Wednesday, November 26, 2008

2008 Harvest Wrap Up

Yes, the sad day that one officially calls it done. But it is also a good day because you can tally up your victories for the year, think about all the lessons you've learned and most importantly, starting drooling over seed catalogs for next spring.

So how did my first truly organic, square foot garden do? Fantastic...sort of.

First off, let me confess that I totally lost track of all my harvest weights. I dropped my scale and broke it and then dillied about for 3 months in getting a new one. But in a way I'm glad. I was getting way too hung up on weight totals and missing some really good information along the way.

Here is what I learned in my square foot garden:
  1. It is true that some produce comes out smaller.
  2. The efficient spacing means that gaps for non-germination can be easily filled.
  3. It can be difficult not to disturb roots on adjoining squares during staggered harvests.
  4. You can grow all that Mel says you can grow.
  5. It can be hard to harvest certain types of crops.
  6. I used far less water than traditional gardening.
  7. I used far fewer insect controls (organic only).
  8. Interplanting and succession planting are no brainers with SFG.

Number 1 is really the most important one to most people, I think and I did some informal experimentation to see how this really played out. I put some tomatoes of the same variety in large pots, some in the bed and a couple in the ground. The container and the SFG bed plants definitely had smaller tomatoes than the ones in the ground. Bottom line is that I think plants that sense boundaries more keenly at the root will produce smaller fruit. The sheer number of fruits was not affected though. The same approximate number bloomed, took and formed on all the tomatoes, regardless of which method used.

This limitation on size wasn't universal though. Tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant seemed the most obviously affected plants. Bush and pole beans, carrots, beets, parsnips, lettuce and the like seemed to be the same size...or bigger! My carrots were fantastic this year; huge and sweet. My parsnips were up to..wait for it...15 inches long! I'm sorry there are no pictures of those, but as soon as I had a freeze, I pulled them, roasted them and proceeded to snarf. Parsnips gone.

Number 3 seems to be the second biggest issue in practical terms. Basically, if I have bush beans next to a tomato plant, then when I pull the bush beans and plant something else, I'll have to dig about to get this new thing, say a cabbage for fall, deeply planted. Without fail I wind up tangling up in the tomato roots and the tomatoes don't like that at all. I can't really think of an easy solution, so I've tried to stagger things in my planting plan for next year so that the root bumping potential is limited.

Number 5 actually turned out to have some consquences. I find bush beans difficult to harvest because I can't always see the bean. And if I leave one on there and it matures, the ability to get that slightly extended harvest or second picking is vastly diminished. Well, I missed a bunch because there are 9 plants to a square and it gets very overgrown in there. So I got a much lower yield on a good part of my bush beans because of it. Those mature beans, some of which I apparently missed on clean up, are now sprouting in the midst of temps in the lower 30s. Go figure.

So what did I get?

  • About 200 tomatoes (even after the massacre of the Romas in June), maybe more. About 64 carrots (I so should have planted more!)
  • 12 Parsnips
  • About 75 bell peppers (total swag, but I counted dishes I cooked so it really could be a whole lot more)
  • About 100 hot peppers....oh how I wish it were more...
  • Very few squash and zucchini and one lonely butternut due to my very novice use of an organic control that killed my plants.
  • About 3 pounds of bush and pole beans.
  • About 30 beautiful eggplants.
  • Enough lettuce for a big salad or two a week for about 3 months.
  • About 3 pounds of tiny sweet potatoes (I planted them waaaay too late.)
  • 10 pounds of onions or so.
  • Well....I'm sure there is more but I'm tired of thinking that hard.

Now, I know you're all going to look at this list and then my next year's harvest estimate when I post it and wonder how I'm getting from here to there, even with more than double the space. Here is the answer. Optimism! No, really. I'm taking some of what I learned and using it. I'll stagger out in space some of the restricted ones, having small root plants in the squares between, to provide room. Interplanting, Interplanting and Interplanting! It will allow me to free up squares for long term crops while still getting many multiples of those fast growers.

Oh, and by the way...even though I'm calling it done, I'm actually still growing and harvesting brussell sprouts (they are so freaky looking), and more late planted carrots and beets.

And here is the Boscoe man, for all his girlie fans out there, looking suave at bedtime. His tail is waggin' for you!

Check back soon for the 2009 Garden Plan!

1 comment:

sean said...

Hello. Found your blog address on homesteadingtoday.
You forgot one other snafu when it comes to SFG, and I'm just starting to deal with it: the difficulty such space restrictions place on CROP ROTATION.