"Long time, no blog!" you say? Well, there just hasn't been much to report lately -- the gardeners really just spent the summer watching the garden do its thing and collecting veggies now and then. However, the time has come to review our first season's harvest and to commence fall planting. So, off we go...
Last week, we harvested the last of our summer/early fall crops: a big bunch of carrots and several sweet potatoes. The carrots were quite delicious, and the sweet potatoes are now in the process of "curing" per instructions recommended by Jane. In about two weeks, the sweet potatoes will be ready for baking, mashing, scalloping, tempura, deep frying, or whatever else we can think to do to them. Mmm....Only the parsnips remain in the garden, and they will continue to grow until winter.
Overall, the garden's first season did not produce as many veggies as we had hoped -- and some plants were more successful than others. We are still convinced that our harvest was limited by the early hot weather and the less-than-optimal soil with which we started (see photos below). We had success with our first round of lettuce and radishes; carrots; sweet potatoes; green cucumber; green beans and snow peas (though both of these passed their prime very quickly); Roma and Tumbling Tom cherry tomatoes; and sunflowers. Disappointments included bok choy, cowpea, eggplant (both varieties), green onions, leek, garlic, all pepper varieties, spinach, patty pan squash, the remaining tomato varieties, and zucchini (of all things -- we didn't get a single one!). The herbs did quite well before succumbing to the heat of the summer, and the fate of the rhubarb is uncertain -- Peggy's is definitely dead and Virginia's alternately produce leaves and appear to die out. We shall see if they make a stronger comeback in the cooler weather.
We decided to amend and seed two of the garden beds for the fall: the root vegetable bed and the tomato bed. After debating the benefits and availability of various soil amendments, we decided to simply purchase several bags of premixed potting soil (consisting of compost, peat moss, and perlite) and to work it into the existing soil by hand. The remaining beds would be cleared in preparation for the winter. Peggy and Virginia tackled this job yesterday.
Here's how the garden looked before the autumn cleanup:
We went to work on the tomato bed first, and quickly decided that our job would be easier if we didn't have to work around the accidental asparagus. Peggy couldn't bring herself to kill it, though, so Virginia pulled it up while Peggy averted her gaze. After a moment of respectful silence, we carried on. The existing soil came up in large clumps of clay as we forked our way through the garden bed and we had to spend a significant amount of time breaking down these lumps. We then slowly tilled in 1.5 cubic feet of potting soil, which seemed to lighten the dirt considerably. When we were fairly satisfied with the consistency of the soil, we planted kale, our lettuce seed mixture, and snow peas (and provided two large tomato cages for the snow peas to climb).
The root vegetable bed presented much more of a challenge. The existing soil was very difficult to break up -- so much so that we felt compelled to record our battle in photos:
...that is one huge solid lump of dirt!
We were eventually able to dig up the soil around the parsnips to the depth of our garden forks, and to introduce a 1.5 cubic feet bag of potting soil into the existing dirt. We then planted radishes, bok choy, carrots, and spinach in the amended bed.
Finally, we attempted to clear the large gardening bed, but the dirt was so hard that we couldn't dig our forks into it. It's no wonder that very few of our veggies managed to grow in it! Since we had reached our planting goals, we decided to set a date in the near future to dig out at least a third of the dirt from the large bed, and to replace it with a potting soil mixture. We will also amend the herb bed, after we transplant the thriving butterfly bush to a new spot near the garden.
And voila, the garden is (mostly) ready for the next growing season!
Watch this space for more updates on our new crop of veggies!