Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reviewing the year

© 2010 Joshua Stark

This blog began as a series of notes regarding my attempts at gardening, and then raising ducks, in the back yard, and so it's only fitting to do a review, occasionally, to consider what has been working, what hasn't, and how I should prepare next year's Spring garden.  Of course, this being California, the gardening never really takes a break, but since all the harvest festivals have just taken place, it feels like a good time for a review.

First things first:  What did we like to eat?  The pear tomatoes did well, as did the bigger heirlooms (I've got to look up the name!).  The zucchinis were very good (duh!), as were the green beans.  Some bell peppers were okay, and the first hot peppers were great.  The boysenberries and pomegranates, of course, are in a class by themselves.  The Swiss chard was terrific. 

Next:  What didn't we like to eat?  The mild jalapeños, for sure (they tasted like bitter, fleshless bell peppers), and the hot peppers after the bell peppers took off (I think cross-pollination is the culprit).  Come to think of it, many of the bell peppers had thin walls, and little flavor, themselves.  We just didn't like the tomatillos all that much - we had a couple of salsa verdes, but not a ton.  I think we just prefer pico de gallo.  The radishes were violently bitter.

For me, the next step is to consider what grew and what didn't grow.  None of the squashes grew strong enough to make much of a showing, nor did the cucumbers; they were constantly trying to stay ahead of the wilt I'd tried to eliminate by bringing in all new soil.  Now in their defense, the birdhouse gourds and butternuts didn't have a chance to show me much, because they were clipped clean by the ducks.  But, what leaves I saw on them did get the same wilt as the other squashes.

In fact, the duck raids early on really distort the success of the garden this year.  I just didn't build high enough beds, and very early, the ducks flew in and ate almost all the greens.

The corn also came up stunted, the green beans just didn't produce, and the tomatoes and peppers took a long time to ripen, but this I attribute to last year's weather (cool all Summer).

So what, then, grew well?  Of course, the Swiss chard that survived the duck-tastrophe, the bell peppers (though later), and the pear tomatoes and tomatillos.  Also, it looks like the onions will do nicely.  The orange tree has grown some, now that I pump the duck pond under it, and the pomegranate and boysenberry are taking off.  The walnut continues to reign supreme in the yard, but our harvest was severely curtailed this year by squirrels, rats, and codling moths.  Our roses, too, grew well this year, and I plan to harvest hips for rose syrup this week.  And it goes without saying that the ducks grew well, too - two eggs per day.

At the end of my reviews I like to list proposals for next year's garden.  In my case, some bamboo fencing around the raised beds are in order, to keep out the marauders, and another attempt at greens (spinach to collards).  Also, I will only try to grow one squash this year, out of a pot, and trellised almost immediately.  Tomatoes will again make the cut, as will corn and green beans.  I also plan to dedicate a good chunk of land to potatoes, yams, and alliums (onions, garlic, and leeks).  Peppers I will grow, but separating the hot ones and the bells.  And with my successful worm bins, I plan to provide soil amendments in the form of 'casings' (worm poop) in addition to the pondwater from the oh-so-generous ducks. 

What of your gardens?  Do you have any tips or tricks from your reviews to share?  Let's hear 'em!


Hippo said...

I can only admire your tenacity.

Inspired by you, I sorted out my garden, put in some beds, hauled in some black soil and planted the seeds smuggled in by friends only to watch every green shoot munched and plucked out of the ground by the geese and chickens.

So we moved the geese down to my other place at the Barra de Kwanza and eat the chickens and I started again with the last of the seeds.

Today I noticed that a new cockerel has moved in with his family and chewed through my beds so I am going to get an air rifle.

Marcia is worried because, as she pointed out, these fowl belong to a neighbour.

'That's OK', I said, 'Invite them to dinner.'

Josh said...

Hippo, it's cool to think I've "inspired" someone as far away as Angola! Good luck on that dinner, too.