Yesterday, we harvested the last of our garden. We’ve had a beautiful, warm fall so far, and were able to put off the final harvest quite a bit later than we’ll usually be able to. We got our homemade cold frames situated over the beds of greens last week, and they’ll keep producing throughout most of the winter, although at a slower pace. We harvested about half a wheelbarrow full of beets yesterday (and that’s after harvesting about five beets a week since July), and enough carrots to fill a giant plastic storage container. Since I purged so much stuff over the last few months, we have several empty storage containers, and they’re perfect for storing root vegetables that need to retain moisture, since they have tight fitting lids.
Our onions and potatoes are stored in simple cardboard boxes, but the carrots and beets were a bit more complicated. This is our first year doing this, so we’ll see how it goes… For the carrots, we layered them into a big plastic container with layers of the soil they were growing in. We had augmented that soil with lots of compost and sand, and it will help to keep the carrots from drying out and shriveling in storage. The beets are in two shallow plastic storage bins, with lots of peat moss around them. I sprayed the peat moss with water, which should help the beets retain their moisture too. For both the beets and carrots, I trimmed the tops off to keep them from sucking moisture out of the root during storage.
In addition to having somewhere between a third and a half of our food coming from our garden since about the end of June, we do have a good amount of food stored for the winter:
- 34 quarts of thick tomato sauce
- 14 quarts of diced/crushed tomatoes
- about 20 quarts of frozen corn
- about 10 quarts of frozen green beans
- several quarts of frozen shredded zucchini
- 15 bell peppers that I stuffed with a black bean/rice/Daiya cheese mixture and froze
- about 20 more bell peppers that I diced, froze on trays, and then transfered to storage bags in the freezer
- about a quart of dried parsley
- 55 lbs of potatoes
- roughly 20 onions (I use one nearly every day, so these have been disappearing rapidly)
- lots of carrots
- lots of beets
All in all, I’d say that our first year of major gardening was a success. Not everything worked perfectly. I am seriously peeved at the aphids that destroyed our Brussel sprout crop and seriously hampered our cabbages and kale. Our zucchini did great the the beginning of the season, but then I think the plants out-competed each other and started to die well before the end of the season. I wish we had half as many beets and about four times as many onions. But overall, it went great. We’ve learned some things for next year… we’ll be buying lady bugs at the first hint of aphids. We’ll plant half as many beets, a lot more onions, and add some additional things like pumpkins. We’ll use shade cloth over the more heat-sensitive greens and herbs (our arugula and basil went to seed so quickly that we barely had a chance to use them at all this year).
We have our garden set up with four sprinklers that are on an automatic timer system, but some areas get more water than others. This year, our peppers were in an area that didn’t get as much water as the rest of the garden, and we frequently had to give them supplemental water. Next year, we’ll plant the thirstiest crops in the beds that get the most water, since we now know which beds those are.
Our berry bushes started to produce a little bit this year, but not enough to preserve anything (or even make it into the house – all the berries were eaten in the backyard!). We didn’t allow any of our fruit trees to produce fruit this year, as we wanted them to focus their energy on growing their roots. It will be exciting to see what next year brings with the fruit trees and berry bushes.
Gardening will be a bit more of a balancing act next year, since we’ll have a new baby. But we did the really hard work this year, double digging our 27 garden beds, augmenting them all with tons of compost, and putting in the watering system. Next year will be quite a bit easier, so hopefully we’ll be able to juggle it all. For now… let it snow!