Celebrate surplus rather than sweating any disappointing crops at end of gardening season

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By: Jim Carpenter

As the summer winds down and makes its inevitable journey into autumn, I am now able to make a pretty accurate assessment of just how well the garden performed for me this year.

One of the cool things about a garden is that while some of the crops might have disappointed, there will nearly always be crops that did well. This year is no exception.

Some of the things I plant in the garden are just for fun or maybe an experiment to see if I can grow certain things. Over the years, I have planted peanuts, cotton, celery, Lichti tomatoes (a tomato plant that has thorns), broom corn, snake gourds, purple potatoes and nearly anything else that caught my fancy. Some of these produce well enough, but are not really things that I would plant on a regular basis.

The crops that I really depend on are more of what I consider the basics for my vegetable garden: potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions and green beans. Of course, the cabbage, broccoli, cucumber and other vegetables add to the bounty.

I seldom grow sweet corn since I am surrounded by fields of seed corn and the farmers would rather not risk the cross pollination that my garden sweet corn might provide. They are generous, however, in giving home gardeners vouchers to pick up sweet corn from the neighborhood produce market in return for not growing their own.

The assessment of my potatoes so far this year (many have yet to be dug) would suggest that I will again have an abundance of spuds. I usually plant a red variety along with Yukon Gold and Kennebec. Occasionally, I will also plant some Russet potatoes.

I have already talked about how well my onion crop did this year, and the carrot crop also looks pretty awesome. The carrots will keep well in the soil until I am ready to dig those up later. I have been checking them periodically to make sure the carrot maggots don’t start in on them.

The four green bean varieties I planted did well enough, but I just didn’t keep up with the picking. I probably could have planted about one fourth of what I did and would have still had enough. With just my wife and I to provide for these days, we don’t put up the amount of produce that we used to when the kids were living here.

That leaves the tomatoes as the other main crop we hope to count on for a good harvest. While they were a little later than normal this year (just what is normal?), they are now producing pretty well.

Tomatoes are susceptible to a number of viruses that can reduce or even wipe out the crop, but fortunately I had no problems this summer. The heirloom variety Brandywine is my main producer this year. While the Brandywine cracks badly, the huge pink fruit is about the best tasting tomato I have ever had.

My cucumbers ended up dying early this year (not sure why), but we did eat them for a number of weeks. My wife likes to make pickles, but we never had enough quantity at any one time for that.

My cauliflower was pretty much neglected by me and the cabbage worms had a real feast with that until I was finally able to slow them down. This was something I just planted as a spur-of-the-moment thing.

The cabbage was awesome, but since we don’t make sauerkraut, we gave away a number of them. The broccoli also performed well and provided us numerous salads and soups.

I probably should just not plant zucchini, as I seem to always let it get infected by what is probably verticillium wilt. This gets spread by the cucumber beetle and for some reason I never seem to catch it in time.

All in all, it has been another good gardening season. Plenty of good fresh vegetables for many months and enough surplus to put up some for the colder times coming.

I was also able to share some of my bounty with family and friends, which is always a good thing. Scarcely anything gives me as much joy as giving away some of my home grown produce to people who really appreciate it. Maybe I won’t try to cut down on my garden size next year, after all!

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