Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Veggie Garden Wrap-Up

It is the 20th of the month, which means it's time for another veggie garden update, sponsored each month by Tina at In the Garden. I've been pretty good this year, participating for five months, but this will be my final vegetable post of the year. With frosty nights for the past week, it's time to put this garden to bed for the winter.

Everything that could be has been harvested, and only a few anemic leaves of swiss chard and this parsley are still growing in the garden.

The fennel is going to seed, and instead of the swallowtail caterpillars which once covered these tall plants, they are covered with Asian Lady Beetles, which are everywhere.

It's a good time to evaluate the successes and failures of this year's veggie crop and to think about some changes for next year:

1. Without a doubt, the award for best performing vegetable this year has to go to the green beans. I planted perhaps 3/4 of a package of seeds, intending to sow a small second planting a few weeks later. But I ran out of room for the second planting, and it wasn't necessary anyway. We had a consistent harvest of green beans up until two weeks ago, and several packages were frozen for the winter.

Recommendation for next year: Remember to check the beans every few days. With this year's abundant rain, I underestimated how quickly they would grow, resulting in some harvests of gigantic beans, not so tasty or tender.

2. The spinach and lettuce did not perform as well for some reason; perhaps they were planted too late.

Recommendation: Plant spinach as early as possible and plan to freeze some. Plant the mesclun mix again only if room allows. Pull both as soon as hot weather arrives and use the space for something else.

3. The tomatoes produced a bumper crop in spite of the blight.
The best performer of the four varieties planted was Better Boy, which seemed to be more disease-resistant than the others. I managed to keep one heirloom alive--sort of--from the seeds started indoors. I waited all summer for this Cherokee Purple to produce a ripe tomato so I could finally taste what everyone has raved about. As you can see to the right, it never happened. This poor plant was hit first with the blight, dropping all its leaves and producing two tiny fruit, which turned red only as the temperature dropped below freezing.

Recommendation for next year: Depending on how my supply of frozen tomato juice and sauce holds out through the winter, I may plant fewer tomatoes. I planted 20 plants, which produced more than enough for us this year and kept me busy for awhile preserving all the extras. "Better Boys" and Romas will be the main varieties planted; as for heirlooms, we'll see if I feel adventurous enough to try again.

4. A gardening segment on the news today featured a local Extension agent explaining how important it was to clean up the garden. He emphasized the need for pulling out tomato plants especially, because of their proclivity toward diseases. Other plant material can be left in the garden, according to him. I took advantage of the sunny weather today to do just that, pulling up the tomato cages to store for the winter and pulling all the dead tomato plants out and depositing them in the burn pile--not the compost pile. And, of course, I will rotate their location next year to help avoid a chance of leaf blight again.

Recommendation for next year: Check tomato plants carefully and often as the summer progresses. At the first sign of spotted and brown leaves, spray with a fungicide. The fungicide may not have worked this year, but since the blight hit while I was away, I never got the chance to try it.

4. Mulching the garden this year really helped control the weeds. I used wood mulch this year, only because I had some extra, but whatever I use next year, the key, I think, is to put down the newspapers first.

Recommendation for next year: Mulch again, but sooner!

5. An unexpected bumper crop came from the carrots. I never bothered to thin them out and didn't get around to digging them up until two weeks ago, thinking they needed more time to fill out. To give you some perspective on this photo, the small carrot in the center is a normal-sized carrot you would get in a bag purchased in the supermarket. The rest of these are monsters! Even Tarzan in the corner of the picture was afraid to touch these scary giants.

Recommendation: Pull up onions and carrots much earlier!

6. Other results from this year: the few beets planted did very well; I had forgotten how much I liked these vegetables. The gourds, on the other hand, were planted much too late and didn't do much of anything.

Recommendations: Plant more beets. Plant gourds earlier in the season. Other veggies I'd like to add: sugar snap peas, summer squash, and some winter squash. I've wanted to plant asparagus for years--if spring comes early enough to work the garden in March or early April, I might finally get around to planting that asparagus and the peas. Of course, that will mean digging up more space as well!

Overall, I was very satisfied with the veggie garden this year, and if that weren't enough, I found a couple extra vegetables elsewhere--when I pulled out the wilted sweet potato vines from my planter, I found these at the roots. So, tell me, are they edible??


  1. Your veggie garden looks like a complete success to me Rose. I love to have fresh parsley in the garden. It makes even a roast chicken sitting on a platter look like a dish fit for a King.

