Friday, October 30, 2009

How Did Our Garden Grow?

Corn and Beans

This year's garden was eventful, and deserves a report:

1. The Three Sisters Garden worked great!

Following the directions from NativeTech, I planted corn, stringbeans and various kinds of squash Native American-style. We had way more corn than the previous year (although several ears never developed), and the beans were plentiful up until the first frost. In fact, the beans grew so well that the corn stalks began bending under the weight and had to propped up with stakes taken from the tomato patch (more on which below). I also got a lot of acorn squash (reminder to self: make menus to use up acorn squash in downstairs fridge) and a few zucchinis. I even got two pickings of pickles from the one vine that grew over by the compost pile. But most of the squash didn't thrive. Possible reasons: planted seeds too deep, critters ate seeds, powdery mildew, squash bugs. But all in all relatively easy and very rewarding. (Note for next year: deepen lower plot to move corn farther away from fence.)

2. Those poor tomatoes.

Tomatoes throughout the area had it rough this year. Tomato blight arrived early, thanks to plants shipped to the big-box stores. Although experts recommended pulling up all plants and discarding them, I kept a few which still had leaves and found that by the end of the season they each had produced several more small fruits (which I failed to harvest before the frost, sadly). The other weird thing was that somehow I ended up without a single regular round red tomato among all my varieties. And due to a mistake on the part of the farmer's market guy, the green zebra seedlings I bought turned out to be orange globes (which the husband pronounced unsuitable for sandwiches, for some reason). Not a total washout, not a great year.

3. What happened to all the pumpkins?

Last year we had pumpkins up the wazoo, just from throwing our old ones on the compost pile. This year, nada. Still had vines -- but they turned out to be plain little gourds, barely suitable for decorations. Went to our usual pumpkin place (across from the dairy farm we lived on years ago) to stock up, and the girl there said all the wet weather was not pumpkin-friendly. Well, there's always next year.

4. The herbs, the strawberries, the grapes, the apples.

The herb garden we created at our last house was so wonderful, I figured it would be easy to replicate. But so far, no luck. Even though herbs are billed as being suitable for shady spots, ours have not filled out. And with the non-stop rain, everything growing in the lower part of the backyard was pretty much drenched, if not underwater, throughout the entire season. I added some more ever-bearing strawberries, which turned out to have much larger fruit than the first batch (about half the size of a regular strawberry, as opposed to little wild-strawberry-sized fruit). They only produced a few, and sometimes the bunnies got to them before I did. I'd like to add more of those next spring. Of the two grape plants I put in by the pond, one died and the other survived but didn't fruit. The apple tree produced about a dozen apples, of which the squirrels got two. All were bumpy and funny-looking, but were OK when peeled and cooked.

Winter gardening: I still need to pull out the old plants and cut what herbs remain for drying. The carrots I planted in September seem to be doing OK; I plan to cover them and see if they are pickable in the winter. I also planted some lettuce in flower boxes on the porch rail, but the squirrels decided they were the perfect place to bury nuts.

Not sure about doing any hydroponics other than sprouts this winter, but I may try to grow something in one of the fish tanks. Still looking into it! Also hope to try some of the projects in Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Blog - Home Physics!

It'll be a few more weeks before it really gets up and going, but I'm starting to add helpful links and info about learning physics at home to this year's science blog, Home Physics. Come visit! And feel free to comment with your favorite resources or suggestions.