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
- Sour Cherry Muffins
- Cherry Almond Muffins
- Zucchini Bread
- Pasta with Creamy Zucchini Sauce
- Basil Zucchini Parmesan Pasta
- One Pot Lemon Butter Ricotta and Zucchini Pasta
- Instant Pot Tomato Soup (an annual favorite with grilled cheese sandwiches)
- Oven Baked Goat Cheese and Cherry Tomato Beer Pasta (a new winner!)
- Green Tomato Chutney
- Green Tomato Salsa Verde
- Fermented Green Chili Base
- Smoked Chili Peppers
|Type||Variety||From||Started Indoors/Direct Sow||Qty||Notes|
|Tomato||Hungarian Heart||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||30||Did not do well this season, try again|
|Tomato||Orange Icicle||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||10||Has potential, try again next season|
|Tomato||Rebekah Allen||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||10||Needed 2nd planting; slow to bear fruit|
|Tomato||Yellow Pear||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||10||Cross polinated with other tomatoes|
|Tomato||Amy’s Apricot||Southern Exposure||3/31/2021||10||Cross polinated with other tomatoes|
|Tomatillo||Verde||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||10||Skip next season|
|Tomatillo||Rio Grande Verde||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||10||Has potential, but no fruit this season|
|Tomatillo||Purple||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||10||Low germination; skip next season|
|Pepper||Jalapeno Craig’s Grande||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||10||Nice heat|
|Pepper||Poblano||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||10||Grew well, but small this season|
|Pepper||Serrano Tampiquino||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||10||Super hot|
|Pepper||Jalapeno Lemon Spice||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||5||Nice, fruity flavor|
|Pepper||Paprika Leutschauer||Baker Creek||3/31/2021||10||Did not do well|
|Pepper||Korean Gochujang King||Kitazawa Seed||3/31/2021||5||Super hot|
|Herb||Thyme||Sow Right Seeds||4/25/2021||3||Slow germination|
|Herb||Sage||Ferry-Morse Organic (North 40)||4/25/2021||3||Good|
|Herb||Tarragon||Eden Brothers||4/25/2021||3||Slow germination|
|Herb||Chives||Ferry-Morse Organic (North 40)||4/25/2021||3||Did not germinate|
|Herb||Rosemary||Ferry-Morse (North 40)||4/25/2021||3||Slow germination|
|Herb||Dill Bouquet||Baker Creek||4/25/2021||3|
|Herb||Basil – Lettuce Leaf||Baker Creek||4/25/2021||3||Good, try again|
|Herb||Basil – Genovese||Baker Creek||4/25/2021||3||Excellent in garden, not pots|
|Herb||Basil – Emily||Baker Creek||4/25/2021||3||Excellent in garden, not pots|
|Herb||Mint – Lemon||Livingston (North40)||4/25/2021||3||Skip next season|
|Herb||Cilantro Slo-Bolt||Baker Creek||4/25/2021||3||Grew well indoors|
|Herb||Parsley – Italian Flat Leaf||Cornucopia Seeds (Home Depot)||4/25/2021||3||Grew well indoors|
|Squash||Zucchini – Black Beauty||Baker Creek||5/31/21 DS||5||Excellent|
|Squash||Butternut – Waltham||Baker Creek||5/31/21 DS||9||Excellent but needed more time|
|Squash||Spaghetti – Kinshi||Baker Creek||5/31/21 DS||9||Excellent but needed more time|
|Squash||Sweet Pumpkin||Baker Creek||6/15/21 DS||9||Start indoors next season|
|Squash||Flat White Boer||Baker Creek||6/15/21 DS||5||Start indoors next season|
|Melon||Armenian Cucumber||Baker Creek||6/15/21 DS||5||Start indoors next season|