I can only hope that there is some gardening DNA in my genes. My aunt and uncle have created an amazing garden that gives me great inspiration. I wanted to share it so you could all be equally inspired. All photos are courtesy of Ernie Olson.
I don't know if it was the cool, wet weather in 2009 but it was the best bean year I've ever had. My deep freeze has about 25 bags of frozen beans in it and we probably had beans every night for dinner from July until October. Not only was Provider an outstanding provider of beans it also had fantastic disease resistance. Even when the plant was going on 3 months old it just kept tossing of great new beans. I planted a second batch in mid July but I probably would not have needed to because the old plants just kept chugging along. The basket of beans pictured was the average harvest every day from maybe 20 plants. Needless to say my friends and neighbors had a bounty of beans coming from the garden.
Early Dividend SG Broccoli (F1 hybrid, 43 days)
Again, I think the weather had more to do with my broccoli success than anything I contributed. These plants were almost unstoppable. Many times I had forgot to cut a head off and it went to flower but once I cut the flowering head off it gave lots of large side shoots and even smaller heads. They were in the garden the longest of any plant from early April until late October.
Graffiti Cauliflower(F1 hybrid,75 days)
Here's the winner for most beautiful vegetable in my garden. The weather certainly is responsible for her. There are some years when I just cannot get her to grow. I think the cool weather again was just to her liking as I had about 8 of these beauties in the garden. Unfortunately, she started to look her best when I was on vacation in September so I didn't get to see her until I came home and my neighbor has placed all 8 of her heads in my fridge. This is a great vegetable for a crudite plate and will take your breath away paired with carrots.
I confess that I love to grow this plant because it's so pretty but I hardly eat any of them except for a few in coleslaw. It's got great disease resistance and holds in the garden for a very long time. I think there are actually some frozen ones out there right now.
Gonzales Mini Cabbage(Hybrid)
A great small cabbage that makes a perfect large bowl of coleslaw from one head. My only complaint is that it seems to be a magnet for cabbage moths. I end up leaving it in the garden too long and it gets full of holes from them. Still, I prefer this size cabbage to huge ones.
Dusky Eggplant(F1 Hybrid, 63 days)
This is a good smaller eggplant. The lack of heat this year made it only grow to about 6 inches but it was still great for grilling. The leaves get lots of flea beetles but it doesn't seem to affect the fruits too much.
Pinetree Lettuce Mix
I like this lettuce mix because it's all leaf and sweet lettuce with no bitter or spicy varieties in it. Also you can start cutting it at about 40 days. It does get bitter when the weather starts to heat up. I made additional sowings in July and August but for some reason they didn't sprout. Next year I'll start some seeds inside in early June and plant out as starts for a summer harvest. I usually sow directly in early May and have lots of lettuce in mid to late June.
The 2010 Pinetree Garden Seed catalog has arrived and I hope to get my seeds ordered before the end of the year. Before I do that I want to review last year's garden successes and failures. By the way, all of last years seeds were ordered from Pinetree Garden Seeds 2009 catalog.
TOMATOES: Ultimate Opener(F1 Hybrid, 57 days) This was the first tomato of the season but it was only about a week earlier than Tigerella. It had average flavor and good disease resistance.
Tigerella(English Heirloom, 55-65 days) This was my favorite tomato this year. It was quite pretty with it's subtle stripes and had great flavor. The fruits were small at 2 inches but were great for quartering for a salad or pasta. It was very prolific. Now that I see that it was an English heirloom I know why it did well in our strangely cool summer. Tigerella was also the last of the tomatoes to succumb to early blight and by mid September even they died.
Manyel(heirloom) This was a great tomato to layer in a Caprese Salad along with Tigerella. So beautiful! Surprisingly tart and not weak flavored at all. Probably the most prolific of all the tomatoes until it was struck down by late blight in early September. It grows in clusters of 5 and had a good mid-size fruit.
Yellow Currant If you want TONS of tiny thumbnail size tomatoes this is the plant for you. I literally could not pick all of these. They are prone to cracking especially after heavy rain. They are quite vining and took over a whole 6 foot concrete reinforcing wire cage from top to bottom and up the other cage. I actually prefer the taste of Sun Gold or Yellow Pear when it comes to small tomatoes.
Cuostralee(French Heirloom) I wish I actually could show you a picture of the fruits but just as they were starting to ripen within 3 days the entire plant succumbed to late blight disease. They would have been my largest tomatoes because they were about 2-3 pounds each.
It was a very challenging year for tomatoes. Most of July was cool in the mid to low 70's. Perfect for me but the tomatoes were slow to ripen. The first one ripened around the 3rd week in July. At the end of August we had cold, wet rains which I think helped lead to late blight. By the middle of September I had to pull up all the tomatoes because they were rotten from the late blight. Also, most of the tomatoes I planted this year were heirlooms and I don't think they had much disease resistance. I'll try most of them again though because they were all great tasting and I think they would do fine with regular summer heat.
I'm not an expert gardener by a long stretch but I do enjoy growing my plants from seed. I mostly do this because I'm a frugal gardener but I also appreciate how it helps get me through a long Midwest winter.