Staples – Epic Fail
decided to post two good gardening posts before posting about the dismal part of the garden this year. Probably the hardest thing for new gardeners to wrap their minds around is that in gardening circles, there is always a good year for something. It may not be what you have planned, but there will be good and bad in the garden, no matter how long you have been at it, or how smug you become
Part of this newbie thing I lay blame at modern life’s door. We live in an on-demand society, when you go to the store the food is there, uniform, unblemished and fairly inexpensive when you really think about how hard it is to grow perfect looking food and transport it. What you don’t see at the store is crop failure from disease, weather and a myriad of other causes, the farmer absorbs a lot of that. You need potatoes for a potato salad on Saturday and the grocery store will have a bin of waxy red or yellow potatoes just waiting for you to come along. If you’re like me and you want to grow what you eat and eat whatever the garden gives you, you may find yourself SOL once in a while. The home gardener absorbs the mistakes and blemishes like the farmer.
This year I have had crop failure (or close to it) on potatoes, storage onions, and rutabagas. Seriously, who cares? That’s Gramma food. I care! I’m in competition with myself, if I have a lettuce failure it wouldn’t even be worth writing about, but a high calorie, easy storing crop like potatoes. Ouch!
On the potatoes I always hedge my bets and order certified seed to go along with my homegrown seed. In the photo above, the lush green potato row on the left is from our seed potatoes, and the three rows to the right are certified seed. Two different varieties, homegrown vs. purchased, same weather for grow-out. The Purple Viking which was purchased fizzled out pretty early in the game, with slow growth and very poor yield. In all I harvested only 125 pounds of potatoes where four rows this size of these varieties would have yielded closer to 400 pounds. I gave away more than 125 pound of potatoes last year! So whats that mean? It means right now I’m eating hash browned zucchini for breakfast instead of potatoes. There is always a bounty in the garden, we just need to adjust our tastes and habits to match the harvest or lack thereof.
I can only blame the onion failure on myself, Walla Wallas and Red Long of Tropea planted in the greenhouse got the attention that they needed, and the poor old Stuttgart sets that I champion so much, got short shrift in the garden. Even though I followed my own rules of planting things that need water close to the water source, I failed to water them. Good intentions, bad gardener!
Rutabagas, I have no idea what went on there, a new variety to me, bolted right out of the gate. That I can blame on the seed saver, but my own seeds yielded rutabagas that the flea beetles almost decimated. A few may make it, but I’m not holding my breath.
Other flubs this year included my big fat sheet mulching experiment More good intentions, but the cool wet spring delayed the decomposition of the sheet mulch and in the meantime the sheet mulch made a wonderful home for slugs and voles. I have to say the sheet mulch this time was as discouraging as the seven-foot tall rye cover crop a few years ago. Sigh. Next year. Watching that fiasco unfold though showed me a few things I could do differently…sheet mulching isn’t off the table yet. Stay tuned.
With the cool weather we’ve had a bumper crop year for brassicas, and all the other crops are doing well, even the corn which I pretty much turned my back on throughout the summer. I didn’t plant enough to freeze but we’ll get a few meals of fresh corn anyway, and the flint corn is doing its thing chugging away getting ripe.
I can’t say it’s the best year for bumper crops, but many crops are doing great and making up for the others that haven’t fared so well, the freezers and canning shelves are starting to groan. A diverse garden plan is the best crop insurance. Others think so too, here is another perspective from a midwest farmer.