Last tomatoes and summer garden notes

Tomatoes and mini butternut squash

Tomatoes and mini butternut squash

For the last month or so, in spite of the fact that I’ve had ample time on my hands, I’ve been pretty terrible about taking care of fall gardening chores.  Most of my beds contain the bedraggled remains of summer plants, weeds are building up bulk, and I’ve only been able to get the most basic overwintered crop, garlic, in the ground. So today I rallied my energy and started some of the tasks I should have taken on weeks ago.

First up was to harvest the remaining tomatoes.  I had a pretty good harvest of small-ish tomatoes that will work perfectly for making into sauce. Such a small harvest will probably only make one jar of sauce, so I won’t bother canning it and we’ll instead eat it fresh, which is pretty wonderful anyway.  I also harvested the last of the butternut squash.  All the other squash I did manage to harvest and cure some weeks ago.

I’ve also been meaning to collect some of my thoughts about my garden this year, mainly so I’ll remember next year some of the things I wish I had done differently this year.  Some of you might find these notes useful as well.

More of this

Fruit trees: Fruits are my favorite thing to grow, eat, and process.  This is why my small little orchard now has 25 fruit trees (9 apples, 4 cherries, 4 plums, 4 pear, and 4 peach).  A few of these trees are quite new (I love those fall nursery sales!) and my orchard will be complete when I plant a final apple (William’s Pride) this spring as a second pollinator for my Gravenstein trees.  A few things I need to do with my orchard: 1. Winter pruning, 2. Applying dormant oil this winter to keep down pests, 3. General clean up around trees, and 4. Apply good organic fertilizer.

Berries: Berries are also very high on my list.  I have twelve blueberry bushes, two raised beds of raspberries, and a raised strawberry bed.  I also have innumerable Alpine strawberries, which are planted around the garden as an edible groundcover. Since most of these berry plantings are new this year, I don’t plan much berry expansion next year, aside from possibly spreading the Alpine strawberries out to even more locations.

French green beans:  A clear winner on the plant list this year was the Maxibel bush bean. Not only did this produce a large number of beans, they tasted great and produced forever.  In fact, I just harvested a bunch of beans today.

Shelling beans: Another bean winner this year was the Etna shelling bean.  When beans are in full production in the garden, it’s nice to have a variety that doesn’t need to be harvested to either eat fresh or can, but can instead be allowed to dry on the vine for harvesting later.  I plan to grow many more Etna bean plants next year.

Carrots: With small children harvesting carrots before they are fully ready, I clearly cannot overdo planting carrots.  Since they can be left in the ground quite long, the harvest period is long as well.  Two favorite varieties from this year, King Midas and Yaya.

Green onions (aka scallions): Green onions are quite versatile.  They can be used in stir fry, salad, soup, and they can be grilled, just to name a few options. Plus, they grow quickly.  I’m definitely going to dedicate much more space to green onions next year.

Garlic: We had a good crop of garlic this year.  It was so good we worked out way through it really fast.  I’ve already planted for next year three times the amount of garlic we had this year. 

Peas:  My kids will eat pea pods right off the vine.  We ate a lot of pea pods this spring, but didn’t have many left over for saving.  Next year I want enough to both eat and save.  Oregon Giant and Oregon Sugar Pod II both did well for us.

Peppers:  My favorite pepper this year was the Italian Sweet.  The plants produced a good number of large, thick-walled peppers with few seeds.  The flavor was nice and I wish I had planted many more of these.  I’ll probably plant fewer mini peppers next year because, although they produced a large number of fruits, they were just too seedy and too much work to prepare.

Less of that

Green beans:  I planted eight different varieties of beans.  I don’t need eight varieties and I probably can dedicate half as much space to beans next year.  The challenge is that we can’t eat and process them fast enough to keep up with a planting the size I had this year. 

Cabbage and broccoli:  I love both cabbage and broccoli, but I find these to be fussy plants.  I’m always in battle with insects and never quite seem to win. 

Corn: I produced an OK crop of corn this year (Golden Bantam variety), but it took up too much space and water for the results I produced.  Plus, there are two local farms that produce lots of great corn that I can buy very cheaply.

Cucumber: OK, I won’t plant fewer cucumbers overall because I love them in general, but I won’t plant Boothby’s Blonde next year.  The plant produced a good crop of cucumbers, but they were prone to tasting bitter, which is totally unacceptable to me, so this one is now off my planting list.

Self-watering containers and Topsy-Turvy planters:  I give these a grade of C for growing tomatoes.  They worked OK, but I think I would be better off planting my tomatoes directly into the ground, which is what I plan to do next year.  I’ll use these alternate planters for pepper plants and cucumbers, which seem to do well in such planters.

Do a better job with

Onions: My onions were small.  I probably needed to water them more consistently. The Ringmaster variety provided the best results for me and I’ll definitely plant it again next year.

Potatoes:  I probably planted the right amount of potatoes but I think they would do better in a dedicated potato bed (I used grow bags) and more consistent watering.

Squash: I think I had too many plants in too small a space.  Next year, I’d like to build a large squash bed and plant it with the right number of plants.  More consistent watering will probably also help.

Happy gardening!


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7 Responses to Last tomatoes and summer garden notes

  1. KitsapFG says:

    I have come to the same conclusion on the mini bell peppers too… good producers but the fruit is too small and seedy to be really useful. I think I may give the Italian Sweet pepper a try next year based on your recommendation.

    The final tomato harvest looks yummy!

  2. Libby says:

    I love your little squash! Our Waltham Butternut plants produced mature squash ranging from 5-18 inches in size at full maturity. It works well for us since Rick’s mom likes the tiny ones (single serving), his brother likes the medium ones (2-3 meals) and we like the giant ones (cook one, eat it all week long.) Your little one is so cute tho, maybe I could go with lots of that size instead!

    I grew some Ancho Magnifico peppers this year and they made unbelievably good chile rellenos. Very flavorful, but not too spicy.

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  7. Crumb I wish I had seen this post last year. I’ve got 4 mini pepper plants. I still need to plant my beans but am wanting to grow more for drying as well. Trialing 5 varieties and only 1 for drying was maybe not such a smart decision. Ah well. It’s only the garden’s second year so I guess I can forgive myself a few errors.

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