Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Results from the 2022 garden and plans for 2023

Every year at about this time I write posts on what I learned from the previous garden and what I want to learn from the new garden. This year I’m combining them into a single post.


In the tables below you’ll find the yields for each crop I harvested in 2022.



Our last spring frost date (low of 32F or less) was April 19th, with a low of 34F on April 26th. Despite the late cold snap, the average temperature for the month was about normal. Precipitation was less than normal but adequate. May was warm and wet, while June was hotter and drier than normal. This weather pattern favors the spring crops like lettuce, cabbage, and bok choy. A look at the data shows that while none of these crops broke yield records, each of them did well.


The hotter and drier pattern in June continued through July, with one exception: record-breaking rainfall on July 25-26. August was about average in temperature and rainfall, while September was about average temperature but very dry. October was very dry till the last week, with the first autumn frost occurring on October 18th, with a low of 29F (the low was 25F on the 19th). The dry conditions combined with hot weather in June and July led to pepper flowers not pollinating well, reducing their yields considerably. The bell pepper plants didn’t set any peppers until well into August, and the plants suffered more from disease than did the ‘Italian Frying’ variety. Tomatoes withstood conditions better and the muskmelon yield would have been higher but for one fruit that a critter found before we did. The vining beans had decent yields and the bush lima bean yielded better than the pole lima beans that I have tried, but the squash and cucumber plants died early and produced poorly. The combination of dry autumn conditions and lack of thinning led to poor yields of autumn crops – and the critter(s) that ate the lettuce and kale didn’t help matters any. I did a better job of thinning the beets, and they, carrots, and leeks produced a decent yield.


For the fruits, the strawberry plants would have yielded more, but I was unable to pick them for a week during the height of their ripening. The plants did not come back after I mowed them in June, following the end of fruiting. Apparently the combination of age and inadequate watering on top of the stress of being mowed led to their deaths. Because the raspberries were newly planted in the spring, they did not yield, and critters ate all the apples on all three apple trees. I don’t know why the persimmon yield was low. On the other hand, the pawpaw trees yielded magnificently! We’re still eating pawpaws that I froze from last summer!


One of the questions I wanted the 2022 garden to answer is how well a six-bed vegetable garden fits in with the other interests and commitments of my life. As it turned out, the answer isn’t yet clear. On the one hand, it was less work than the nine-bed garden, and we had a good variety of fresh produce from the vegetable garden from late May through early December. In fact, we still have daikon radishes in storage, waiting to be eaten. On the other hand, the garden work still got ahead of me, especially in summer and autumn. Certainly the heat didn’t help, but it seemed to be more than that. It may be that I need to re-think the amount of time I give the various activities of my life if I am to keep up with the weeding and thinning of a six-bed garden. Or it may be that I need to consider a further reduction in the space devoted to vegetable gardening. I’ll consider that as I work in the six-bed garden this year.


Another question I asked was how the bush lima bean variety I trialed in 2022 would yield and if it would be a good garden citizen and not overgrow the space allotted to it. On both counts I’m very pleased with it. We haven’t eaten any of the crop yet, but I will grow it again this year and hope that we like the taste of the beans when we get around to cooking them.


In 2022 I asked the potato onions if planting the 1 to 1.5 inch diameter bulbs in early March would lead to better survival and yield than planting them in early November. Those were the onions planted in 62 square feet in the data tables. The answer: yes, planting them in early March resulted in greater survival and higher yield. In fact, they out-yielded the 1.5 to 2 inch diameter onions that I planted in early November (the onions planted in 27 square feet).


This year’s question for the potato onions is if I can hold the larger onions in storage until early March (larger potato onions don’t survive as long in storage as smaller ones do) and plant them out then to obtain a higher yield with them as well. In order to minimize rotting I laid them out in a single layer on a wire shelf suspended from the basement ceiling. As of today, only a few of the smaller onions have sprouted, but close to half of the larger onions have sprouted. I’ll plant all of the un-sprouted larger onions and as many of the sprouted larger onions as seem to be firm enough to catch on and grow. I’ll keep the harvest from each part of the bed separate so I can compare the yields from the area planted to larger onions from the yield planted to smaller onions. I’ll also observe the plants as they grow and take notes of any differences between the areas.


What about last year’s experiment with seeds from Lisa Brunette’s potato onions? Well, they produced seedlings that I planted out, and the seedlings grew well. The plants went dormant in June, at the same time as the potato onion bulbs go dormant and I harvest them. Unlike the case with the onions in the documentation I read, the seed-grown onions did not grow larger than the bulb-grown onions. Rather, the seed-grown onions were smaller. So I left them all in the ground. In retrospect, I should have harvested half of them then and left the rest in the ground, because most of them rotted over the summer. But six of them revived in early autumn. Rather than leave them to the ravages of winter, I potted each of them up and moved them to the front porch. All have survived the winter on the front porch. I’ll share half of them with Lisa and plant the other half in my garden (making sure to harvest them in June along with the crop from bulbs!). Meanwhile, I stored the rest of Lisa’s seeds in the freezer and planted some of them in a flat for this year’s bed. I stored the seeds in the freezer rather than in the basement where I store the rest of the seeds because onion and leek seeds are not supposed to be long-lived, perhaps only a year or so. The colder and drier they are stored, the longer they live.


For the three beds that I used to plant in corn, my current plan is to move some plants from elsewhere in the yard that need more sun or need dividing into that space. This will include daylilies, purple coneflowers, and peonies. I am also considering other perennial herbs for any space remaining. I will mulch as much of these beds with autumn leaves as I have available to reduce the weeding needed. Thanks to someone who dumped 20 or 30 plastic bags full of leaves into the creek down the street that Mike and I salvaged, I already have some of the mulch in place. As I continue with garden clean-up I’ll rake more leaves for these beds.


This year I’m planting a new strawberry bed with new plants of the same variety, ‘Earliglo’. If I have enough autumn leaves I will mulch this bed as well and do the best I can to keep competing plants out of it.


While I plan to continue the blog for the time being, expect posting to be occasional and at irregular intervals. In the meantime, enjoy life!