Observations From the Garden

 Pam Van Pelt
Adams County Master Gardener

Another growing season has come and gone. Although I have included tomatoes, peppers and herbs in my flower beds for many years, this was my first year for an "official" vegetable garden.

Radishes were the first to be harvested, only 25 days after planting. They were good, but we all agreed, we are not huge radish fans, so maybe we値l skip them next year. The next crop to arrive was the Red Seeded Simpson lettuce. What an easy crop to grow and it kept producing up until hot weather. We値l definitely grow this again next year. The arugala was not quite so successful, as the flea beetles annihilated it before it reached maturity. Next year we値l try row covers.

The heirloom tomatoes were fantastic. I planted borage as a companion plant to deter tomato hornworms and I did not see even one throughout the growing season. Is it coincidence or does that really work? The lovely blue blossoms of the borage attracted every bee in the county, so it痴 a keeper regardless of its ability to deter the hornworms.

I chose bush cucumbers instead of the vining ones; however, the bush type must have thought they were vining because they scrambled up the garden fence as the season progressed. Next year, I値l plant only two plants as they produce large quantities.

The onions were a smashing success. We started with the spring onions, by thinning them as they start to grow. We continued eating onions all summer and I just pulled the last ones to dry and store for later use.

We planted three hills of pumpkins and while we had masses of the lovely yellow blossoms, only four pumpkins developed. Lesson learned - hand pollinate next year. The same was true of the watermelons we planted in the yard. I had read an article about finding a low area in your yard and making a large mound of composted manure and top soil and then planting your seeds. It worked great, but like the pumpkins, we will need to hand pollinate them to get a bigger crop. The biggest watermelon challenge was determining when to pick them.

The sweet corn came on much quicker than we anticipated and we missed the optimum time for the first crop. We staggered the planting by two weeks so we壇 have fresh corn over a longer season. Our second planting was excellent. The staggered planting worked, but we needed to check the corn sooner than we anticipated.

Green beans flourished this year. We chose to plant the pole beans and they have been heavy producers. Lesson learned here - when harvesting the beans if it looks too mature, it is! Choose only the ones that are large enough, but not too big as they will be tough and stringy and pick often so the plant will continue to produce.

One of the garden supply catalogs advertised black mesh bags for planting potatoes so I bought two of them. They supposedly produced pounds and pounds of the delicious spuds. The reality was a harvest of potatoes that produced two meals, one from each bag. They were good, but I値l plant them in hills next year to get a better yield.

We planted cantaloupe and installed a trellis for them. They preferred to meander across the ground so next year, we値l lose the trellis. We did harvest quite a few melons, after we figured out to wait until all the green under the webbing was gone from the fruit before we picked them.

The next harvest will be horseradish, but we need to wait for cooler weather and a good frost. I planted it in a sunken barrel so it doesn稚 spread like wildfire. We値l soon be getting our masks, goggles and gloves ready for our first processing. It will be the first time I will have used my food processor out of doors. From all accounts, it will be an adventure trying to get it made without passing out from the fumes. I can almost taste the fresh, pungent horseradish on a slice of baked ham or mixed with catsup to make cocktail sauce. Yummy, I can稚 wait.

What was the most important lesson learned from having a full fledged vegetable garden? Record the planting date of all your seeds so you know the approximate date to harvest. I failed to do this on my first round of planting and it would have made harvesting much easier. Having a vegetable garden requires a lot of time and effort. It痴 doubtful you save money growing your own vegetables because of the time involved, but the satisfaction and the taste you get from your own veggies is well worth the effort. Serving up a deliciously fresh tomato, cucumber and onion salad with a big bowl of juicy watermelon and steaming hot corn on the cob gives you an incredible feeling of satisfaction. I知 already thinking about next years garden beds. That痴 the fun of gardening, dreaming of what is to come.

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