|Nero di Tuscana kale- still going strong, Piracicaba broccoli in the foreground|
I started this blog in March of this year, during the long, cold 2010-11winter that seemed like it would never end. My first post ran down the list of seeds I had just ordered from Fedco and what my hopes for them were.
Now it's the end of the year and it's time to take stock of the garden in 2011. Everyone else is making lists and counting down things from the last year and predictions for the future. I'd like to write about something other than cancer, and this is the second-most compelling thing to write about that I can think of at the moment.
Keep in mind that this was a difficult year for gardening. A long cold winter, followed by a very wet and cool spring that suddenly transitioned into a very hot, humid summer, then a mild, but extremely dry fall. Add in a couple of violent storms, like the late May tornado that hit Minneapolis and you have a summer which puts even the best varieties of garden plants to the test.
So know that if I am harsh on a particular variety that you like, it may have only been the weather. Most seeds were from Fedco, and bred for cool, moist conditions in the state of Maine. Very well suited for Minnesota's summers overall, though we're drier in the late season, and probably hotter as well, though the growing season's about the same length. Other seeds came from Jung's, based in central Wisconsin, or from the local Ace Hardware (origin of seeds completely unknown) when I had some empty spots to fill. I picked up a variety of pepper starts from local garden shop Egg/Plant after all of the starts I had begun from seed seemed to have failed.
So the following are my seeds ordered in spring in bold- the spring predictions after a dash and how they actually performed in the summer in red. Got it? If not, leave a comment and I will respond.
Windsor Fava Bean - an awesome producer, and delicious- our third year growing them
Not the best producer this year. The plants grew quickly in the cool, wet spring, then fizzled in the hot July. We had a decent number of beans in late June, early July, but they pretty much dried up and went away mid-summer. We've never been able to repeat our first amazing year of a double crop of favas without having to replant. I think cool weather throughout is the key. I may try another variety (Gigante?) this year.
Shirofumi soybeans - first time with these
Total flop. I may have not given these enough room. I planted them in our community garden space, which I tend to overplant. The cool spring didn't let them establish, and they were overwhelmed by the greens and squash vines. Big disappointment. The plot right next to ours had a bumper crop of soybeans, so I know it wasn't the weather.
Oregon Giant Snow Peas - the seeds are huge- first time with these as well
Like the favas, these also did very well in the spring. They ARE big- largest peas I've grown yet, but not mutant-monster size. Good flavor- the kids liked eating them and it was almost problematic keeping them from eating them all while they were playing in the yard. Not that I'm going to complain about my kids eating vegetables. Even the neighbor kid came over to eat them! I'll definitely plant these again.
Cream of Saskatchewan melon - a yellow watermelon that should grow in Minnesota if it's able to make it in western Canada
Disappointing. Not very vigorous, and the melons were sour and relatively flavorless. Not a true yellow watermelon either- more off-white as the name implies. If this is the best watermelon that could grow in the north, then it's not worth growing watermelon-- however see my entry on Yellow Doll below.
Telegraph Improved European Cucumber- sounds like a variant of the English cucumber my wife likes
A definite keeper. Tasty, crunchy cucumbers. A lot like the Lebanese cukes that Gita likes eating. Hard to find, but I think most cucumbers are. The fact that they're thin and curly makes them even harder to see among the vines. But worth the search. I enjoyed these as much as my wife did.
Danvers Carrot- We've grown this one for at least 4 years now-- tasty and super-productive in our shady garden
And again this year. A sweet, productive carrot in our sandy soil. We had so many, and no room in our freezer, that I made a batch of carrot wine. I'll cover that in another post. I racked it today and it has fermented to nearly dry in under a month. Not bad.
Green Meat Radish- another new one. It sounds like a small Daikon variation. We've tried the bigger daikons and had success the first year, then bad luck every year after. Not sure if we have some sort of fungus or nematode affecting the daikons, but hopefully green meat won't be affected.
Total flop. I think I do have to give up on Daikon-style radishes. There was plenty of top growth, but no root growth. Strangely, there was a single radish that produced a nice root, but it was woody and tough. I mixed in some Daikon seeds from last year and some white icicle seeds from Ace, all flopped. Something is wrong here. I may have to not grow radishes for a couple of years in this soil.
Space Spinach- sounded good in the Fedco catalog
There's not much I can say about spinach. It came up and was gone a few weeks later, like all spinach. I replanted another variety in late summer, and we had a fantastic fall crop that lasted quite a bit longer. I'll have to try that again next year.
Mustard Mix- a mix of the south asian greens my wife likes so much
Pung Pop mustard- see above
Both were good. I think I saved some of both for the fall crop I mentioned above. Both did OK in the spring, then wowed me in the fall. I mixed all of the greens together in the fall planting and I didn't pay much attention to which did best, but they all were good. The hardest part is setting aside the seed, then remembering to plant again in August.Piracicaba broccoli- Was sold out this year at Fedco! I was so bummed out-- I special ordered it from another company- we'll see if it arrives. Piracicaba has been one of the best plants we've ever planted in our garden. Small florets of really tasty broccoli all summer and well into fall. Besides the kale, this is the longest lasting thing in our garden.
