Now that summer is here (no really, 10:16am mere days ago!), and most of my crops are (or should be) coming along nicely, I am taking stock of what’s doing well, where my best-laid plans have are not coming to fruition as I had imagined, and what I’m already thinking of doing differently next year. One of my resolutions this year is to take better notes and keep better records, so I’ll do a little of that with pics here to help my memory next year! Here are some of the year’s top performers so far, and next up, my more…ahem…challenging garden crops.
My pride and joy this year (though looking around at some other blogs, I see there is always room for improvement 😉 ) are my tomatoes. I ordered my seeds from Two Wings Farm (how I narrowed my picks to 7 I have no idea! They are Ailsa Craig, St. Pierre, Poire Franchi, Aurega, Black Prince, Soleil Cherry and Sweetie Cherry), I used soil blocks for the first time with a 4:1 mix of seed starter mix and worm castings, and transplanted them out under hoops covered with row cover mid-May during a relatively warm spell. We set up a drip line and I mulched with straw. Result: my germination rates were amazing–almost 100%–the seedlings were vigorous and healthy, and the plants are now flowering and one or two plants even are starting to set fruit. I know some gardeners in similar zones are probably still ahead, but for me, this is thrilling!
The varietes are all heirloom, open-pollinated types, but what was new to me is that they are also all indeterminates, which means they are all climbers. So as the plants were starting to look highly confined by their hoop covers, the time came this week to start a serious trellis system. As you may remember, we have no soil, hence the deep raised beds. This also means that we can’t dig stakes down into the ground by the beds, as one might normally do for tomato trellising. So the Skipper came up with a system that we hope will be able to withstand the weight of the hundreds of pounds of fruit that these plants
could will be producing.
Skipper has screwed the base of these (constructed) T-posts right to the cedar box of the bed, then screwed in a cross-bar the length of the bed to stiffen the structure. Then we’ve strung wires at the top of the edges of the posts running the length of the bed, to which individual plants are strung with jute twine. I’ve tied the twine loosely at the base of each plant, then woven the twine around the stalk to support it as it’s pulled upright. The twine’s then tied with a slipknot on the wire at the top. Fingers crossed that this works!
Thanks to the long, cold, spring, I planted my peas almost a month later than last year, and they have been slow to really get going. But now that they’re going, look out! We’re going to have a LOT of peas–and I ate my first one off the vine yesterday! Look for these for sale at my doorstep in a couple of weeks as we struggle with the onslaught. 🙂
Note the Skipper behind the row as he reinforces our original trellis with something beefier!
I love these Dwarf Grey Sugar Snow Peas. They’re open-pollinated, hugely vigorous even in the coldest soil, and who can resist those spectacular purple flowers! In fact, they’re not my favorite eating pea, as I prefer the sugar snaps, but I don’t think I’ll ever plant a garden without them again.
Drunken Woman Lettuce
I didn’t have any luck with this lettuce last year; when I planted seeds in August almost none germinated. But then, magically, one head appeared in the spring! I was so impressed with that cold hardiness, it was my lettuce of choice when I was starting some seeds in the greenhouse in March. In April, I transplanted the starts outside, and some ended up under cover. With that little bit of extra nurturing, these lettuces have been amazing. I started harvesting huge heads the first day of June, and each time I made a little more room by taking out a head (or 4, as I finally had to for the neighbours!), the remaining heads got bigger still. One giant head keeps us going all week, and here we are at the end of June and the remaining few heads in the garden still look succulent, with no sign of bolting. And, as a looseleaf lettuce, some baby greens are growing prettily out of the stems that were left in the soil after harvesting. Definitely a keeper.
Other crops doing well:
Spinach–I planted a one foot strip across my 4 foot bed of Bordeaux spinach (a variety that outperformed all the others last spring), and I have harvested about 7 lbs of greens over the last 3 weeks! And even after the last ruthless pruning as the plants looked like they might bolt, there are still salad green-sized leaves appearing again (that’s them springing up at the back in the picture below). Yowza! Next to the spinach, I planted 2’x4′ of beets, and they are also thriving.
Brassicas–This is my first time growing spring cabbage and broccoli. I started several varieties in soil blocks in March, and they are now beautiful and starting to get big enough to harvest. Yum! I learned my lesson last year about the gap between spring crops and tomato season, which here doesn’t kick in until mid-August (well, I’m hoping to improve that a little this year!). This year, we’ll be eating cabbage and broccoli, chard, kale, beets, leeks, and peas with our salad until late summer.
So those are some of my garden stars at the moment; next up…the misses. I’ll give you a hint–I’m off to the nursery today for some squash seedlings. 😦
What’s doing well for you this time around?