I love that we live in a community where growing your own food is ‘normal’. And growing a homestead is contagious. It’s mid September, 10:30 at night, and I just finished braiding 60 onions to cure for the winter. And they are so pretty. (It reminded me of french braiding friends’ hair during Latin class in high school. Yup, that’s right, I studied Latin. I have no idea why, but I sorta liked it.) During all that braiding, I was thinking of how four years ago, our garden wasn’t a garden. That blows my mind! There was nothing there but sage bushes, cactus plants, a few trees, and a huge, ugly pile of construction dirt. There was no “soil”. It was all dry desert dirt.
A whole lotta heart and sweat went into starting our garden. We dug and hauled about 75 wheel barrels full of the construction dirt and barely made a dent in the mound. I was SO determined to do it by hand, but luckily Patrick had more sense and hired a man and his bobcat to clear the sage and a few trees, and create a burm (and windblock) along the south and west side of the future garden. Over a few years, we have added several enormous truckloads of manur+sandy soil and double-dug it into all our raised beds which are on drip (fed as much as possible by collected rain water). It started at roughly 3600 sq ft to grow into, and in such a short time we have, and even expanded with our greenhouse-dome. I have been going non-stop this summer, and especially lately, trying to preserve as much food as I can, and this morning was one of those “awe” moments for sure. Giving a lot of thanks and appreciating what we’ve created. Patrick, Tulsi, Oso and I make the bestest team ever.
One thing happens every garden season: some things work, and other things don’t, and we always learn a LOT. And at the beginning of every growing season, I announce that I’m going to keep a journal of everything — what we plant and harvest and preserve, what we sell, where we failed and what we were most excited about. But I never do. SO…this post is for me to remember next year, and for anyone who has any interest… :) And I would LOVE to hear what you are growing and preserving!
Without further ado, THE 2010 Garden Masala FARM REPORT:
I need to remember that the summer of 2010 was sorta crazy in the sense that we did more than what seems humanly possible for 2 people with a 16 month old. And although we always felt behind, and were hard on ourselves for having a sloppy summer greenhouse-turn-temporary-chicken-house or for abandoning our potato bags (an experiment this year to save space and time and therefore had a puny harvest (yet delicious)), I think it’s important to acknowledge how we had the biggest vegetable and flower garden yet. We started everything from seed in the greenhouse which was extremely exciting. And we took a huge step closer to our goal of feeding our family year round. That’s just awesome…
Here’s what we grew/did new this year:
NuMex Bolo Onions. Our stellar crop of the year! (and the first time we’ve EVER succeeded at growing onions.) They are HUGE and sweet! The most exciting part is that we started them from teeny seeds last February in our dome! We grew around 120 of them, and next year, I want to plant more! The trick, we learned, is to find an onion already proven to grow well in our climate/altitude, and this is the one. I’m curing them for the winter, which is new to me. I’m trying the braiding and hanging method, in a shaded, airy place, but I may move them into our new mudroom since it’s going to freeze soon.
Tomatoes. in our dome and hoop houses that we built with pvc and plastic. We grew several heirloom determinate varieties that fruit all at once at the end of the season (great for canning). At 8000ft, our summer nights are still quite cold (45-55 F) (which make tomato growing a bit slow), so as of right now, we have several hundred green tomatoes…we’ll soon see if this experiment works or not. I learned that tomatoes do MUCH better if you ‘feed’ them. And space them adequately. I also learned about pruning tomatoes and that I am HIGHLY allergic, breaking out in a prickly red rash every time I come in contact with their leaves. Next year I want to plant fewer tomatoes and indeterminate varieties in our dome. Juicy, fat red tomatoes in May is my goal! I also discovered the FAT, and crazy fast tomato horn worm who can devour an entire tomato plant’s leaves in 30 minutes…and how it turns into our garden’s beloved hummingbird moth.
Peppers. we grew in a hoop house with sweet bell and a medium pepper, and green chillies and jalapenos. Bumper crop. Not sure what to do with it all. Ideas? Maybe roast and puree for green chilli sauce in the winter.
