Happy New Year!

The seed catalogs are starting to come in, so it is a good time to reflect back on 2015, and look forward to 2016.

2015 was a pretty good year with several crops performing the best ever, and others well… not so much. It was a wet spring / early summer with enough ongoing rainfall to require watering from the tap only twice. The rest of the moisture was supplied by direct rainfall and from the rain barrels. It did teach me that I probably was under-watering in the past.

I don’t do a lot of posting about crops or harvests simply because after doing that for several years, I feel a little strange saying – here are the tomatoes I grew. So if I’ve been quiet on that front, that’s the reason.

In terms of production, it was a good year, about 250 lbs of produce. It’s a little lower yield than last years but I didn’t grow any pumpkins, and the cucumbers did not do well, both crops tend to skew the total values to the high side.

Potatoes continue to do well, except for some fingerling potatoes whose yield was not worth the space devoted to them.

The eggplants were prolific this year, I only grew the Japanese type. What I did differently this year was to space them a little further apart about 18”, and I mulched them pretty heavily with grass clippings early in the year which seemed to keep the flea beetles in check.

Also performing were all the leafy crops, lettuces, chard, kales, collards. Note to self, at the current time 1-2 collard plants will provide all I want. No need for six plants!

Beets also did well considering I only put in one row, the old chestnut about not putting beets next to beans, seemed unfounded, at least this year. Speaking of beans, it was a roaring success, At one point I was picking more than a pound every other day. My colleagues were quite happy about that.

A new crop, Shishito peppers did very well once they were established. I’ll grow them again.

Leeks were also exceptional, I’m still working my way through the harvest. They take a long time to mature, but as they are pricey at the market I am happy to grow them.

One of the apple trees we put in for the 2014 did not survive the winter. We added three more so now there are four. They are columnar form so they are perfect for our small garden. They yield was several dozen apples. Not bad but not a lot either. Quality was as I remember apples from the neighbors’ tree when I was a kid, tart, crunchy, juicy. We hope for more in2016!

“Failures” include pretty much the entire cucurbit family, cucumbers, squashes (both summer and winter) were below normal yields. Perhaps it was the cool wet start and not enough heat yearly on.

Asian “yard-long beans” took a very long time to mature, and the harvest was not worth the real estate I provided.

Important to me was the discovery of a local food pantry which provides an outlet for excess produce. They seemed very happy to make my acquaintance. Most of what they offer is boxed and or frozen – items with a low perishability factor, but that leaves the recipients with not a lot of fresh vegetables. I’ll see what I can do to help plug that void.

Looking forward to 2016 I plan a complete redesign of the garden.

For those that follow me it seems to be every couple years that I redesign the garden, looking for the sweet spot of size and productivity. To that end, I will actually contract the bed space by about 45 square feet, while standardizing on 15 30”x72” beds, all oriented east/west to take advantage of the southern exposure. The beds will no longer have a weed fabric “bottom” rather, I am forking the soil below to loosen it up and hopefully increase overall fertility. Standardizing of bed size will allow me to reuse materials (sheet mulch, row covers) from bed to bed so that any item I grab will “fit.” Sort of a one size fits all philosophy.

While the square foot size will decrease, I am hoping to be diligent with succession planting to increase my overall yield while tracking crop rotations, and start times.

The perimeter of the garden will be expanded to allow for better traffic flow and the addition of up to six more columnar fruit trees. I’m thinking more apples and/or pears, but if I can find cherries, I may give that a go as well.

In addition to the fruit trees I am also intending to add more perennial vegetables and berries. To that end we’ve added more blueberries, and a currant bush. A rhubarb plant was added last year and while no stalks were harvested, I’m hoping for a few this year.

Building projects will include 12 more of the standard beds, brick will be set on the ground for walkways. The Accountant and I scavenged a pallet of pavers from the roadside. One families’ discard was our good fortune.

Trellises will be sized a bit smaller, and if I get around to it, I plan some mini-greenhouses, cold frames really, that I will size to the beds, allowing for early starts, protect heat lovers early, and permit the winter harvest of cold hardy greens. They will be based on this design, with some modifications.

Finally the “big project.” While not directly related to the garden, is the planned removal of the deck, and installation of a patio at ground level. The deck is old, and the Accountant and I don’t like the feeling of being “on stage” for the neighbors. We prefer to be ground level.

Seems like enough.

Until next time, Keep Digging and Eat Well.