Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Garden Year In Review

It has been months since I blogged about my garden so there’s lots to catch up on; and I thought I would review this year’s garden successes and failures. By all accounts, I was far more productive in 2010 than I had been in previous years. I may not have weeded as much as I could/should have, but I had a modicum of success with the hollyhocks, veggies, and herbs. Also, I hope to have some quality compost to add to the garden at the start of the next growing season.

Into the fall we enjoyed tomatoes, peppers, and fresh herbs. I definitely plan on growing Romas and Cherry tomatoes again, but I may look into other beefsteak and heirloom varieties since Big Boy and Mr. Stripey didn’t perform as well. Although by all accounts, this was a difficult year for growing tomatoes in my area. The unseasonably hot nights prevented the tomato flowers from pollinating and ergo many folks had smaller yields this year.

My tomato staking system worked well; at one point all of the tomatoes were taller than me and I had to attach them to nearby shrubs and walls for support. Just before the first hard frost, I harvested all of the remaining (green) tomatoes and brought them inside to ripen. We had home grown tomatoes ripening for almost two months after that!

I plan on growing more peppers, especially more hot peppers next season. The jalapenos were very successful. I may try my hand at a few other varieties including Serrano, Poblano, and Banana peppers too. The red peppers fruited so late that I wasn't able to harvest a red pepper, instead I plucked the ripening (green)peppers off the plants and made stuffed peppers with them. All of the homegrown peppers proved far superior to their store-bought counterparts.

The last of the parsley was harvested two weeks ago, as it was snowing; and I'm frequently cutting sprigs of fresh rosemary for various recipes. Next year I will keep cilantro seeds around to plant every few weeks as they will inevitably bolt before I’m able to make my homemade guacamole. Thanks little sis for my new mortar and pestle!

This fall’s garden maintenance mainly consisted of cutting back all perennials, veggies and taking out the tomato and pepper supports. This was made slightly more cumbersome by the mesh fencing I installed mid-growing season. Using two of my favorite garden accessories, West County waterproof gloves and Felco pruners, this task took about fifteen minutes.

[It’s important to note that like rose clippings, tomato plant refuse shouldn’t be composted because there is a high likelihood of diseases outliving the composting process. I have decided to burn such debris in our fire pit.]

The reason the West County gloves are worth mentioning is that not only are they waterproof and washable, they’re warm. It is still easy to grasp things and do slightly detailed garden work year round. Also, the insulating material makes pruning tasks blister free!

The Felco’s are garden essentials and with proper cleaning and sharpening should last a lifetime; all parts are replaceable. The ergonomic Felco 6’s fit my petite hand very well and are the best pruners I have ever used. This size easily cuts through branches 3/4" thick. But one should be careful, they are very sharp and powerful; I have inadvertently cut through a small rock with these pruners before.

I have daffodil bulbs to plant if I could find the time when the ground wasn’t frozen. October through December is the best time to plant spring-blooming bulbs. The two varieties I have to plant are ‘Ice Follies’ and ‘Mount Hood’. 'Ice Follies' is a large white daffodil with a bright yellow center. 'Mount Hood' opens up a pale yellow, and then quickly becomes an all white giant trumpet. Both of these naturalize readily and perform well in the south.

Typically, I like to see daffodils planted in large swaths (anywhere from 500-1500) to create a bold statement in the spring. Since my gardening area is so small, I will be planting mere handfuls of them here and there. Van Engelen is an economical source for large quantity orders; another daffodil source I use is Brent and Becky's Bulbs.

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