Friday, November 9, 2012

Garden Recap 2012

Not my 'maters. Image Credit
This year I managed to clear a little 4'x8' patch in the backyard, and in it I crammed four Roma tomatoes, three jalapenos, three sweet frying peppers, and four cabbages. Yes, they all somehow fit. The cabbage ended up a bust, because I planted them late and they were devoured by some little buggy.

Only parts of it managed to get 6-7 hours of full sun, but somehow my little patch of tomatoes and peppers did phenomenal! That is, until they got walloped by a nasty combo of septoria leaf spot and late blight. I didn't notice it until it had gotten a strong foothold, and I was reluctant to spray heavy pesticides on them. It's a shame, too, because my Romas were absolutely covered in tomatoes! Once the blight got to them, it was over. Unripe tomatoes were falling off the vine daily, and whatever managed to hang on was covered in blight spots. I did get enough good fruit to try several batches of fermented salsa. That was interesting. I'm still getting the hang of fermenting. Most of my attempts have worked out well, but many of them are too salty for me to enjoy. The salsa wasn't too bad though, and I think I'd try it again if I had the chance. It was far less effort than canning!

My peppers fared better than the tomatoes against the spot/blight combo. To my surprise, the blight didn't cross over until very late in the season. There was very little effect on production, thank goodness, but I had no idea how many jalapenos I could get from three plants! WOW! I only wish I had been more prepared for the harvest, because most of it ended up sitting in my kitchen until it went bad.  I did make a small batch of candied jalapenos (also called cowboy candy!) and those turned out really good! It's horribly full of refined sugar, but the syrup is my favorite part. Sweet and hot, it's awesome on burgers or even salads! I definitely want to try that again next year! Assuming I get my butt organized in time...

I think my plants did well in their plot for two main reasons:
1) I fertilized them weekly for the first half of the season (non organic. sorry), and kept them reasonably well watered despite a very dry, hot first half of the summer.
2) The full sun lasted until early afternoon, effectively shading the plants during the hottest part of the day. Normally that would be a problem, and I think it was part of my blight problem during the wet second half of the season, but for our unusually hot, dry early summer it was exactly what they needed.

The worst part of all this, is thanks to the intense leaf spot and blight, I will not be able to plant tomatoes or peppers in my plot for at least three years. To add insult to injury, a few scraggly pepper plants that I had planted out front also came down with blight, so I have no place to plant tomatoes in-ground without digging up a new plot. Nuts.

So what have I learned this past year? First, if I'm going to grow something, I had better be prepared with half a dozen different ways to use up the harvest, and at LEAST one that requires little or no effort. Wasting produce is to have wasted every minute and every dollar spent on gardening. Second, I need to make sure I inspect my plants regularly. If I had kept a closer eye on my tomatoes I might have caught and eliminated the blight before it wrecked my plants and poisoned my soil.

I have already thought a lot about the past year and how I want to improve, but that will have to wait until my next post. Yep, I'm already planning next year's garden. What can I say, I'm a committed planner!

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