Kelly, Kelly, How Did Your Garden Grow? ?>

Kelly, Kelly, How Did Your Garden Grow?

The 2014 growing season at the Merrick household is now over. It was definitely a learning experience, as we had our fair share of pest problems, mysterious fungi and some under-performing plants, but the positives far outweighed the negatives and I’d call it a success! We learned a lot about gardening and hope that everything we learned will result in a better garden next year.

This is mostly for my records, but I thought I’d recap the success of our crops. The project manager in me planned to keep a detailed record of how much we harvested and then compare that to what we would have paid at the farmer’s market to calculate the financial return on investment, but that just didn’t happen.

I didn’t get into gardening just to save money, and I felt like keeping track of every pound we harvested would take the fun out of gardening. Plus, we ate a lot of the cherry tomatoes, berries, peas and cucumbers while standing in the garden, so there wasn’t much chance to weigh them anyway. So, you’ll just be getting our estimates of how much we harvested.

Here it goes!

e5f95-img_3114Sungold tomatoes
Number of plants: 3
Cost to purchase: Free
Seed or start? Seed
Yield: Moderate. Approximately 15-20 pintsenough to eat and share as we pleased
Notes: Considering the fact that I grew these from seeds I saved, I am very satisfied with how these plants produced this year. What’s interesting is that one of the three plants turned out to be much larger than the other two, despite being grown from the same type of seed. It’s a great lesson in cross-pollination!
Verdict: I will definitely grow them again next year and plan to save seeds from this year’s plants for next year.

8aaca-img_1263Brandywine tomatoes 
Number of plants: 2 
Cost to purchase: Free 
Seed or start? Seed 
Yield? Low 
Notes: Brandywine tomatoes are known for low yields, so I only picked a total of six tomatoes from two plants. However, two of them were as big as the palms of both my hands. They are so flavorful and juicy, and are definitely my favorite tomato.
Verdict: I will definitely grow them again next year, but will probably purchase starts to get a higher yield.

3eef0-img_3244Lemon boy tomatoes
Number of plants: 1 
Cost to purchase: Free 
Seed or start? Start 
Yield? High. More than I could count! 
Notes: I got this plant for free from an Earth Day event at work and transplanted it very late. It didn’t look healthy and I was sure it was doomed when I planted it too shallow and it started to grow sideways. But it survived and we picked at least 20 pounds from the plant, which means we save a lot of money on because they cost $2.50/lb at the farmer’s market.
Verdict: I will definitely grow these again, and plan on saving seeds to grow next year.

8a740-img_3478Purple Cherokee tomatoes
Number of plants: 2 
Cost to purchase: Free 
Seed or start? Start 
Yield? Moderate. Maybe 10 pounds? 
Notes: These tomatoes were beautiful, but not my favorite, as the flavor was a bit bland. I also had a hard time telling if they were ripe, as the tops stay green and they never reach a bright red like our other tomatoes. They are better cooking tomatoes, especially in tomato jam and tomato sauce. 
Verdict: I will not grow these again.

9b03b-img_3306Beefsteak/Monster tomatoes  
Number of plants: 1 each 
Cost to purchase: Free 
Seed or start? Start 
Yield? Low. Maybe 5-6 pounds? 
Notes: I was underwhelmed with these tomatoes. They were smaller in size than I expected, and the flavor was lacking. I turned almost all of them into tomato jam or put them in gazpacho along with the lemon boys and the larger sun golds.   
Verdict: I will not grow these again.

b2d33-img_3054Beets (golden and red)
Cost to purchase: $6 
Seed or start? Seeds and starts  
Yield? Low  
Notes: Unfortunately, we had some problems with a mystery worm that bored through the leaves. However,  they didn’t compromise the health of the beets themselves, which were delicious. My only criticism is that I planted them either too far apart or too close and did not utilize the space well. I probably harvested 10 of each, in varying sizes. 
Verdict: I will grow these again, but will definitely plant them closer together and grow more.

Carrots
Cost to purchase: $4 
Seed or start? Seeds and starts 
Yield? Low 
Notes: I also planted these way too far apart in some cases and too close in others. In fact, when I went to harvest a few for a salad, I ended up having to harvest half a dozen at the same time because they grew together, forming a cluster of carrots. I also didn’t plant enough – I only had about a dozen of them. But, I got most of them from a seed swap, so we were hardly out any money. 
Verdict: I will grow these again but will plant them more consistently and will follow some tutorials I found online to avoid them growing into each other.

