The New Home Economics

2012, my best garden year yet

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Time to start on a wrap-up of 2012′s garden. It’s not over yet, but we’ve just passed the average first frost date for Minneapolis, so it’s nearly time. What a year it’s been!

tomatoes on trellis

Trellising my tomatoes rocked. I had a great tomato year. One reason could be the chicken manure/bedding mixture I spread on the garden last fall—by this spring it looked like black gold. Another reason certainly was our early spring. The soil was so well-warmed by early May that the tomatoes experienced almost no transplant shock. They were growing within a day or two. I also added an additional layer of compost on them in mid-July and they really took off again after that. I might try to move that up a bit next year.

large heirloom tomato

One of the biggest tomatoes I’ve ever gotten! A brandywine, picked just a bit early in fear of squirrels stealing it. It ripened nicely a day or two later on the counter.

stock tank gardens

My stock tank gardens did well too. After this year I now have a better idea of how much light each one gets. The one on the left is quite shady; next year I’ll dedicate it to nasturtiums and arugula, which both did well in there this summer. In the middle, some fall lettuce and radishes are coming along nicely. On the right, the same kale and chard plants I first started in mid-February! They just keep coming back.

My first lettuce harvest this year was on April 11. In the next week or so as temperatures start to drop we’re going to get the hoop house on the right stock tank and quickly whip out a new one for the middle stock tank. I’m hoping to continue to have fresh greens through the end of November; I don’t think I planned well enough to hope for anything beyond that.

As a master gardener, I can’t let any learning opportunities pass me by, so I felt compelled to research the aster yellows that affected my echinacea. Apparently this was quite common in the Twin Cities this year due to the mild winter and early spring.

My first time growing shallots yielded a pretty nice-looking braid. I LOVE having these so handy in the kitchen.

My first-ever grape harvest made for some delicious jelly.

Our first substantial hops harvest, drying in the sun. Homebrew, ahoy!

If you’ve never grown Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, well, I am going to insist that you do so next year. They’re like candy. And one plant yields a LOT of fruit. I usually go heirloom, but this is one hybrid that I probably will include every year.

The garden still has harvests ahead, including the now-drying Christmas lima beans.

Rosemary and sage on the left, parsnips and turnips on the top/right. I filled in the empty spaces between the disappointing few parsnips that sprouted with some turnips on July 15, but I think they will not get very substantial. I was foiled again by the peak of my neighbor’s house, which likes to get in the way of the sunlight in all but the highest summer weeks for my main vegetable garden.

Let’s review some of the things that made 2012 a great garden year:

1. I amended the soil with chicken manure/bedding last fall. It composted over the winter and really enriched the soil. Never put on manure right when you’re planting, as it could burn the plants with its high nitrogen levels.

2. We had an early spring and the soil temperature was nice and toasty when I planted everything out in late April and early May.

3. Hoop houses on my stock tank gardens helped me get a jump start in March and hopefully will help me extend into November or so.

4. Quite simply, I got out there. I made sure to walk through my garden at least 2-3 times per week. This helped me keep up with pinching back my basil (resulting in multiple harvests), pruning my tomatoes as they climbed up their trellis, and general weeding and upkeep. My kids are 5 now, and I’m really starting to notice a change in how hurried I have to be in the garden. It’s nice to be able to get out there.

It’s far from over, really. We still have fall lettuce, radishes, and parsnips ahead of us! We’ll also be doing some initial planning for 2013 when we plant garlic in a few weeks.

Really, gardening is turning into more than a 3-months-out-of-the-year hobby. Having started seeds in mid-February 2012, I’m heading towards more of a 10-11 month cycle. Love it!

 

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6 thoughts on “2012, my best garden year yet

  1. Thanks for all the information and pictures! I’m really curious to hear how those hops turn out for your home brew. Good luck! I have a friend here who makes some amazing home brew. -John

  2. What a wonderful record of your gardening season; you have a beautiful space and have clearly done some pretty neat things. Loved reading along with you this year.

  3. Nice round-up, Jennifer. The shallot braid is gorgeous–I really need to grow those next year. What variety are yours, and where from?

    Cheers~ Brett

    • Hey Brett! I purchased my shallots as “starts” from Mother Earth Gardens here in south Minneapolis. They came in a standard 6-pack flat, but each of the six sections had at least 6-7 baby shallot plants in it (they looked like chives at this point). I simply teased them apart, planted, watered, and that’s it. It was pretty easy.

      I just dug the plant tag out of the garden and it doesn’t say what variety they are, sorry to say. Mother Earth also sells scallion starts. We loved having those earlier this summer while we waited for the shallots to be done.

  4. Wow! You really did an amazing job in your garden. I am really amaze on your harvest. It very happy for you. Check my page at http://www.egardensheds.com.au/

  5. so awesome! this was my worst year.
    …i think it was due to lack of passion though. this just wasn’t my year.

    so great to read about your bounty though. LOVE IT!

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