O M G ! I am drowning…(Part 1) ….Nov. 03, 2011
In a sea of vegetables! Since the beginning of September, my garden of veggie trials has been slowly releasing its harvest (all at once…)…in bushel baskets loads! Broccoli/cauliflower, the lettuces, peas, apples, tomatoes and since this time…beans, beets, kale and carrots were all screaming to be picked. Thank goodness, the potatoes didn’t need immediate processing! Now this garden is not a typical 20 x 20. Only fools dare to tend a garden the size of mine! (Esp. the way I packed it!)
As hot and dry (the driest on record for a # of years…) as our summer was, with all the mulching that was done, the heavy loads of water made nary an inch of moist soil. Small wonder that when I dug deeper, it was bone/dust dry! Not a good sign, as root systems choose to remain on top…where the moisture was. (…something like training a calf to come only to one trough)…only I trained the plants and in turn they trained me! Water, water…water! What would this mean in the long run? No water reserve, meant quick wilting in less than 2-3 days. What else would this mean? I had best not go anywhere for more than 2 days!
As readers having followed my ramblings of previous months know, I have been suffering the ravages of a 100 varmints of all types. From rabbits, to chipmunks, to robins, to now….mice! I will be honest. The real gun slingers…have been the chipmunks! If I can work my website’s photo requirements, hopefully you will see what I mean. It appears almost ALL the damage was done prior to a black mink’s arrival in late summer. Then for some mysterious reason…no more damage occurred. OR was the bumper crop of acorns enough to turn them away!?
It also appeared, THEY liked the Albino beet the best. Every root was 75% eaten. The next to receive such severe damage were Bull’s Blood, the Egyptian and Chioggia. Now either the other 6 varieties were too far down the row (away from their forested hiding spots…) OR they didn’t like them as well…not sweet enough! The carrots were served the same treatment. Thank goodness, the Oxhearts were deeper in the soil, or they would have gone the way of the black and yellow varieties. These too were eaten right into the ground by 2-3 inches! What a lovely surprised to behold whilst one harvests one’s final crop of the season!
I KNOW that there are many, many garden folk, who DO NOT have any problems, what so ever. WHY must I have so much? (I totally empathize & understand gardeners living by deer populations…) Why must I resort to litterly fencing in everything that I grow? The type of ¼” wire fencing that is required here will be soooo costly, labor intensive and soooo against the basic principles of gardening! This is supposed to be relaxing! So why am I so stressed out over dammed chipmunks??!! BECAUSE they are consuming EVERYTHING that I grow AND leaving me with garbage! I will not be a servant to a darn varmint! This means War!
Ok Mandy…calm down…get a grip! As I mentioned earlier, there was still lots to feed us. But it would have been nice to see the WHOLE vegetable…not a corner or a small chunk of it.
They did not touch any members of the brassica family and for the amount growing, these I wouldn’t mind to share. There is just so much Kale or Brussels Sprouts, after awhile one wants to eat! And this particular family was thriving! I had Purple & Orange Cauliflower heads the size of a soccer ball. One nice thing about the orange variety…they were early & very short…only a foot tall. The other purple variety arrived a month ago…4 feet high! The time frame was great for people not wanting to eat a ton of cauliflower all at once.
I trailed a series of large (people call them stock beets…) yellow, red and white beet this year, respectively called Yellow Echendorf, Red Mangel and Geante Blanche. I was also fortunate to receive another old yellow variety, whose seed was given to me by a gentleman from the US. called the Yellow Tankard. (More on this variety in our listings this upcoming year…) I was quite amazed at the size these attained, despite the lack of natural moisture. The smallest of the 4 varieties was the white G. Blanche, weighing about 2 lbs. The rest weighed in at 3 to 4 lbs. Not bad at all for Manitoba! I am told, stock beets have no problem arriving at 12-20 lbs at maturity! Hummmm!
The tomatoes this year were amazing. They received 2 feedings of earthworm castings, supplemented with seaweed and kelp fertilizer. And a ton of water, via a sprinkler overhead mounted on one of the 8 railings used to support the plants. Believe it or not, the air temperature was so warm/hot for the majority of the growing season, that I did not blink an eyelash at my watering times. I followed no rules and watered, whenever I had the time…even into nightfall. (I was worried more about the failure of our water pump & then my husband…? ) I felt it was more important to keep the plants hydrated than to worry about them being dry before evening. Stress, it seems is a greater enemy of plants than a few drops of water. BESIDES doesn’t rain come at night too? So what is the difference…their rain or mine?