  2. Wow Rose, 20 tomato plants is a lot! You have done well and have given us lots of good info here, thanks! The carrots are giants, very pretty too. :-)

  3. Rose girl ! Your veggie garden has been wonderful !! .. I think we all got hit hard by those darn Japanese beetles .. I want to be on top of that problem next year for sure.
    I still have some parsley and sage in pots .. I am a parsley NUT .. I can never have enough of it and I didn't get enough to dry .. I kept eating it ! haha So my recommendation to myself is get MORE next year !! : )
    Well done girl !

  4. Rose, it looks like your garden was a big success this year. I am at the end of the season when I always say, I am not going to even bother planting tomatoes ever again...but I am sure by Spring, I will be singing a different tune.

  5. I'm not a vegetable gardener but I always enjoy reading posts that feature veggies. 20 tomato plants? Holy Smokes. We did have 1 lonely tomato plant and I can really say it was a huge success. It produced lots of tomatoes, but they tasted like grocery store tomatoes to me. There's always next year. I'll have to try the Better Boys. My dad says to try Early Girls.

  6. What I meant was... I "can't" say our tomato plant was a success. Too early for me to be writing comments.

  7. Excellent post. We all should sit down and evaluate our gardens on paper each fall. As much as I love heirloom tomatoes, I'm discouraged that they seem to pick up so much disease and don't perform well. Maybe it's back to the hybrids for me too.

  8. I'm so envious of all you gardeners have success with their veggies. I think I failed this year as a gardener. Not sure if I will even attempt to grow a garden next year. Right now I have a couple of brussel sprout plants in some pots but even they are just sitting there doing nothing.

  9. You echo my sentiments exactly. Writing it all down will be a great reminder for next year. I have never grown carrots successfully so those ones rock! I'll try your method next year. I added you in.

  10. What a great review!! I appreciate the recommendations, good info to have, AND remember for next year. We had a lot of tomatoes in the stores that looked like they were already showing signs of wilt. I looked long and hard to find a store that had some healthy ones. While the heirlooms are said to be tastier, not all have the virus/wilt resistance. In past years we planted 25+ tomatoes and this year we had 8...for the two of us a much more manageable number. I like the use of newspaper under the mulch. (get your wheelbarrow filled with water and drag the paper through the water before putting it down...stays in place ever so much better as you put the mulch on top)
    The tubers from the sweet potato vine are not edible.

  11. Lisa, Do you know I harvested only a bit of parsley? I planted it more for the butterflies. I do have some sprigs drying now, though.

    Frances, Yes, I always get carried away a bit with buying tomato plants:) I was hoping for big carrots...just not quite that big!

    Joy, I really should have used the parsley more this year, but I kept watching it for caterpillars instead.

    MG, I say the same thing every year, too--next year I am not going to plant so many tomatoes! And then I get enticed at the nursery:)

    Donna, The Better Boys are good all-purpose tomatoes; I usually plant Early Girls, too, but couldn't find any this year. I also couldn't find any Beefsteaks, which we really like. I don't think well in the morning, either:)

    Marnie, Your posts last year with the heirlooms are what prompted me to give the Cherokees a try. I was so disappointed they didn't work out this year.

    Susie, Don't give up! I have been growing vegetables much longer than flowers, and some years the garden is a total disappointment. This year's frequent rainfall here made ideal conditions for most of the vegetables.

    Tina, I'm bad about keeping up with a gardening journal these days, so this post should help me out next spring. Thanks for hosting this, and good luck with your fall crops!

    Janet, Thanks for that tip on wetting the newspapers! I had never thought about that, but it sounds like an excellent idea. I'm usually putting down newspaper during a 20-mph wind, so it's usually a battle. And thanks, too, for alerting me to the sweet potatoes--glad I didn't decide to have them for dinner:)

  12. I heard a gardener cum chef rave about a variety of tomato called Nectar. I think I'll look for that next year. WE had a good crop but not as sweet as could be; I blame the lack of sunshine.

    But your veggies looked really good! I'm sure you could eat those sweet potatoes.

  13. This is a great post Rose...I like the summaries and then recommendations. Now if only Mr I would help me garden, I'm sure we could have vegies! You said you had great soil and I can see that your carrots never hit a rock...they might be giant, but I bet earlier in the season they were tasty. Good luck with the tomatoes...have they decided why it was so wide spread? I cut down only a few plants; but, especially the phlox...It's the only thing that keeps the phlox bug at bay!

    have a good day!


