This is my spring garden wrap up for 2011. It has been a fun spring with some booming successes, a few minor failures and a lot of weird and challenging weather.
The Big Winners: The big winners this spring were the butter crunch lettuce, Cincinnati Market radishes and Colorado onions. All three produced phenomenally providing many healthy meals. Also, I harvested over three pounds of garden (snap) peas which was certainly more than I’d ever had before, due mainly to the large areas I planted with peas at TFF.
The Big Losers: A couple of notable failures this year were several spring plantings that did not germinate. They include habanero peppers that were sown indoors in heated beds – zero germination – and salsify (or oyster root) which was sowed outdoors and had a less than one percent germination rate.
Weather We had both hot and cold extremes this spring. A late cold snap crushed our hopes for apples and peaches but also helped us by quelling the early grasshopper hatch, according to my friends at Hillside Seed and Feed. The biggest weather challenge was rain. In May we got a total of 1.5″ at Turkey Foot Farm and at the beginning of June we were 5″ below average for the year. Hot/cold, windy and mostly dry is the weather synopsis for spring farming 2011. We were saved to some extent by 4.5 inches of rain that fell in the latter weeks of May.
Harvest Despite the weird weather, the harvest was not bad. The table below shows planting dates and harvest amounts. The harvest amounts may be low estimates since not everything was weighted, but the numbers are a pretty good approximation.
Notes on Varieties
Collards: these seeds were given to me by my Uncle Tub. I think they were supposed to form heads but mine did not. However, they formed a lot of nice leaves. I both transplanted from early indoor plantings and direct sowed. The indoor plantings worked well and yielded the best. In late June I harvested the remaining leaves and froze about a pound of them. I left several of their “stumps” in the garden and as of July 1, they are beginning to leaf back out nicely.
Mustard: I planted Red Giant from Morgan County Seeds. I started them indoors and then moved them outside in late May or early April. The variety lived up to its name, producing a large number or very big leaves and did not bolt until very late in the spring. We had some early hot spells where the mustard would wilt terribly. This is definitely a cool-weather, early-season crop.
Swiss Chard: We planted Burpee Ruby Red variety. Unlike mustard greens, chard thrives well in both cool and hot weather as do collard greens to a lesser extent. As of July 1, our chard is still going strong with the earliest plantings giving us a second yield.
Spinach: This year I again planted the Burpee Salad Fresh spinach. The seed was at least two years old but germinated fine. Yields were good but most was gone by early June due to hot spells and bolting. I used up the seed and have now switched to a different variety that was suggested by my friends at Hillside Seed and Feed.
Arugula: The variety was Oriental Greens from Morgan County Seeds. I started these indoors and only planted three or four in the garden. They are nice to have in salads mixed in with spinach/lettuce to provide some zest. They are heat tolerant but bolt very early. I find you can continue to harvest good leaves even as they bolt.
Radishes: This year we planted three types of radishes. Burpee Crimson Crisp Hybrid, along with two heirloom varieties from the Seed Savers Exchange – French Breakfast and Cincinnati Market. The Burpee hybrids were the first to go in the ground and were ready in a remarkably short time – 28 days. The heirloom varieties went in later and took a little longer to mature. My new favorite variety is the Cincinnati Market. This heirloom variety grows long like a carrot but has the traditional radish flavor. It is much better than conventional globe radishes for slicing. I made two big jars of refrigerator pickles with them. After I ate the radishes, I made pickled hard-boiled eggs in the remaining red brine – delicious.
Salad Onions: I planted the Colorado variety which I got from Hillside Seed and Feed. They were a HUGE success, maturing quickly and growing very large. We ate a lot of these in spring salads and continued harvesting them into the heat of the summer.
Butter Crunch Lettuce: I’m uncertain of the specific variety, but I bought the seed at Hillside Seed and Feed. This lettuce did terrific in our raised bed, producing lush delicious heads that made great salad. We only had a short double row 2-3 feet long but it fed us salads for over a month. We hated to see it go.
Garden Peas: We planted several varieties – two were hybrids Burpee Sugar Snap and Shumway’s Experimetnal Lot 10-F-A. We also planted an heirloom variety, Amish Snap Pea from SSE. We had a pretty good harvest but did not put any by due to the fun of eating them fresh.
Potatoes: We planted three varieties of potatoes Kennebec, Bison and Yukon Gold. The only ones harvested in the spring were the Kennebec and that was only a single vine. These are delicious white potatoes that did fairly well at the Coe farm. We’ll write more about this year’s potato harvest when all the results are in.
Garlic: Last fall we planted two varieties of garlic, Georgia Fire and Ajo Rajo. Both were mail-ordered from the Potato Patch. We harvested 15 bulbs from the plants that made it to maturity. Most were on the small side but some were rather large and all are delicious. Both varieties did well.
Tomatoes: I started a lot of tomatoes inside at the beginning of February. We had one vine that produced two spring tomatoes. The two tomatoes had set when the plants were still indoors. The same plant now has a lot of green toms but the two early ones were clearly an anomaly. The variety that set early was Shumway’s Experimental Lot 11-F-A.