This has been a less than uplifting garden season for Gravens Gardens. Between the apple trees going on strike, over-watering everything, the ground squirrels eating not only the initial round of spring plantings but the second round, the voles digging up and eating the pea and bean seeds, and the jackrabbits eating the broccoli’ it has been a depressing’ losing battle in the garden. Oh, and with one tree after another dying from the 2014 – 2015 drought, I kept telling myself if was too easy I would not have to learn anything and this life would become boring. No, that did not help at all it was just depressing.
We completed the berry patch at the beginning of the year. It is a 2500 sq. ft. space completely bird netted. I planted 40 ft. rows of blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. There is enough room to add a second row of each if we decide we need more of any of these. Most of the plants were just planted this year so we did not get a great harvest, but I am very hopeful for a great 2017 harvest. The strawberries are a year old and did great and I am thinking a second row might make sense. We will see how the 2017 harvest goes before we decide. The seams in the bird netting are held together with ½ PVC pipes and clips. I am planning to sow the seams and get rid of the pipes, making the look of the patch cleaner and hopefully resulting in a tighter seal against the birds that love those berries. I had the same over-irrigation problem as with the rest of the garden which may have made some of the blueberries tasteless. I have to sort out some kind of trellising system for the blackberries and raspberries.
The apple trees did go on strike this year. Most of them just did not put on much, if any, bloom. I am blaming not thinning them combined with two years of drought. It was just too much stress and they are taking a break. I changed the irrigation scheme over to a drip system that delivers 25 gallons per hour with little evaporation. I set up the system to supply an average of 50 gallon per day per tree. The trees look a lot better, but with no fruit to support that is expected. I planted 7 more apple trees that I grafted a year ago and will plant one more this winter. This brings the orchard to 15 apple trees. One of the European plum tree failed this year; luckily I had planted two more European plum trees so with this loss I still have three European plum trees. The one producing European plum had a nice crop of plums, which we canned, froze and dried. The Asian plums produced well this year as well. They were eaten, jellied, and canned. Our sour cherry tree, although small, produced well and with the bird netting we had a nice harvest. We supplemented the cherry harvest with cherries from the Brosi and Guido orchards. Finally, the pear trees did great. We had an overabundance of all of the pears. I would like to get a couple more pear trees.
The good news is the tomato and peppers did great! I planted 160 tomato plants from 41 varieties this year. This included 8 varieties of Master Gardener trial paste tomatoes. I am looking for a replacement of the Super San Marzano variety, which has become very hard to locate. Unlike last year, there was very little Blossom End Rot (BER) this year. I hesitate to assign cause, but I noted that I double dug the rows the fall before and loaded up on compost and lime. I also covered the paste tomato row with row cover, which the wind tore up before the summer was over. I have a new design for holding the row cover up that I will try next year. We made 15 quarts of tomato sauce, 20 pints of canned tomatoes, 10 cups of tomato powder, and froze 40 lbs. of whole tomatoes. The peppers did well this year, with 144 plants of 44 varieties; we had lots of peppers. The row cover did a great job of eliminating sun scald. We froze 8 gallon bags and dried and ground Aleppo, Ancho, and Espelette peppers. The asparagus continued to produce well.
The rest of the garden as I mentioned earlier was a struggle. I got a good crop of winter squash, mostly from volunteers, the ones I planted three times were either eaten by the ground squirrels or planted too late to produce. This was the same for the melons. Sweet corn did not grow all that well and was not well pollinated, but what we picked and cooked was delicious. I did manage to get green beans, zucchini, and cucumbers to go on the third planting. The zucchini did very well and demonstrating how well succession planting of zucchini can work. The cucumbers and green beans did OK but getting such a late start has really limited the harvest. Peas, broccoli, cauliflower, and eggplant were a total loss. I am hoping for better luck next year.
In preparation for next year, I am double digging the three rows where the tomato and peppers will be planted. In the pepper row I filled the trench with raw horse manure, which will age all winter and be covered in the raised bed when things dry out in the spring. If I double dig three of the rows in the old part of the garden each year I will maintain three year cycle. In the new garden area, I am filling in the paths with horse manure, which will age through the winter as well. I will be spreading the ash from my wood burning stove as well as lime on the manure to counteract the acidity of the manure. In the spring I will till that all in and incorporate it into rows. This is all in an effort to get more organic material into the clay soil. In this new section of the garden I am on a 4 year cycle of double digging. In addition, I leave two rows fallow each summer so I can plant winter broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower in September, without having to pull something out prematurely, to make room.
Tomato variety list:
Black Krim, Brandywine from Croatia, Dr. Neal, Florida Pink, Gregori’s Altai, Hillbilly Potato Leaf, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Kentucky Beefsteak, Mary Robinson’s German (bicolor), Pruden’s Purple, Stupice, True Black Brandywine, Virginia Sweet, Yellow Brandywine
Black Cherry, Sun gold, Sweet 100, Isis Candy
Amish Paste, Anna Russian, Cuore Di Bue, Ernie’s Plump, Federle, Fireworks, Goldman’s Italian American Paste, Grandma Mary’s Paste, Howard German, Hungarian Heart, Hungurian Italian, Italian Red Pear, Jeff’s Plum, Jersey Devil, Opalka, Polish Linuisa, Pozzano, San Marzano, San Marzano Gigante 3, San Marzano La padino, Sausage, Speckled Roman, Super Italian Paste
Tomato varieties to be dropped in 2017: Fireworks, Grandma Mary’s Paste, and San Marzano.
Tomato varieties to be added in 2017: Umpqua Paste. (Locally developed large paste)
Pepper variety list:
Bhut Jolokia SCC, Big Bomb, Habanero Saint Jacobs, Hinklehatz Yellow, Jalapeño, Manzano Orange, Manzano Red, Piquin, Santa Fe Grande, Serrano, Szentesi, Thai Hot Black, Trinidad Scorpion
Aleppo, Ancho 101, Baby Pepper Chili, Chilhuacle Negro, Guajillo, Mariachi, Padron, Paradicsom Alaku, Pasilla Bajio, Urfa Biber,
Ancient Sweets, Belecski, California Wonder Orange, California Wonder Red, Chervena Chushka, Coral, Corno di Toro Giallo, Corno di Toro Rosso, Cuollarici, Early Sunsation, Espelette, Garden Sunshine, Giallo di Cuneo, Karma, Marconi Golden, Marconi Red, Orange Bell, Petit Marseillais, Quadrato d’Asti Rosso, Romanian Gogosari, Wisconsin Lakes