Wins and Losses: 2019 Edition

I always like to do a round up of what did and didn’t work after the season is done. Partly because I have a tiny bit of hope that it is useful to someone else, but mostly because if I don’t write this stuff down somewhere, it’ll be lost to the void. (And because this is the list of stuff I try to remember when pouring through seed catalogs)

Off we go!

Tomatoes: Anything other than the Romas (which were steady but still under-produced) was prone to splitting and slow ripening (to the point where a few seeds had started to turn inside despite the fruit only being just ripe). It started out like it was going to be an awful year, turned around in late July, but by then there just wasn’t enough time to get the maximum yields (and ripeness) out of most of them. Plus the abundance of hard, heavy rains didn’t do any tomatoes any favors. I will grow more Roma-types next year (because they cook up so beautifully using my slow-roasting method) and maybe one or two slicers, but no cherry types and no big beefy ones that are prone to splitting (unless you have a tried and true variety that doesn’t like to split you want to share with me!)

Peppers: We had such a great year for peppers! Yay! They were delicious and plentiful and fun to use. The Jimmy Nardello peppers were as good (better even?!) than everyone said they were- they are nice sized peppers with this almost floral-fruity flavor and we loved them both fresh and roasted. I’ll certainly be growing lots more of these next year. The Poblanos did really well to and we’ve enjoyed having them on hand to spice up chili and soups. The other varieties produced well, but didn’t have particularly outstanding flavors so we’ll be experimenting more with new varieties.

Eggplant, Tomatillos, Fava Beans: I adore all of these individually and will grow them again, but not next year. The Tomatillos didn’t ripen in time, the eggplant were the best we’ve ever had (but a glut of eggplant isn’t an easy thing to deal with), and the Fava beans were apathetic in our too-variable Spring weather.

Greens: The Swiss Chard just didn’t want to get started and once it did the bunnies treated themselves to a snack. The Radicchio was slow to get going and only started to form heads a few days before we got a snap of really cold weather. I’m going to continue to try different greens that will cope reasonably well with our extreme weather conditions and excess of sunlight- and those darned bunnies.

Viney Things: The cucumbers did really well this year and the harvest was well spaced out, much to my delight. I might try an Indian variety just for kicks next year, but we’e had great luck with Tendergreen Burpless and Telegraph Improved and would recommend them to everyone. The musk melons we grew (Minnesota Midget) grew beautifully but every single one ripened the weekend we were gone and therefore we had mush, pungent fruit that wasn’t enjoyable. Perhaps another go next year (with a different variety), but the annual glut (and ensuing short timeframe to enjoy) is always a bit of a challenge. The winter squash had a mediocre year, which is fine, but I want to try some new varieties that are better keepers than the ones we’ve been growing.

Potatoes: Ugh. Those damned Colorado Potato Beetles were so bad this year, despite not having grown potatoes last year at all. They defoliated the plants no matter what I tried on them (diatomaceous earth, IPM, etc). The actual potatoes didn’t seem to mind and we got a good harvest, but it was an ugly sight up top and I won’t be growing any for a number of years to see if I can locally lower plant levels.

Perennial Crops: The early raspberries were stunningly delicious, but once the summer rains came, the fruits became weaker in flavor and mushier in texture. Plus we now have Spotted Wing Drosophila and if you don’t harvest the fruits straight away, they end up nearly disintegrating in your hands. I’ll lean towards Summer Fruiting varieties because they seemed to fare better both with the weather and the bugs. The asparagus and rhubarb were stellar and trouble-free (knock on wood) yet again. We might add some gooseberry bushes to replace the under-performing blueberries, but sourcing them in our area might be difficult. The apples were wonderful and we had a really great harvest- we hope its only upward from here!

Late Blooming Flowers: The asters and stonecrop were so beautiful this year and really gave a great show late in the year. Not to mention they were COVERED in bees at alltimes of the day- we had so much fun watching them pop from flower to flower, gorging themselves. I’d like to maximize this late display (and bee food source) wherever I can- both by planting more of these plants and researching new varieties to add to the mix.

Verbena bonariensis: I bit the bullet and bought two hearty six-packs from a local nursery (rather than having lackluster luck growing it from seed) and it was the best money I spent in the garden this year. The show they put on was amazing- lasting long into autumn, right along with the asters, and didn’t quit until the first really hard frost. The butterflies loved them and they provided great color and interest that complimented everything else around it.

Hedges and Shrubs: Our deciduous hedges are filling in nicely and their berries (particularly the Serviceberries) have been a boon to the local bird population. We’ve enjoyed watching them live and eat in them. Next year I’ll have to start pruning them (which is v. exciting for me) which should help add some formality and crispness to the garden. The dwarf globe willows also bounced back astoundingly well after all the rabbit damage this past winter.

Bugs: The Rose Chafer Beetles were joined this year by the plainer (but so common and SO destructive) Japanese Beetle in spades. It was a much rougher year given that the Japanese beetles are around for much longer than the Rose Chafers and don’t seem to respond as well to the diatomaceous earth treatments. On the flip side, we had a delightful abundance of monarch caterpillars this year (thanks to the milkweed popping up everywhere)- we so enjoyed watching them feed and grow and become those beautiful orange and black butterflies we all love.

That’s it! I’ll be readying and placing my seed orders in the coming days, I’ll be sure to post what we are going to try in an attempt to remedy some of the above issues. I’d love to hear what worked and what didn’t for you all this year!

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