September 17, 2013

Garden Successes and Failures

2013 was an interesting garden year here in central Connecticut.  A lingering and cold spring warmed into a very dry May that was classified as a moderate drought.  June brought heavy rains to the party, followed by a scorching July.  August was a blessing of a month; the warm days and cool nights enveloped us in the glorious remnants of summer while hinting at the splendor of the upcoming autumn.

Of course, the only thing normal about weather is that it is never normal, and we gardeners simply take it in stride and plant many varieties in the knowledge that some will fail and some will succeed.  So, I present to you, select garden successes and failures of 2013!

The Good
Eggplant!  Oh, the glorious eggplant!  This was the first year I grew the purple globes, and I was rewarded with two plants that just produced and produced some more.  The variety was Galine.  I'm growing these guys again next year.

Heirloom tomatoes...I grew Cherokee Purple and Pink Brandywine.  Cherokee wins hands-down for flavor, color and texture over any other variety that I have grown.  I will confidently state that one of my mid season Cherokees was the finest tomato I have ever eaten.  It totally ruined me in that I will never enjoy another store bought tomato for the rest of my life.  This tomato will be the garden dragon that I will chase for years to come.  Yup, that good.  Also, the Honeydrop Cherry tomatoes (not heirlooms) made a fine showing for the second season in a row with an endless supply of sweet orange/yellow fruits that were always eaten before they made it into the kitchen.

Snap beans, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and broccoli (finally!) produced very well this year.

The Bad (that's harsh...let's just say The Mediocre!)
The garlic crop came in early, small, and somewhat bland.  I can't complain because I received free seed last year.  I did make a sweet garlic braid, which I count as a success!

The Garlic Whisperer.
Spring-planted turnips performed very poorly, but the July planting made it to the table in fine fashion.  The rutabagas and cabbage took forever to get going, but the rains of June helped spur growth, and the results were quite tasty.

My first rutabaga.
I will not grow Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes again.  The plants were slow to mature and prone to blight, and the fruits were somewhat bland with a weak red color.  That said, they were tastier than 95% of supermarket tomatoes, so it's all relative, folks.  But now I'm chasing that dragon, you see, and I have no room in my garden for this.  Life's too short to drink cheap beer and eat shitty tomatoes.

The Ugly
Peas, golden beets, and sweet corn were abject failures.  I made multiple plantings of each and experienced near total germination failures.  I understand the peas.  The poor seeds were subject to cold and rain and then total heat and drought.  By June, I mercifully pulled the few plants that grew and sowed a cover crop of buckwheat.  One or two plants produced peas.  Naturally, they were the sweetest and most tender peas I have ever grown...a pure tease of what could have been.

Rainbow chard...a pretty picture in the "ugly" paragraph.
I had a tough year for summer squash.  I ate exactly one patty pan squash and one zucchini before the plants fell prey to vine borers and powdery mildew.  Last year I was overrun with these fruits.  Funny how these things cycle from year to year.

My peppers all got worms before they ripened.  Oh well.  There is always next year.

The Take Home Message
I learned so much in the garden this year.  I tried growing eggplant, onion, leeks, parsnips, rutabaga, and turnips for the first time and got tasty harvests of each.  I finally beat the weeds by using hoeing techniques I read about in Eliot Coleman's essential garden book, The New Organic Grower.  I spent about 20 minutes a month weeding my 400 square foot garden, without having to bend over or pull a weed by hand.  I improved irrigation techniques and relieved a lot of drought stress that I believe my garden has suffered in years past.  I experimented with custom-made fertilizer mixtures that stemmed from a laboratory analysis of the nutrient content of my soil. I'm pretty excited for next year...I've expanded my garden by another 560 square feet and tilled in 750 square feet of my grandparents' backyard.  It's all growing a cover crop of rye and vetch right now and will be part of next year's grand experiment in gardening!  Stay tuned!

Some of it looks perfect.  Some of it looks funky.  But it's all organic and all tasty!


  1. Great blog! Loved this one... it could be from having tasted all those yummy veggies you've mentioned! ;)

    Keep the blogs coming!
    - Your loving wife

  2. Is the garlic hanging in your basement? Congrats on all the hard work with the garden. Enjoy.

  3. Savage, yeah the garlic is in the basement, along with the potatoes. Soon to be joined by the onions. I wish I had a root cellar! And a Colt 1911.