2014 Garden Hits and Misses

Every year while planning gardens I like to look back and consider what new things worked the previous year and what didn’t.

Here are the hits and misses from 2014.

Hits:

Hot banana peppers–We grew these for the first time this year.  They weren’t particularly popular at the market but I love adding them to my scrambled eggs. Definitely keepers.

Gloriette radishes–We tried this variety from Fedco this year and they were the best radishes we’ve ever grown. Not woody even when very large.

Baby squashes with blossoms–Not a new veggie for us, but a new way of offering them. Picked small and harvested early with the blossoms they were popular and very attractive.

Millet–We grew it as a cover crop, but Cherie harvested and dried some of it, selling it as an autumn decoration. It was a hit. We were glad to discover another use for it.

Sunflowers–we grew an entire garden of them, using them as a cover crop following the spring lettuce. Aside from being beautiful and attracting lots of pollinators, we were able to sell the flowers.

Cut flowers–these are more Cherie’s thing than mine. I’m a food guy and I’ve never understood the attraction of flowers at the market. But Cherie grew some this year and they always quickly sold out. This year we will add more and perhaps experiment with using flowers as a cover crop.

Komatsuna, tatsoi and Maruba Santoh. These Asian greens were new to us this year and they were hits. They’re delicious and grow well here. In the past we’ve had trouble getting people to try them. This year some of our customers took a chance on them and ended up enthusiastically coming back for more. We’ll grow the Maruba Santoh in the fall only, as flea beetles wiped it out in the spring. The others are good in spring and fall and have been great additions to our ever-expanding selection of Asian veggies.

Overwintered onions. This experiment last year was a big success. I was almost ready to give up on onions, but starting them in the fall (when we plant the garlic) produced large beautiful bulbs. We plan to grow them this way from now on.

Misses

Red cabbage. I’m done with it. Year after year I’ve planted it and I’ve yet to harvest a single head. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but it won’t be taking up space in our gardens any more.

Marglobe tomatoes. I hate to see this one go. This is a very popular smooth-skinned red heirloom around here, a favorite for canning because they all come in at once. I know old-timers who grow and eat nothing but Marglobes. But ours have been flops for the past couple of years. This year we had lots of tomatoes but almost all were way too small.  I mentioned it to an experienced neighbor/vegetable farmer who told me the same thing happened to him so he switched to Rutgers and is happy with them. So goodbye Marglobe and hello Rutgers.

Red Thumb fingerling potatoes.. I hate to see this one go too. They’re pretty and tasty fingerlings and they did well for us in 2013. But last year they were decimated by Colorado Potato Beetles (known to us as potato bugs). We have them every year and understand they can slow down or stunt the plants, but never have they outright killed them. Every other variety we planted survived and produced, but the Red Thumbs were completely wiped out. I worry that they’re not hearty enough for a chemical-free farm. So this year we’ll do without them.

Lemon squash. These weren’t great producers and there was little interest in them at the market. They don’t taste any different than better-performing summer squashes and struck me as nothing more than a novelty item. Maybe I’m selling them short but they won’t be back this year.

Scotch curled kale. I really wanted this to work, but after two years of trying we won’t be planting it again. The plants are small and have no advantages over our other varieties. We’re going to add Winterbor this year instead.

Buttercrunch lettuce. We’ve been growing this for years but I’m done with it. It’s too delicate and hard to keep clean. We love our Romaines so we’ll grow more of them instead.

Iceberg lettuce. I grew these by mistake but when I realized what they were I expected them to do well. But there was little interest among our customers and we prefer other lettuces, so it won’t be coming back.

Sun Gold cherry tomatoes.  These were strong-growing plants that produced lots of tasty tomatoes, but we prefer our Matt’s Wild Cherry and don’t see any reason to grow more than one variety of cherry tomatoes.  Even though Sun Golds won our impromptu taste test at the market (I voted for Matt’s Wild), we ended up producing far more of these than we could sell (and way too many cherry tomatoes overall).  We may return to them someday, but for now at least, Sun Gold is out.

We’ve excited about some of the new things/experiments we’ll be trying this year–Salanova lettuce, Sugar Ann snap peas, dinosaur (toscano) kale, Lutz green leaf beets, Black Brandywine tomatoes, delicata winter squash, cannelloni beans, honeydew melons and some new herbs, for example. We’ll also keep a close eye on some varieties we’ve been growing a while that will be gone if they don’t come through this year (I’m looking at you Dixie Golden Giant).

Hopefully we’ll have more hits than misses in 2015.

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