A perennial herb garden. Been drying and freezing basil, sage, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and cilantro. I canned this concentrated soup stock, and it’s great! I know we’ll be using it a lot in the winter months.
Wild pesto with sorrel, arugula, and lamb’s quarters. SO yum. I’ve always made it with basil, but the wild ones are really great, too. So yummy on pizzas and pasta but also a spoonful in soups.
I started my first fermenting endeavor! (Veggie Kimchi) My first batch is only 3 days old. It’s carrots, beets and ginger. Going to do a big batch soon with my friend who is teaching me.
Climbling cucumbers in the dome. Delicious, but they’d do much better if they had a proper jungle gym. Made pickles for the first time today!
Melon in the greenhouse. We only got one, and she was a BEAUTY! The funny thing is that it fell off the vine when I touched it and smelled amazingly ripe but was flavorless. Go figure. Gotta find us a yummy variety!
Fennel. We are growing tons for seed since we use it a lot in cooking, teas, and masala chai.
We planted our winter and summer squash in amended holes on our big burm. It worked GREAT! They could go wild and didn’t take up any valuable garden space. We tried a new winter squash variety with a shorter season — the buttercup — not a huge harvest, but they look beautiful. They are curing right now. Hoping they are super flavorful. I’m going to buy some other hard squashes from a local farmer to keep for the winter and try out other short-season varieties that do well here.
Parsnips. YUM. The candy of veggies. They have a long growing season so we may let them winter over…My intention was to plant a patch now to grow while the garden hybernated, and harvest them in the early spring, but my cuppeth runneth overeth.
Asparagus!! This was our first harvest season, and oh boy! They were prolific and perfect. Asparagus pizza and quiche and in stir fry! And simply raw in the garden is my favorite.
Raspberries! Our teeny transplants from a couple years ago have become a forest and quite abundant. I made raspberry muffins and waffles and froze some for the winter. Same with our strawberries. Looks like next Spring will demand another strawberry patch be started!!
We started an echinacea patch with great success! I’m most excited to tincture it since we consume a lot in this house.
Sugar Snap Peas. Happy to say we had 100% success rate with planting all saved seeds from last year’s plants!
In addition to these new things, we also grew tons of different lettuces, potatoes (although we neglected those and they had a teeny yield), spinach, kale, chard, carrots, beets, basil, and LOADS of flowers.
Foods I preserved: Dehydrated: tomatoes, watermelon, apples. In the freezer: pesto, soups galore, zucchini, spanakopita, berries, peaches, sugar snap peas, grated beets, zucchini bread, coconut-cilantro chutney. Canned: salsa, pickled beets, regular beets, fall soup. Stored: onions, winter squash, potatoes. And more coming! I’m learning proper curing techniques this year to avoid previous winter harvests going soft and mushy. We’ll see what happens, but another motivation for preserving as much food as I can is that we have two major creative projects that are going to fill our winter. (YAY!! Can’t wait to share more about these later…) So we want to focus our energy creating art and less on cooking and running to town for groceries. I tried new things this year (and more quantities) so we can really see what we eat and how long it lasts us. I imagine it just takes a few years to ‘get it down just right’.
And flowers! I forgot. Most abundant ever. So fun to have a flower stand at the market and sell to local restaurants, and of course to light up our house and friends’ houses.
On my list to try next year :
Garlic! We planted for the first time this morning! yay! Hard beans to keep for the winter. Garbonzo or chick peas, for hummus. LOTS more potatoes. Quinoa…gonna give it a try, who knows, it would be so fun to grow our own grains. And BEES!! A few friends told me recently that our bees would be in heaven with all our flowers, and well, we consume a lot of honey. :) Plus, we have several friends to learn from.
Whew! It’s addicting, this garden thing, and endless, too. Another thing I’m really excited about is crop-swapping. We just can’t grow everything, and we traded with friends and local farmers for corn, potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, cabbage, peaches, jams, honey, and more.
How did your garden grow? What varieties of veggies do you like best? What did you preserve? Please share!! I want to learn more…