Sugar snap peas
Number of plants: 16 
Cost to purchase: Free (seed swap) 
Seed or start? Seed 
Yield? Moderate. Approximately 8-10 pints 
Notes: They didn’t grow out of control like the plants some of our friends had but that could be due in part to the fact that the trellis we made was pretty short. 
Verdict: This was the second year that we grew them, and have decided not to grow them next year, as they’re not our favorite.

Jalapeños
Number of plants: 1
Cost to purchase: $3
Seed or start? Start
Yield? Moderate. Approximately 16
Notes: I intended to make and can salsa with our jalapeños, cilantro and tomatoes, but I just didn’t get around to it. We did find that they were fairly mild, which made them a nice addition to soups, salads and tomato jam.
Verdict: Jalapeños are relatively cheap at the market and we didn’t use them as much as I thought we would, so we will likely not grow these next year.

137d9-img_2993Tomatillos
Number of plants: 1 
Cost to purchase: $4 
Seed or start? Start 
Yield? Very low 
Notes: These were a major disappointment. I bought the start on impulse and didn’t have a space for it in the garden, so I put it in a shallow pot, which probably prevented it from growing deep enough roots. I read afterward that you should buy two for cross-pollination. We only got three tomatillos from the plant
Verdict: I’m not ready to give up on them. I’ll plant some next year, but will get several starts to make sure there is cross-pollination.

dd527-img_3140Lettuce 
Number of plants: 6 
Cost to purchase: Free (seed swap)
Seed or start: Seed 
Yield: High! 
Notes: I had a packet of mixed seeds that I planted randomly and we definitely liked some varieties over others.  
Verdict: Will grow again, but as they seeds sprout I’ll only transplant the varieties we liked and will probably limit to two plants.

59e47-img_3107Yellow & green summer squash
Number of plants: 4  
Cost to purchase: Free 
Seed or start? Seeds and one start
Yield? Moderate
Notes: We had a major problem with mildew, which stunted the growth of all the plants. As a result we didn’t have the crazy abundance of squash like some people do, but we were OK with that. I bought a julienne peeler and made a lot of summer squash noodle salads.
Verdict: Will grow these again next year, but probably only one of each variety, and will plant them further apart.

1c602-img_3075Lemon cucumber
Number of plants: 1 
Cost to purchase: Free
Seed or start? Start 
Yield? High. Approximately 10-12 pounds 
Notes: Not knowing how big the plant would get, we only gave it a small corner of the bed it was in, which was a major mistake because it ended up cascading over the edge of the bed and onto the ground. But the yield was huge, and we ate a lot of fresh cukes in salads, soups, with hummus and plain. 
Verdict: We will definitely grow these again but will give the plant more space!

f1b95-greens2Herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley, mint)
Number of plants: 1 each 
Cost to purchase: $15 
Seed or start? Start 
Yield? Low 
Notes: Except for our mint, which went crazy and tried to escape the bed, our herbs disappointed this year. The yield was barely enough to use on occasion so we had to supplement with herbs from the market and did not get our money’s worth.
Verdict: Will grow again next year and hope they do better! Any suggestions?

Rhubarb
Number of plants: 1 
Cost to purchase: Free 
Seed or start: Mature plant 
Yield: High. Anyone want some frozen rhubarb? 
Notes: This plant is from Josh’s childhood – he picked it out from the nursery when he was 10 years old. We got a cut of it when Josh’s mom moved last year, and it did well in a pot until we were able to plant it in our new beds. It did great this year and we expect an even bigger yield next year. 
Verdict: This plant’s a keeper!

Blueberries
Number of plants:  
Cost to purchase: Free    
Seed or start: Mature plants 
Yield: Low 
Notes: One plant was already in our garden, and the other was a gift from Josh’s mom and stepdad. Neither produced a lot of fruit, but they should do much better next year after they’ve had time to mature.   
Verdict: Can’t wait to harvest more next year!

Raspberries
Number of plants: 3 
Cost to purchase: Free 
Seed or start: Transplants 
Yield: Low 
Notes: This was a growing year for our raspberries, as they were tiny when we planted them. However, they grew to about 1,000 times their original size so we expect a much bigger crop next year.   
Verdict: Can’t wait to see how many we get next year!

If you have a garden, how did it do this year? Any good lessons learned? What do you recommend I grow next year?

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