When I started this garden, I didn’t have high hopes. Due to several factors, I had not put a garden in the ground for years. There were the raised herb beds (self-sustaining for the most part), and I planted garlic now and again in the raised bed, and occasionally grew a tray of greens inside, but a full scale, planted-in-the-ground garden had taken a back seat to everything else going on in life. We supported, and still support, our local farm markets for the vegetables we wanted. This year, even before pandemics and stay-at-home orders, I felt the pull of growing vegetables again.
So I fenced in a 32’x32’ section of the old pig pasture (which was a 100’x100’ garden before that), did a couple of rounds of tilling, hoed trenches, and started planting. Potatoes, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and various brassicas filled the in-ground garden. Jalapeños, poblanos, and more brassicas went in the space available in the raised beds. I put down straw, said a little prayer, and hoped to get something edible at the end of it all.
The weather warmed, the weeds grew, but so did the vegetable plants! Lovely rows of onions, a tumble of potato plants, tomatoes spilling through the cages and needing retrained up the wire. The cucumbers didn’t make it (I think they were too small when I put them in), and the brassicas were enjoyed by some rogue chickens (and a plethora of cabbage worms – how had I forgotten about cabbage worms?!), but the zucchini were oozing in every direction, and the blooms on the peppers started to get my hopes up for a harvest.
It took several evenings to get the 3.5 rows of potatoes dug, but I ended up with about 10 pounds of smallish potatoes. The brassicas were a complete loss, as were the poblanos. Did you know that chickens love poblanos?! I couldn’t figure out why I had a pepper hanging there one day, and by the next day, it would be gone. Until I saw the culprit noshing away at one. They didn’t bother the jalapeños at all, so the harvest from that was about 15 peppers from 3 plants. The zucchini? That’s the one plant I knew would do well – I’ve never killed zucchini yet (knock on wood...). They are still blooming, but so far, five large zucchinis. Most of those went in the dehydrator for zuke chips.
I planted about 75 total feet of onion sets. I recently pulled a couple for what I was making for supper – like the potatoes, they were on the small side, but there will be storing onions in the pantry!
The five tomato plants are still producing. I planted what I thought were cherry tomatoes, but; they ended up being grape tomatoes. Such tiny things – only about four cups worth at this point. Good snack, though. I won’t plant those again – back to sandwich size varieties next year. I much prefer a good tomato sandwich to this snack-size variety. Speaking of tomato sandwiches, I had no idea there were so many ways to make the “perfect” sandwich. My way is hamburger bun, greens, cheese (that’s a new addition after a whole pile of people suggested it!), tomato, mayo. One friend puts avocado on hers, some toast the bread or bun...the possibilities are endless!
I learned a lot from this garden. Among other things, tilling ground that has been a pasture for several years is hard work, and needs a proper tiller, not the one-foot wide mini-tiller I have. I would have done well to have spaded the areas as I needed to plant – that would have loosened things up more. The onions and the potatoes were not able to get very far into the soil, and I believe that was the reason for the small size and yield. Second, make sure to have some sort of brassica dusting powder on hand if I want a harvest! Cabbage worms are no joke – they can decimate a plant in what seems like seconds. A third thing I learned was straw is my friend. It was so much easier to weed and maintain the strawed-down areas.
This ground is good and healthy. It just will need a bit of work to soften it. Next year I will spade where I plant to see how that helps loosen up the soil, and I will keep planting root crops to further break things up.
How is your garden harvest this year? Did you have any crops that were great successes, or great failures?