Saturday, October 9, 2010

Garden Summary 2010: Part 2

As I look into our outside, I am reminded that Autumn has arrived in full regalia. Our backyard is a sea of vibrant orange-red; the maple leaves creating a stunning contrast to the bright green of the grass.

Each morning I expect to see frost now when I let the pups out, and our house has even hit 19 degrees C a couple times. At least we have made it to October this year before we had to use the furnace! (Last year it was September 27 and we had a cold snap, we were so dissappointed!)

One of the things I had meant to discuss in the first garden summary was our soil; I was supposed to include it under the heading of the garden beds. Alas, my mind betrayed me, and I forgot. So that will be the first thing I talk about!


Soil composition
The soil in the side yard where the majority of our gardens ended up was originally sand, with a lot of clay. Certainly not ideal for growing vegetables, but like I mentioned before, one of the beauties of raised beds is that you can compensate for poor soil by filling in the beds with any that you like. Because of it being the best of all worlds, we chose to fill ours with triple mix: the peat moss meant that the soil would not compact as much, and the high organic content would provide more nutrients right off the bat to our veggies.

The nutrient content was very important to us, particularly as we are not using any commercial or artificial fertalizers. We started the composters early this year, so hopefully by next spring we'll be able to empty the first, and use it to renew the beds for the next season!

I would like to talk more about the composters, but my knowlege in that area is far surpassed by Chris'. I've just asked him if he'll write a post on them, and he's agreed, so stay tuned!

Now, on to the fruits and veggies!

Green Beans
Originally, I started the green beans, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers in trays, with the idea that once they'd sprouted, I would transfer them to the beds. I thought this would give me a head start on the growing season (not that we needed it this year, it was early enough as it was!), but ended up having to replant most of them in the beds anyways. Of the 16 or so seeds I planted in pots, only about 7 came up. I had issues getting the right amount of moisture in the little containers: either they were too wet, or too dry, and in the end I think I killed off many of the seeds that would have grown. It was much easier to maintain consistant moisture in the beds, so the next time I am not going to start any of the beans in trays but plant them directly in the garden.

At first we thought we were not going to get many beans from our plants. We ended up with 14 plants at maturity (in a bed 4 feet wide, we planted two rows of 7, with about 6 inches between the two rows), and got perhaps a dozen or so beans from each plant by about the middle of August. We couldn't really see any new flowers, but then around the end of August Chris looked at the tangle of vines (That's another thing we'll change; instead of having them grow up a ladder of twine, we're going to have them grow up poles, about three plants a pole. This was something we saw at a local historical site; they had the beans growing up straight branches that still had the bark on.) he saw several beans that were about 6 inches long, and many more smaller ones hiding. Once all those were picked, we still kept getting new flowers!

So next year we're going to plant twice as many beans, plant them closer together, but then train them to grow up poles.

Our zucchini grew amazingly well this year. I am not sure how many fruits we got, but I now it was much more than we had expected. We platnted two hills, 3 feet apart, and each hill had 4 plants. By the time the we had to cut down the plants, they had completely filled their section of the bed, went into the beans, and even into the walkways!

Most of the zucchini we picked at medium size, around 3-5 lbs, but about 6 or 7 we let grow until they were at least 1 1/2 feet. These had more of the consistancy of squash, and the seeds and skin were no longer edible. So I peeled and cored them, shredded half and sliced the other, and put them in the freezer. Because I put them in small bags, it's easy to grab just the amount I need and in fact, I am using some of the slices to make apple-zucchini pies. If they turn out, I'll post them as the Bake of the Week.

Next year, we're going to plant even more zucchini. They freeze so well, and there are so many things you can do with them, they're just an all-around useful fruit. We're going to move them next year though to around the back deck (which has high wood trellises all around), and train the tendrils to grow vertically. Hopefully they'll take, and if so, will be much easier to harvest than trying to navigate the webs of prickly vines!

This is long enough, so for part 3 I'll talk about our acorn squash, cucumbers, and swiss chard!

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