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.

20 comments on “2014 Garden Hits and Misses

  1. bobraxton says:

    radish – a favorite of mine

    Like

  2. dilip says:

    All the best for 2015 🙂 Your garden produce looks fresh and healthy are you a organic farmer?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dilip. We are not certified organic by the USDA, but we follow organic practices and no chemical inputs, whether approved for organic use or not.

      Like

  3. A non-woody radish. Definitely going to try that. I’m glad to hear you say that about lemon squash, because I thought maybe it was just me :).

    Like

    • Bill says:

      We were surprised at how good these radishes were, even when oversized. I hope it wasn’t a fluke because it’s the only radish we’re growing in 2015.

      Yeah the lemon squash was OK, but there was no good reason to bring it back.

      Like

  4. avwalters says:

    We used our excess sun golds to make a delicious sweet golden sauce, which we canned surrounding whole red roma tomatoes. The taste was amazing and the look in the jar was stunning–so much so that they were a great favorite as gifts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      That sounds like a great idea. Cherie suggested that we mix red and yellow cherry tomatoes and offer them that way, but in the end we decided to just scale back to one variety. We had way too many cherry tomatoes this year. I just learned tonight that Sun Gold originated in Japan. I stuffed myself with them every time I picked tomatoes. They probably don’t belong on this list since they’re not so much a “miss” as just a case of not being necessary in light of our preferred varieties.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Joanna says:

    I will have to take notes. As soon as I have finished some work for some deadlines, the next thing on my plate is the seed order.

    One thing we found an over production of cherry tomatoes good for were for drying. They are sometimes almost sweet enough for desserts – tomato cake anyone?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      We just sent our seed order off yesterday. The weather has suddenly turned bitterly cold here and the wind is howling outside as I type. Thinking of summer gardens…

      We dry tomatoes too. Love using them that way. Nothing goes to waste here. What we couldn’t use or sell went to the chickens and pigs.

      Cherie makes a tomato pie that is wonderfully delicious (but she doesn’t use cherry toms). We mainly eat those as snacks or in salads, although he also made a great dish featuring the cherry tomatoes and October beans (better known elsewhere as French horticultural beans).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. evierkant says:

    I had the same trouble this year with the scotch kale. I have grown the Toscano in the past and it was excellent. I actually found some seed I had saved last week so looking forward to growing it again next fall. The Sungold tomatoes did the same for me and our church community garden. I tried to feed them to the chickens, but they seem to like red tomatoes better. Good growing for the upcoming year.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Yep, our chickens prefer the red cherry tomatoes too. We grew the pear-shaped yellows one year and the chickens didn’t like them much either.

      I’ve been quite disappointed in the Scotch kale. I had high hopes for it. Same thing with Vates. Our best-performing kales have been Dwarf Siberian and Red Russian.

      I’m ready to start planting!

      Like

  7. Eight hits, eight misses. I counted. 🙂 –Curt

    Like

  8. Rob Taylor says:

    I have to second your “like” on the banana peppers. Put em in Omelets, sandwiches, you name it. They grow easy and can well– I like to pickle mine, so I can enjoy them all winter. Stick a single habanero and a couple of garlic cloves in with them to pickle and its like heaven. Mmmmmm.

    Also, the Rutgers recommendation is a good one. My Grandfather grew the best tomatoes I have ever eaten, bar none, and his favorite varietal was the Rutger. I grow them too, now, and while I am nowhere as proficient as “The Master”, they are still my favorite. Fairly susceptible to blight, but, wow, are they good.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      We pickle them too, but freezing them is another easy to save them for the winter. We just slice them up and drop them in a freezer bag. When I’m scrambling eggs, for example, I just drop a handful in the pan and they thaw out in seconds. Really good.

      I’m glad to see another endorsement of Rutgers. I’m looking forward to trying them! The only tomato we’ve found that isn’t susceptible to blight is the Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato. We always plant a second “late” garden of tomatoes so we’ll still have them coming in after the blight inevitably wipes out garden #1.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s