  14. Hi Rose.......looks like a total success to me ....I always have a lot of respect for those who grow their own veg.
    I limit myself to tomatoes, runner beans and herbs (they are my passion)

    One year I did grow carrots in a barrel....is was very successful

  15. Looks like your veggie garden was overall a great success Rose! It must have been the year for green beans! This is such a great idea for keeping track of what did well and what to do differently next year. It was a fun post to read. Wow. . . 20 tomato plants!

  16. It sounds like you had a very successful year, despite the crazy weather! This post is making me very excited for the vegetable expansion I'm going to have next year! That's too bad about your heirloom tomato; hopefully we'll avoid the blight next year. I say give it another try (in another location, of course, as you said).

  17. I saw where you commented about this post helping you next spring-great idea for those of us who don't keep very good gardening journals. I should go back to my spring posts and see what I hoped for and then compare to what actually did well in my gardens. Of course I mean annuals and perennials.

    Your green beans were really tasty. Thanks for sharing. I have a recommendation for the though-be sure to plant enough to share with me again!

  18. Your veggie garden did very well this season. Always a delight to have some extras to put up!
    The huge nests on my ABC N post are a sculpture in Grinnel Iowa.
    They are made out of natural elements.
    Enjoyed your garden update. I need to get out and clean up the spent tomatoes plants too.

  19. Wow that is alot of Tomatoes, I had great luck with my Romas too. Thanks for sharing your recommendations, that was a good idea. I've been documenting changes I want to make for next season in a notebook. ;)

  20. Hi Rose! It's funny, I wrote (but not posted yet) about my vegetable garden experiences and recommendations, and some of them are so similar to some of yours! Plant more beets! - is one of them. I love beets! That parsley looks so good. It might survive the winter. When we lived in Missouri with its cold winters, I had Italian parsley even after a frost and snow. It would look wilty after the bad cold, but then recove! Rose, I also want to thank you for your comment on my pink ribbon post. I greatly appreciate it!

  21. Gosh Rose, however do you find the time? Well done on all your successes :)


  22. My goodness Rose! Your garden is a productive place and must keep you very busy, so many lovely veg.
    I don't grow vegetables although I sometimes have tomatoes in pots but they never do very well. I also grow herbs in pots but like everything else in my garden they have been sadly neglected this year!
    I love how you have written notes to yourself for future reference but which will also be of help to other veg growers...an excellent idea Rose.

  23. Liz, I'd love to taste some of these heirlooms that are supposed to be so much tastier than the hybrids. But I'm worried they're not as disease-resistant.

    Gail, I don't know why the blight was so bad this year, but probably because we had such a wet summer. Vegetable gardening is the only kind of gardening Mr. Procrastinator is interested in:)

    Cheryl, Vegetable gardening is a lot of work--I spent a lot of time this summer and fall preserving veggies rather than doing other gardening work. But it's so satisfying!

    Linda, Now if I can remember to check out this post next spring:) If you ever find a source for your Kuri squash, I'd love to know about it.

    Rose, Actually the weather was ideal for veggies--frequent rainfall kept me from having to water the garden. But it may have contributed to the tomato blight.

    Beckie, Next year I'll plant the whole package of green bean seeds!

    Sherry, Thanks for identifying those huge nests; they were really something!

    Racquel, I started out last year with a gardening journal, but then I didn't keep it up. A good resolution for next year! I always get carried away buying tomato plants:)

    Tatyana, Thanks for the tip on the parsley--I'll have to leave it alone in case it does survive. Looking forward to seeing your veggie post!

    Suburbia, Ah, this is the joy of being retired. And, of course, I now have an empty nest--I need to keep busy:)

    Shysongbird, I started growing vegetables long before I started any other type of gardening. It does keep me busy, but's also very satisfying. I come from a long line of vegetable gardeners:)

  24. Love your notes to yourself and to us! Very helpful. My veggie garden has been shut down for weeks now. The parsley was still going strong, but I needed its pot for something else, so I harvested it. I *do* still have my fall sowing of lettuce, which is almost ready now. :)

  25. Hi Rose,
    I wish I'd have come here sooner. There may be some ornamental sweet potatoes that aren't edible, but I don't think they would make you sick. I did a post both last year and this year on the subject, and found 'Marguerite' to be quite sweet. I like it better convection baked than microwaved. I also ate 'Ace of Spades'. I think most people don't want to bother because that's not why they grow the ornamental sweet potatoes, and the harvest is small. Still, I like to experiment. Next year, I want to try more varieties.

    Let me know if you learned anything else about the subject.

    Here is where my posts on the subject are:



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