Harvesting The New Garden

Reader Contribution by Keba M Hitzeman
1 / 3
2 / 3
3 / 3

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?

Need Help? Call 1-866-803-7096