The 2020 gardening season was a strange one… obviously the pandemic pushed much of the year to bollocksy territory, but there was a lot in the veg garden that didn’t go as expected. I found that what we got excited about wasn’t the same sort of thing we’d been excited about in the past. Things that usually do really well for us were just meh, and things that I’ve struggled with before did remarkably well. Its like the Upside Down in Stranger Things, but with less demogorgons (thankfully!).
I’ve also been realizing that moving to a job that is properly full time (rather than my previous “full time” job where I had 1 full day off every two weeks) had meant I just have less time for faffing around and simplicity, ease, and streamlining are becoming more and more important- if not outright essential.
As I’ve said many times before, I think Fall and early Winter is the best time to do that searingly honest assessment of what is working, what isn’t, and what you want to do going forward. With that in mind, and just having finished clearing out the squidgy, tough bits of the garden, I’m ready to level my assessment for 2021.
Cabbage– the variety we grew this year (Violacio di Verona) was stunning, but it also had some growing issues leaving a streak of sad and gross brown-black leaves in the middle of every single head. Next year we’ll stick with ‘Kalibos‘ and add in some Napa types, but we will grow more of them because they are delicious and we’ve really enjoyed eating them.
Beans– We grew a bunch of different varieties and really enjoyed them all. I still have better luck with pole types than bush, but we will certainly grow a few varieties again .
Peas– Peas are delicious, but I always get overzealous planting them. We only ever eat them fresh, so I just need to reign in the number we plant.
Winter Squash– Butternut is the way forward for us. The squash vine borers are undeterred by anything I try and they always leave the Butternuts alone, so I’m going to stop wasting time and money on other things when these are both hardy and delicious. My 2021 experiment will be growing them on a squash trellis a la Monty Don. I do want to try out a Delicata variety because I’ve recently learned that you can prepare these with the skins on and that is ticking a lot of boxes for easy prep and eating.
Rhubarb– We’ve always loved our rhubarb plants, but with just two its been hard to really lean into all the rhubarb-y delights I want to make. I think next year we are going to take over one of the smaller beds in the veg garden and plant/transplant 6 plants in there. It’ll make another larger perennial bed, but will free up one of the 4’x4′ beds for thinks like kale or a compact cucumber plant.
Sweet and Mild Peppers, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Onions
Greens Experiments– Its time to accept the truth- lettuces and summery greens hate it here and we aren’t huge salad eaters. The aggretti was interesting, but quickly became woody when we weren’t harvesting it regularly. The amaranth leaves were just a tad too bitter. The New Zealand spinach didn’t get going until late in the season so we weren’t able to get a ton of use out of it. We’ll stick to the kale and the chard going forward.
Celery– The celery we grew this year did well, but it is a total water hog. If it doesn’t get a ton of water, the stems are tougher than boot leather, so I’ll stick with less high maintenance experiments.
Fancy Kale– I’ll still be growing kale, but this year’s variety (Jagallo de Nero) was so finely leaved that it was nearly impossible to collect enough to do anything with. Next year we’ll go back to ‘Nero di Toscano‘ and ‘Scarlet‘
Big Cucumbers– The Poona Keera cucumbers were wildly successful and delicious, but the actual fruits were humongous and it was so productive that we couldn’t make a dent in them. We’ll keep growing cucumbers, but will stick to smaller varieties of the burpless kind like ‘Muncher‘.
Melons– The eternal struggle with melons is catching them in time and then trying to get through all of them between me and my non-fruit loving husband. Perhaps another time.
Experimental Tomatoes– It is always fun to grow new varieties because there are SO many to choose from… but after the disappointment of the past few year’s “new” selections, I’m going to head back to known performers only. It ought to give us a more consistent output and no flavorless or excessively cracking varieties. At least that’s the hope.
Brussel Sprouts– This will be the one* new thing we grow this year because I saw someone flaunting their stalks and harvesting beautiful sprouts in the snow. So, why not? I’ll pick a particularly cold tolerant variety and set them up in a smaller (out of the way) bed where they can hang out and ripen in due time… which will likely be in the snow.
*this is a claim that is almost sure to be a lie come planting and/or seed ordering time.
And now that this assessment is done, its just in time for the seed catalogs to start rolling in! Hooray!
But beware fellow gardeners! I hopped on the High Mowing Organics site THE SAME DAY I received my paper catalog and fully half of the seeds I had hoped to buy were ALREADY SOLD OUT. I think we are all going to need to be timely in placing those seed orders because competition and demand for them is still at an abnormally high level.