By the end of the first week in November, we were starting to take the last real harvests of the 2015 season. Kale, collards, Fox Cherry tomatoes, Hot Portugal peppers, a few late-planted bush beans, and a few stray Shishitos were in the mix.
Our first frost was November 25th, but it was only for one night; temperatures rebounded back up into warmer territory immediately and the next frost was not until mid-December. Many of the largest, ripest tomatoes and peppers we set aside for seed saving day. I was ready to throw in the towel on our Brandywines, but Continue reading 2015 Veggies – November & December
We had saved seed from our own crops: Brandywine Tomatoes, Fox Cherry Tomatoes, Hot Portgual Peppers, Shishito Peppers, Blue Lake Pole Beans, and Genovese Basil. I also like to think that local farms have done some of the homework in terms of selecting varieties that grow well in this area, so I supplemented our own harvest with a couple of peppers from the farmer’s market in Union Square: Hot Cayenne and Hot Serrano.
Our Hot Portugals were yummy and mildly spicy-sweet, but they took a hecka long time to flower and mature, and I had wanted them for adding heat to our pickle jars earlier in the season. They arrived months after pickling day, and would have been twice as long as a jar anyway—way too big. So I added the Cayenne and Serrano varieties to our seed saving mix this year. They are the right size for a pint jar, and I am hoping there will be a few harvestable ones in early August.
In order to track our progress each year, I try to quantify the harvest as best I can. I keep a written journal of most of the important activities and progress in the garden, and the journal includes a penciled-in log of any harvests that happen during each week of the season. When I have the chance, I copy that handwritten data into a little spreadsheet I made which handles some of the calculations I’m interested in and updates the totals automatically for me. This spreadsheet is designed specifically for small gardens, not farms, and possibly not even for very large gardens. It’s targeted for situations where you harvest small amounts and can keep track of harvested items as single units (for most things) or small bunches (for herbs), rather than as large bulk amounts such as bushels.
The concept behind this spreadsheet is that once you add in some typical values at the start of the season for the weight of a given variety when harvested (like the average weight of one cherry tomato), the spreadsheet does all the rest of the calculations as you add to your counts each week. It does its math based on counts, so that you don’t have to keep weighing each time you harvest, just tally how many single items you harvested that week.
In early October, we were starting to see the first signs of possible fruiting coming in from our recently planted bush beans. First time growing them, and a spot didn’t open up until late in the season, so we weren’t sure if anything would come of this experiment. Lovely pink flowers.
To our surprise, our Brandywine tomatoes made a late flush of rather giant fruit. As the daylight hours and temperatures were dwindling, we weren’t sure if these would ever ripen. About ten of them were taunting our tastebuds (and my harvest spreadsheet) from the vine early in the month. Temperatures started leveling off and even warming up, but nothing would reverse the hours of sunshine hitting them. I pruned the lower leaves and any diseased leaves as well, and made sure no new flowers were developing. I also cut back dramatically on any water they were receiving. These things stress the plant into putting its last remaining energy into ripening. One recommendation even was to jiggle the roots… sure, why not—who am I not to jiggle the roots?
Come September, the garden’s many flowers were tall and blooming all over the place. Beans were cascading in waves over the eastern fence and our many tomatoes were fat. Continue reading 2015 Veggies – September
By the middle of August, we were getting regular harvests of a wide variety of veggies. Although we got a few Green Zebras in the mix (one shown here), the plant had been diseased for a few weeks and we were losing the battle. Its fruit were few and small. Cucumbers were coming in great and we were careful this year not to let any grow too large to pickle in a pint jar. This was one of our goals for the year—to keep harvesting regularly and not let any fruit get overly large, so as to encourage our plants to produce new fruit. Also in this day’s harvest was a lone asparagus spear—many of his buddies’ first-year roots had not survived the harsh winter.
I met the friendly and experienced Zach Pickens at Farm Beginnings, a 10-week course on the business side of farming, last fall. He’s already got a few years of urban farming under his belt at Riverpark, a restaurant perched on the east side of Manhattan which has its own outdoor area carved out for growing its own produce. Zach’s the man in charge of the farm, which is nestled between a high-rise office building and a very active helicopter pad, which is handy for scaring off the deer.
We read up about pollinating corn. We saw the male flowers maturing on the tops of the stalks. With our small setup, we decided to hand-pollinate to ensure the corn cobs would fill out a full set of kernels. You only have a few days in which to do this, and a couple of hours each morning within those days. We placed some aluminum foil around the stalks, under the male flowers, in hopes of collecting some early morning pollen. Continue reading 2015 Corn Pollination