I’m beginning to wonder if any year will be “normal” in the garden. 2021 proved to be another challenging growing season. In February and March, I started most of my veggies indoors from seeds. Five varieties of tomatoes, three tomatillos, six peppers, and lots of herbs. You can see I had dreams of salsa, and we were determined to have enough tomatoes to can and last us through the winter. My herb garden didn’t have much of a chance as Miss Kippers, our new barn cat, liked to lounge on the basil. However, she has been earning her keep by keeping the rodents at bay.

We anxiously awaited the day we could plant the starts in the garden, but weather was not on our side. Rule of thumb in our area is wait until after Memorial Day. It was 93° F on June 2nd and 55° F on June 5th and the temperature dropped below freezing that night. Many gardeners lost their seedlings. Luckily, we had houseguests and hadn’t gotten around to planting yet, so we were saved that misery; however, we were also late getting started. The growing season in our zone, is only 100 days.

Once we got the plants in the ground with the help of our child labor (a.k.a. grandchildren), the plants were slow to start. By the end of June, the temperatures climbed to 108° F , which is unprecedented in our area. We had planned to put in drip irrigation this year, but that didn’t happen, so I hand-watered the garden, often getting up near 6:00 AM to beat the heat. During the hottest weeks, I watered every other day.

Many of the plants showed odd growth patterns. Some of the tomato and pepper plants had small, spiky looking leaves and stunted growth while their neighbors looked fine. One of the cherry tomato plants had 10 times as many blossoms as the others, but tiny leaves. It ended up producing smaller cherry tomatoes. The pepper plants didn’t start producing peppers until September and many were misshapen with little peppers growing out of the stem of the main pepper. On a positive note, we had lots of pollinators buzzing around.

As usual, the zucchini was a squash producing machine! Five plants kept us and the livestock well supplied. I may have gone overboard on the spaghetti and butternut squash with at least 9 plants of each variety, but they were also slow to set squash and ripen. We had tons of squash, but only a few fully matured before we had to pick them in October. Same with the two varieties of pumpkin.

Our fruit trees produced well this year, but the fruit seemed smaller. Unfortunately, the birds took more than their fair share of the cherries. We usually get about 40 pounds of cherries from our Bing/Ranier tree, but we only got enough to make a few batches of cherry muffins this year. Our latest bird deterrent is a wrist rocket (sling shot) with biodegradable ammo. It scares off the birds for a minute or two, but as soon as I turn my back they’re back in the tree. The magpies show no fear.

Since the garden was full of unripe vegetables, we let it go as long as possible, but on October 6th we harvested everything whether or not it was ripe. We had a frost that night. We enjoyed fresh, cherry tomato sauce for a few dinners, then I dehydrated the remaining cherry tomatoes. We probably had 25 pounds, but they don’t look like much once they come out of the dehydrator.

The peppers were bountiful, but they just needed more time to mature. I grew a Lemon Spice Jalapeño for the first time. It has a nice fruity flavor compared to the Craig’s Jalapeño Grande (which were more pequeño than grande), but very few had time to turn yellow while on the plant. I’ve set them indoors in the sun and they are beginning to turn yellow. I’ve smoked, dried, frozen, or fermented most of the peppers. I’m looking forward to using the fermented pepper mash as the base for winter pots of chili.

All things considered, we ended up with a substantial squash harvest. The ripest of the pumpkins and squash have been moved inside to harden off in the sun for two weeks before moving down to the basement for winter storage. The rest are being fed to the pigs. We tried a new variety of sweet pumpkin named the Flat White Boer. They could have used a few more weeks on the vine, but hopefully they will be tasty. That’s a whole lot of pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice latte!

Next year, we hope to have our new greenhouse installed, so maybe we can extend our growing season and get some vine ripened fruit and vegetables. Every year Mother Nature throws us a new challenge!

Recipes I Made this Year


TypeVarietyFromStarted Indoors/Direct SowQtyNotes
TomatoHungarian HeartBaker Creek3/31/202130Did not do well this season, try again
TomatoOrange IcicleBaker Creek3/31/202110Has potential, try again next season
TomatoRebekah AllenBaker Creek3/31/202110Needed 2nd planting; slow to bear fruit
TomatoYellow PearBaker Creek3/31/202110Cross polinated with other tomatoes
TomatoAmy’s ApricotSouthern Exposure3/31/202110Cross polinated with other tomatoes
TomatilloVerdeBaker Creek3/31/202110Skip next season
TomatilloRio Grande VerdeBaker Creek3/31/202110Has potential, but no fruit this season
TomatilloPurpleBaker Creek3/31/202110Low germination; skip next season
PepperJalapeno Craig’s GrandeBaker Creek3/31/202110Nice heat
PepperPoblanoBaker Creek3/31/202110Grew well, but small this season
PepperSerrano TampiquinoBaker Creek3/31/202110Super hot
PepperJalapeno Lemon SpiceBaker Creek3/31/20215Nice, fruity flavor
PepperPaprika LeutschauerBaker Creek3/31/202110Did not do well
PepperKorean Gochujang KingKitazawa Seed3/31/20215Super hot
HerbThymeSow Right Seeds4/25/20213Slow germination
HerbSageFerry-Morse Organic (North 40)4/25/20213Good
HerbTarragonEden Brothers4/25/20213Slow germination
HerbChivesFerry-Morse Organic (North 40)4/25/20213Did not germinate
HerbRosemaryFerry-Morse (North 40)4/25/20213Slow germination
HerbDill BouquetBaker Creek4/25/20213
HerbBasil – Lettuce LeafBaker Creek4/25/20213Good, try again
HerbBasil – GenoveseBaker Creek4/25/20213Excellent in garden, not pots
HerbBasil – EmilyBaker Creek4/25/20213Excellent in garden, not pots
HerbMint – LemonLivingston (North40)4/25/20213Skip next season
HerbCilantro Slo-BoltBaker Creek4/25/20213Grew well indoors
HerbParsley – Italian Flat LeafCornucopia Seeds (Home Depot)4/25/20213Grew well indoors
SquashZucchini – Black BeautyBaker Creek5/31/21 DS5Excellent
SquashButternut – WalthamBaker Creek 5/31/21 DS 9Excellent but needed more time
SquashSpaghetti – KinshiBaker Creek 5/31/21 DS 9Excellent but needed more time
SquashSweet PumpkinBaker Creek 6/15/21 DS 9Start indoors next season
SquashFlat White BoerBaker Creek 6/15/21 DS 5Start indoors next season
MelonArmenian CucumberBaker Creek 6/15/21 DS 5Start indoors next season