Ordered it from the 'Hudson Valley Seed Library'. Good seed, but more expensive, and much fewer seeds. I had to be careful planting these. Nevertheless, they did well, as always. It seems that it was worth it. We harvested broccoli on December 26th this year! If the weather holds, maybe we'll be able to pick some side shoots in January. I feel like this seed is a real find. Fedco had a crop failure in Piracicaba this year, so I'll have to order elsewhere again.
Nero di Tuscana kale- we ususally order two varieties of kale each year- a Russian kale, usually a purple or multicolor kale, and a lacinato, or dinosaur variety . This year, we're sticking with lacinato only. As wonderful as the kale is, it tends to take over the garden. We end up with a forest of kale by the fall, and the Russian kale just isn't as tasty as the lacinato.
Another bumper crop. This is the closest thing I've seen to an indestructable plant. We harvested some of this as well on the 26th. That means we've been eating this kale for just about exactly half a year now. It's sweeter after the frost, and seems to still be growing those little puckered leaves that it puts on in the late fall. The bizarre weather didn't phase it at all- I was a bit worried about the heat- but no problems. Probably the single best plant to put in a Minnesota vegetable garden.
Cajun Jewel okra. We've ordered it in the past and it was sold out. This year we got it! Supposedly it's better adapted to our cooler climate and shorter growing season. Last year I planted Clemson spineless (I think that was the name) from the hardware store, and it did well, but that had more to do with the hot summer than anything else. I'm keen on seeing what Cajun Jewel does in our community garden space.
Flop. The cool, wet spring did it in. I replanted in late June with a burgundy variety from Ace and got a few pods, but not enough to make it worthwhile.
Jaluv An Attitude hot pepper- a jalepeno variety that does well in northern climates
This was a new one, and a good one too! I started six or seven indoors, and planted them mid-May, then a late frost killed off most of my tomato and pepper starts. I gave Jaluv An up for dead, but didn't pull them up since there was still a little bit of green there. I was surprised to see three of them survive, then in July start to thrive. Jaluv An gave me a nice steady supply of little purplish jalapeno-style peppers through August, September and October. Nice heat level- hot, but not overwhelming. A good find! Apparently developed to thrive near 45 degrees latitude. They did well here at 44 degrees and 58 minutes north.Garden Peach tomato- I planted this 10 or 12 years ago and loved it. It really is peach-like. Sweet, slightly fuzzy and fruity. Hard to believe it's real. I think the kids will like this one.
This is just a fun tomato to grow. Pretty, productive, and tough through a difficult summer. No disease issues, and the fruits made great salsa. The kids didn't find it as interesting as I did, but Gita liked them a lot. A keeper.
Opalka paste tomato- We make salsa every year and go through a lot of tomatoes during the growing season. I'm hoping this is a good one. The write-up in the catalog looked good. Will it deliver?
No. The one that survived transplanting to the garden succumbed to blight in mid-summer. A direct seeded one survived and produced a few very tasty tomatoes, but was too late to produce many. I'd plant it again because the tomatoes were so good, maybe by direct seeding in mid-May. BTW- we bought some Federle starts at the ECFE silent auction and they were fantastic by the way. The tomatoes were almost identical to Opalka, but the plants were more vigorous, and no sign of blight, until almost the end of the season. Federle may be the better tomato for this region.
Sweet Basil- for the pesto we make and freeze in the fall. We couldn't go without some basil in the garden.
Grew like a weed. I scattered seeds all over our community garden plot and ended up with more than we could use. A wonderful plant that makes gardening worthwhile almost on its own. Not worth starting indoors- the direct seeded ones will overtake it. I've tried it multiple times now with the same result. I won't start it indoors ever again. Instead I'll scatter seeds everywhere in May.
Caribe cilantro- we still have wild cilantro coming up from some we planted 5 seasons ago. But this is supposed to be more robust and slow-bolting. The opposite of the stuff we have volunteering in the garden right now.
Flop. Where did it go? I'm not sure. We didn't see much of it. The volunteer cilantro didn't come back either. Maybe it was just a bad year for cilantro.
Yellow Doll- I traded seeds with a co-worker who ordered seeds from Jung, and Yellow Doll was one fantastic trade.
And what a trade- big contrast to Cream of Saskatchewan. This produced a bumper crop of softball-size and larger fruits with almost no effort. They were bright yellow and deliciously sweet. My grandma has actually grown this same seed and had a lot of success. This was my first time trying it. It made growing watermelons seem easy. If you want to try growing watermelons in Minnesota, this may be the seed to try.
Winter Luxury pumpkin -was the other Jung seed I picked up from the same co-worker.
Again, this one turned out well. I hesitate to endorse Jung because their catalogs are so chemical-happy, but they do produce good seed. Like Yellow Doll, Winter Luxury produced a LOT of small, bright orange pumpkins which have made delicious pies and are storing well so far this winter in the root cellar. Lives up to its name. This was the best producing plant in our community garden plot. Even after a good number of them were stolen, we still ended up with 8 or 9 of them to store for the winter (and even made little jack-o-lanterns from two of them.)
Any suggestions on what to plant in 2012? This was truly a year to weed out the weak varieties- let me know what worked well for you and what you'd reccommend.