The Fall Garden: The finishers and the slow growers

22 09 2008

Well, in the ongoing Battle: Dirt Sack Vs. The Evil Blight, I may have to give The Dirt Sack some credit.  I’d say it is putting out as many tomatoes and takes up hardly any ground space.   I’ve pulled several romas off of it and dozens of the Chocolate Cherry tomatoes.  Was it worth the added expense and extra watering?  I don’t think so.   As soon as I take it down, I will respond to the recall.  It really was a terribly made piece of equipment.  That said, I do think that there is a lot of potential for upside down tomatoes.

Meanwhile The Evil Blight does seem to finally be striking at least one of the plants on the ground. I have found a few romas that were squishy without ever ripening, and many of the leaves are starting to turn yellow as seen below. I’ve cut the what-appears-to-be-blighted parts back and thrown them away.  I’m giving the tomatoes another week and a half.  Then I think their numbers will be up.

I keep wondering when the green beans will be done.  I am letting a couple of the plants go to seed in hopes of not having to buy seed next year.  The rest of the plants are still putting out plenty of beans for a side dish every few days, so we’ll just keep eating them until they are done.

Meanwhile, the leeks keep on growing extremely slowly. The biggest are about thumbs-width, depending on the size of the thumb.  They still have another month and a half before I was planning on eating them, but man do they crawl along.  Someday I would like to have an entire bed of just leeks, though.  Whether they will justify taking up a row in such a small garden is yet to be determined.

The brussels sprouts are absolutely fascinating.  The one big one has gotten HUGE while the smaller ones have stayed, well, small.  I’m not expectings many spouts from the three smallest ones; they simply have not grown that many axial leaves.  I think that despite being spaced fairly far apart, the two largest ones got such a leap on the smaller ones that the smaller ones just got crowded out.

What I find SO fascinating, though, is WHERE the sprouts come from!  Why they appear at the base of the leaves is a total mystery to me.

Wrapping it up, the purple sprouting broccoli is trucking along slowly in the front yard.  While I think they could do with more direct sunlight, this is actually about the size that I was hoping the cabbage would be.   Provided they don’t get frozen out, we’ll have fresh broccoli come March.

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How to make a small space actually produce enough food to make it worthwhile.

14 07 2008

I think the key to make gardening in small spaces it to choose smallish, high value plants that you can plant repeatedly throughout the year. In other words, if you have a 10X10 plot, zucchini is not exactly going to be your cash crop. It takes up a lot of space for a lot of time, and it doesn’t produce a lot of variety.

According to Steve Solomon, the top ten most valuable crops based on approximate value per square foot of garden per amount of time that the area will be growing the crop are herbs, carrots, beets, parsnips, lettuce, scallions, spinach, kale, swiss chard, and leeks. I believe him.

If you’re a home cook, not having to pay for herbs is invaluable. Even better, most herbs can be used throughout the year, either fresh or in dried form. In my personal experience, you can get a huge bang for your buck from swiss chard. Once established, you can cut the outer leaves off month after month. The plants regrow leaves at an astonishing rate. I have 12 chard plants, and they have provided me with a truly absurd stream of chard. This photo was taken AFTER harvesting a giant bunch of chard.

I think the other key is to have a plan such that once one vegetable has finished, you have another ready to seed in that spot. I started out this spring with loads of spinach. Once the spinach finished up, I put in tomatoes and carrots where it had been. Both my shelling peas and snow peas finally finished up, and I just replanted the area with pole beans, basil, and kale.

My general plan has been to provide myself with a steady stream of food throughout the spring and early summer. Now, I can still enjoy lettuce and chard while the beans and tomatoes kick into gear. This is also the time of year when many of the crops that I don’t have space to grow start showing up in the farmers’ markets. I pile up on the cucumbers, zucchini, and everything else that I just don’t have space for. Meanwhile, I am getting my fall garden into place with kale, brussels sprouts, more lettuce, spinach, and leeks. I transplanted my fall leek bed yesterday. I’ve never done this before, so I hope it works!