm!
- All the sunflowers: I have grown a wall of Mammoth sunflowers along the fence every year for four years. Every year it has been amazing, and people always stop and gawk at them, and I always feel very proud about it. This year, however, not one sunflower grew! All of my Mammoth seedlings were eaten by bugs, and the few of a different, smaller variety that I did manage to get growing were then eaten by elk. So. Suffice it to say that this particular year, when I was trying hard to make my garden look exceptional, I was disappointed by the sunflowers.
- Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes: This plant was touted to me as a determinate tomato variety. I planted it as such. It became a monster that I had to cut back severely so that it wouldn’t take over the whole raised bed. That pruning ended up getting rid of a lot of flowers, so not much fruit set. I haven’t even gotten to taste it yet – there are five or six tomatoes on the vines right now that will hopefully start to ripen soon – so I don’t know if I’ll give this variety another shot or not. We shall see.
- Strawberries: These would have been good but for the neighbors chickens. I’m going to revamp my strawberry beds anyway though, because next year I’ll be planting them on the farm!
- Butternut squash: I just couldn’t get these to grow this year. All the fruit that set shriveled up. I’d like to blame the neighbor’s chickens on this, too, but I really can’t. It just wasn’t the poor butternut squash’s year.
The Bad (what I will NOT grow again)
- White Currant tomatoes: These grew fine, no complaints there. The thing is, they just tasted kind of gross. They are touted as a sweet variety, and I’m sure some people love them, but I happen to hold Sun Gold up as the hallmark of a sweet snacking tomato, and these didn’t even get close. In fact, I thought they were the opposite of sweet – very sour and bitter. Not exactly what anyone wants to munch on in the backyard.
- Bush Pickle cucumbers: I had eight of these plants in my garden. Do you know how many cucumbers I’ve picked from them? Five.
- Delicata Squash: Why did I grow these? I don’t like them. My family doesn’t like them. I don’t know. Perhaps reading this next year will shake me out of whatever sort of planting frenzy I’m in and remind me that none of my family likes this squash.
Whew. Looking back, it’s clear that it was an overwhelmingly good summer out in those three raised beds. Now to take stock of the farm garden …