Friday, August 11, 2017

Learning from my garden

Our garden supplements our food supply with fresh fruits and vegetables. We still trek the 90 miles round trip to the store for most of our normal fare. Perennial fruits and vegetables are my focus, rather than annuals. Most years we get heavy crops of currants and apples, and moderate crops of raspberries, service berries, plums, rhubarb, prickly pears, Italian parsley, sunchokes, pomegranates, and blueberries. Some years we get other things, but it is very weather dependent.  From these crops, I trade jams, fresh apples and dehydrated apples for other fresh vegetables with neighbors.

This year has been different, primarily because the normal weather pattern was odd. Spring was warm with the obligatory mid-April deep freeze. The heat of June extended well into July. The monsoon was late and very sparse initially. Late July and early August, the rains were strong and frequent, then dried up for a couple of weeks. This has brought out very different responses from our producers.

Currants were a little below normal, but they are generally bullet-proof. We can count our apples on one hand. That's quite a blow. The plums were prolific. Strangely, the strawberries are producing like crazy. I'd gotten to the point I thought of them more as ornamentals because of their minimal output, so it's a nice change. We've actually had some almonds, which is rare. The blueberries were all nipped. We have our first nectarine, but just the one. The prickly pears are a month behind in their ripening.

What this is teaching me is that we need to keep some perennials that don't produce in 'normal' years. We need a few of those odd plants that may only produce well in an odd weather year.

Even more odd to me is the state of my little experimental winter garden. It is essentially self-managing right now an dI check it weekly. The parsnips I planted last September did nothing. I thought the seeds were too old. In May, they came to life and I have a lush parsnip garden. They won't be ready until fall, but it was a lovely surprise to see them thriving. I had sewn some purslane, which is a nutritious salad green. It is also a welcomed self-managing ground cover, which unfortunately many people see as just a weed. It has started to show up in a few places.

Soooo, my lesson from the garden this week is not to give up on the low-producers. Keep the variety. They may bail you out in years when the weather shifts.


  1. Guess that's why the old-timers kept them, covering all the bases.

  2. We lost about 93% of our blueberries this year due to warm weather which caused them to start blooming in January and then a late March hard freeze that zapped almost all of the blooms. All the rain we got blighted our tomatoes, but luckily that's all we lost. Like you other things thrived in the not as hot summer(for us) and all the rain so it was a good trade off.

  3. Have you tried asparagus? Takes about 3 years to produce a good crop, but super easy (low maintenance) to maintain and one of the first garden producers come the spring thaw. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are low energy input plants as well...

    1. When we get to the point of having our homestead property. We plan on about 250% of food harvest in optimum conditions for insurance.

    2. Howdy K! We've planted asparagus multiple times here. I didn't mention it because I can't get it to be productive. I don't know whether it's the altitude (5200'), my planting techniques or the soil, but it evolves to putting up one big shoot each year. Seriously, almost as big around as my thumb, but usually just one. I've tried it in several places, same outcome. Any ideas? Planting too shallow or deep? All suggestions welcomed.

    3. Raised beds, with good soil, and perhaps a heavy mulch to over winter the roots. I'd check with fellow farmers/gardeners for ideas. Root crops seem to be the best on return for energy input. Roasted carrots, cut to shoestring size, coated in olive oil, cumin, a bit of cinnamon 400-425 for about 20-25 minutes. I think they taste better than French Fries!

    4. Mother Earth article link