Some outstanding favorites of 2011: super early, red, sml-med, heaviest producers…Canestra Cluster & Petitebec. The Oxhearts really shone: Russian Bull Heart, Portuguese Bull Heart, Black Ox Heart, Jerusalem and if one can consider Dad’s Mug as an Ox Heart or rather a huge Roma. (easy weights of 1 to 2 lbs) The first 2 offered high production…for an oxheart! Outstanding Orange varieties in earliness & production: Auriga and Chukkloma Orange …again! Outstanding Bi-colors: Virginia Sweets, Red Belly, German Mammoth Gold and Texas Star. These threw their weigh around from 1½ to almost 3 lbs. & certainly put on the Ritz in production. What monsters, what color! Outstanding Yellow: Ildi in a class by itself! I was sure I had a Dwarf in there somewhere, as I remembered from 2004…not-ta! All hit 6 ft plus…darn! Production?…don’t even go there! Another surprise…Ruffled Yellow showed NO blossom end rot, as it was yearly plagued with. Nice surprise. Production was even greater. Outstanding Greens: Lime Green Salad and Green Sausage ran away with the prize. Here were 2 short bushy plants, both overwhelmed me with their terrific production …all season long. Outstanding Whites: Brandywine White, White Beauty, White Oxheart, White Zebra and White Rabbit. The giants were giants & plentiful and the small were prolific, many with surprisingly great tomato flavor. Some fantastic Romas: Black Pear, (the unusual) Gezahnte & Opalka. I did not trial as many Blacks this year, but still found some great mention-ables (esp. for production): Japanese Blk. Trefele (all 3 suppliers), Carbon, Black Plum, Purple Russian, Indische Fleisch, Indian Stripe AND I esp. loved the little Noire de Crimee! Yes, the fruits did some splitting, but the flavor blew me away. There were some I just could not get over their production, size AND flavor. Landry’s Russian was huge, round, smooth and ALL the fore-mentioned. Lunch Box was a heavy producer, although not great in flavor. Olirose de St. Dominque stood tall, offering a ton of oval pure pink heavy fruits. Mystery Keeper had such a load of perfectly round, large, heavy, light orange fruits, it needed extra support! Such short plant, too. Striped Hollow: outstanding gorgeous color, fruit size, production, with no short plants anywhere. There were too many great big beefsteaks performers here to mention. Other fine var. worth noting: Brazil, Lemon Boy, (the real weird) Don Juan, Pink Niblets, Placero, Yellow Plum, Red Peach and my all time fav. Garden Peach! Ok! Enough already!
From the beginning to their chilly end, our tomato varieties showed almost NO disease this year. In some cases, I would find a couple of handfuls of brown leaves, at the base of some heavily foliated varieties, “pocketed” in the very middle. It seemed to have resulted from just a lack of air circulation. Once I removed the lower leaves, no further problems would result. The fact that I mulched with grass clippings, quite heavily, may have been a factor. I have also had reports from other growers…they not having much disease problems either. How can one year be so different from another, boggles my mind.
Potatoes and more potatoes! I trailed out about 13 varieties this year and found some interesting results. It appears that for some varieties, being planted under an apple tree decreased their production…as would be expected. For two varieties…it increased them! What?
Production was the highest for Banana Fingerlings (found as many as 80+), German Butterball (about 25-30, although smaller in size compared to others), Dakota Pearl (about 10 large…under a tree), Peruvian Purple ( a few samples given to me by Eva Pip & Armeline…about 8-10 lunkers buried deep…growing under a tree!) and Alta Blush (about 8-13 med-lg.) The interesting thing about the Alta…it was planted 3 weeks after the rest, yet managed to surpass many others, with no flowers in sight. According to trials performed by Agricultural Canada, Alta Blush was a top production winner in their field tests compared to 30 other varieties. Caribe, Purple Viking, and All Reds offered huge spuds, but less of them at around 5-7 each. Netted Gems (Russets) also did well with 7-12 each, med-lg. My all-around winner was one of 2 that Eva Pip gave me this spring…French Fingerlings. All I saw was a single stem, one every 1½ feet apart…as I had planted them. Darn, I said…what’s with that? Much to my surprise each little stem had 5-6 chubby/oval, very smooth skinned, longish, deep orange/pink/tan colored tubers radiating out from it. Their size was close to 3½” long by 1½” wide. Nice! An old variety my parents grew: Warba (grown partially under the apple tree…) with its pink eyes (on cream) deeper set in, did not fare as well as I hoped. Too many small ones and too many protruding out of the ground, on which the chippies feasted! I remember this one growing to huge sizes, when I was “knee high to a grasshopper”. Maybe the seed wasn’t great. The red Norlands (about 7-10 med-sized) did quite well. And the late season (one of my fav.) Kennebec, (offering about 10 large) flattish ones, with real smooth skin.
In the following photo:(from left to right…) Dakota Pearl, Alta Blush, Warba & French Fingerling…
Before I get away from these, some readers may remember me mentioning my mother-in-laws strange potato behavior in the month of June. Only a few plants (about 4) offered a few small tubers (without) growing any greens. Did she save these exact same potatoes to give to me to replant this fall…I am not sure. (I won’t mess with my mother-in-laws stuff!) There were many tubers in her bag (despite looking very fresh with white roots) of which only 50% grew out. Why did they perform this way, is hard to understand, as any weather beaten, dried up, wrinkled tubers that I managed to save & plant out…have grown real well, despite their outward appearance.
If anyone has a different variety they wish me to trial, I will gladly do so. I discovered about 2 unusual varieties this year, growing in between others, which I could not properly match up. If they make it in great condition till spring, I will continue with their assessments and if they turn out well, increase them.
For those not in the know, Agricultural Canada has several levels of potato certification for seed for home gardeners and commercial seed growing. The usual certified seed you see in stores is only directly above the #1 (large variety for eating) and the #2 (smaller damaged variety for eating) For starters there is the Nuclear class. This is potato seed harvested from plants, grown in a lab. (via tissue culture), under exacting sterile conditions. (No soil will these ever see!) When the lab. spuds are planted out, they are called Pre-Elite. Each time a variety is grown out there after on the land, it then goes into a lower classification…Elite #1, Elite #2, Elite #3, Elite #4 (bearing orange labels), then Foundation Seed bearing white labels and then finally your Certified Seed class, bearing a blue label…which is what you usually buy. In all the classes, directly after Nuclear, the field tested plants undergo very strict inspections, observations and are heavy rogue for disease and off types. Canada, I am proud to say (at least with potato seed…) lays out exacting regulations to prevent disease contamination of our future potato seed crops.
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Within these pages you will find some of the most unusual vegetables (plants and seeds) from all corners of the globe, as you will not find anywhere else! Welcome...be amazed and enjoy!