Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Vegetable Garden: Harvest Season

Baby eyeing today's harvest.

I have a confession to make: I haven't stepped foot in my vegetable garden in weeks except to pick veggies. The weeds are persistent (as shown in every picture below!) but they don't seem to be crowding the good guys out yet. I've had some successes and some failures this year. Since we live at such high altitude, I thought I'd share what's happening in my vegetable garden for those gardeners in my region that want to compare notes. If you don't care, you may want to get out now...this is a long post :)

1. Lettuce: SUCCESS!

We had much more lettuce and mesclun that we were able to eat this year. Yay! From my understanding, lettuce is a spring crop that starts to bolt and go to seed during the hottest summer days. I planted it in a shady corner of the garden and thanks to our moderate weather at high altitude, we were still eating salads through late July. Now, some of it has gone to seed and I haven't made a salad in a while, but it may still be good -- I'll have to try a salad for lunch tomorrow.

2. Tomatoes: FAILURE!

"Uh, mom? Are you sure this is how a tomato plant is supposed to look?"

No, dear. Sure, there are a fair number of tomatoes (these ones are mini yellow pear tomatoes). They're tasty. It's just that there are no leaves for some reason. I wanted LOTS of tomatoes this year, so I planted 8 seedlings this spring. Maybe I didn't water them enough. I only applied fertilizer twice. Does anyone have any ideas why they turned out so sad?

3. Banana Peppers: SUCCESS!

All of my pepper plants are producing perfect-looking banana peppers. The above picture doesn't do them justice; many peppers are clustered in groups and hiding behind leaves.

4. Purple Pole Beans: FAILURE!

My first few bean seeds sprouted and grew to be about 4 inches tall before stopping. They were located near the ant colony and were riddled with bite holes, so I assumed that was the problem (ants or aphids). In July, I replanted them on the opposite end of the garden, in the same spot where the garlic grew. The same thing happened! Weird.

5. Zucchini: SUCCESS!

Now I understand where zucchini gets its reputation. Every time I visit the garden, there is at least one huge, shiny zucchini waiting for me; they seem to appear overnight! I think they taste best when harvested small, but sometimes they're practically the size of baseball bats by the time I notice them.

6. Basil: SUCCESS!

I'll admit, I didn't have much faith in my little basil plants. Only 9 seeds out of the dozens sowed became sprouts, and they were pretty puny for a while. In the last few weeks, every one of them has really blossomed into a decent sized plant. I desperately need to harvest it so they will grow even bigger!

7. Carrots: SUCCESS!

I've been cooking with carrots for most of the summer. It's nice to just head out to the backyard whenever a recipe calls for a carrot or two. It's my understanding that you can just leave these in the ground until you need them (instead of needing to harvest them soon after they reach maturity like most other veggies). The only problem I've had is that the dirt is so clay-like (too dry? too wet? not sure) that it's nearly impossible to pull those suckers out of the ground without a trowel.

8. Cucumbers: ????????

I've been excitedly watching the cucumber plants sprawl this summer, expecting a bumper crop. The strange thing is, today I harvested my first cucumber. It seems that the leaves and plants are doing OK, but for some reason it's not producing much. Maybe it's just a bit behind schedule and I'll be making greek salads all September and October.

9. Miscellaneous: some good, some just OK

Sugar snap peas: These finished producing in late spring, and I only harvested a couple bowls full. They were OK, not too exciting.

Cherries: Our poor little cherry tree just is not thriving. It produced a couple dozen cherries this year, enough to give the birds a tasty little snack. We planted it 3 years ago and it should be much more than just a little twig by now. We suspect that the clay soil is the culprit. It was nearly impossible to dig the hole, and our baby apple tree died the first winter.

Rhubarb and raspberries: I just planted the rhubarb this year, but the raspberries have been going for 3 years. This summer was AWESOME for raspberries! Baby and I went outside every other day or so and she sat on the ground, arms outstretched as I tried to pick berries fast enough for her. I didn't keep track of how many we ate this year, but every time we went out back for a month or so I picked 20-40 berries. Baby LOVED them!

Chives and Cilantro: FAILURE. Do chives ever get white flowers? I thought they were supposed to be purple. I sunk a plastic pot underground to contain the cilantro, but there were only a few small plants and I missed harvest time.

How are your gardens this year? Do you have any tips for my tomatoes?


  1. Cool post! I'm glad you had so much success! I think the key with tomatoes is to plant them in the ground. Every container-grown tomato I've ever seen has looked horrible. They also like a LOT of sun! They grow best on a southern side of a building where they get the reflected heat from the building AND the blazing sun. Just don't forget to water them, because they will dry out quickly :)
    You zucchini looks great! Mine was mostly a failure due to a powdery mildew infestation. It took over all my squash and is now moving to my zinnias. Next year I will use drip irrigation.
    I think cucumbers are late least I hope so because I've only gotten 3 so far. I hope more are coming.
    And I'm SO jealous of your raspberries! I WANT SOME!!! I can't wait to have a house and be a real person some day, (if not just for the fruit trees and bushes) :)
    Oh, and my chives are doing great. They got a lot of shade from the zinnias, but they seem happy. Maybe try a different location next year. I think your clay soil will affect some plants more than others. Just keep putting mulch and compost on it every spring and fall. Oh and I hear that you should add kelp meal to your soil in the spring and that it's good for attracting earth worms and such.
    And another thing I learned is to use a growth enhancer containing a bacterium called harpin or harbin or something. I think you apply it after your seedlings' roots have developed. It's supposed to help the overall health of the plant and make it stronger against pests and diseases.
    I will let you know if I find any more pearls of wisdom :)

  2. Awesome job gardening. I did a much smaller scale. I've kind of ignored my garden alot this summer, somethings seemed to grow. I have several tomato plants I started from seeds. Most the tomatoes have holes in them from our big hail storm awhile back. They are all still green though and I don't know if they'll make it through the cold week and have time to mature and turn red. I wish growing season was longer in colorado. Nothing from my cucumber plants...your look better than mine. My green peppers are doing ok. Spinach was a flop...only a couple leaves to eat. This is my first year to get strawberries. We had some in the spring and then now they are growing another round. I thought they only produce once a year. So I was suprised to see a second crop. Also I've had success in the past growing cilantro.

  3. My strawberries are planted in the ground. I only have 3 plants. I picked the flowers the first year, the second year I only saw a couple stawberries starting to grow, but Tyler got to them and smooshed them while they were still green. So this is actually the first etible year. They are the only part of my garden that somewhat get hit by the sprinkler system. This past winter I didn't cover them with mulch like your supposed to. They died back to the root. I didn't expect them to grow back, but they did. It may have helped having a mild winter. So they seem pretty hardy. I might plant some more since I can't seem to kill them with my excellent gardening skills.