Thursday, November 5, 2009

Season's End

On October 30th, Toquerville got some frost, and pretty much ended my gardening. I picked the last of my green beans the night before, and picked the rest of my tomatoes. I still have beets, carrots and spinach we continue to enjoy. Though we have not had a freeze yet, my garden has pretty much stopped growing. Last year, our first freeze came on October 12th, but after that, it didn't freeze again until December 5th. But length of day, and soil temperatures are such that plants will no longer do much growing. This spring, temperatures did not warm until about mid-April.

I have tilled up my garden, tilled in a few leaves, grass clippings, and some manure I brought in. I also tilled in a large bale of straw in an area of my garden which is heavier and has more clay. Now is the time to get compost working in your garden. Come planting time in the spring, your straw, leaves, and other material will all be broken down and fully composted.

Season Summary
It was a wet winter and spring, so the beet leaf hopper was particularly bad and affected everyone's tomatoes, potatoes, and nearly all vines. The leaf hopper population is dependent on the weather, the wetter the winter and spring, the higher the leaf hopper population; the drier the winter and spring, the lower the leaf hopper population. Still, even a low leaf hopper population can wreak havoc with your garden. I avoid using pesticides, but may have to do more next year to fight the leaf hopper.

I felt I had a successful garden, but some crops were better than others. My corn was great, cantaloupes, crenshaw, and watermelon were all good, but diseases hurt quality and production. Beets, carrots, broccoli, onions, and squash were all very good for me.

My observations are these: I will plant a bit later in the spring than in the past, to try to avoid the beet leafhopper, hard winds, and cold temperatures. I probably won't do much before April 1st. I put in a drip watering system this spring. I like it, conserves water, works off my timer, and allows me to work in the garden while I am watering.

Varieties of Preference
I believe in planting the right varieties, varieties with the best flavor, that do well in this climate, and that provide good production. Here are my preferences
1. Corn = Miracle Corn (great flavor, 70 day maturity, doesn't blow over
2. Tomato = Celebrity, Better Boy, Floramerica (hard to find), great slicing tomato. I may have to consider varieties resistant to the blight.
3. Cantalooupe = Ambrosia, by far the best flavored cantaloupe on the market. This variety has a poor shelf life, so you will never find it in the grocery store, so you must grow your own.
4. Beets = Ruby Queen, or Detroit Dark. Both varieties do well.
5. Onions = Sweet Spanish. I grown onions to last through the winter, Sweet Spanish is a good flavored onion, and will last through the winter. Sweeter varieties like Walla Walla, and Texas, will not last through the winter.
6. Watermelon = I had good success with the Crimson Sweet, but haven't really tried other varieties. Melons were flavorful, good size, and disease resistant.
7. Squash = I grew zucchini, crookneck, spaghetti, and Toquer Squash with good success

Garden Basics
1. Your garden success is only as good as your soil, add humus, compost, fertilizer, and other soil conditioners now until the ground freezes.
2. Determine the varieties you want to plant next year, and make sure you can find those varieties come planting time. 2009 was perhaps one of the most active gardening seasons in years--and nurseries and garden centers ran out of a lot of seeds, so buy early.
3. Weeds, even winter weeds, harbor pests, sap nutrients from your soil, and multiply faster than you can say Jack Sprat. So keep weeds out of your entire yard.
4. Fall and winter is a good time to service your tiller, lawnmower, weed eater, and other equipment; clean air filters, check oil levels, and do general cleaning of the equipment.
5. Pruning can be done at anytime, but pruning in the spring, just before fruit trees bloom, is the ideal time. Allow the trees to take the strength from the leaves and branches, down into the roots, then prune in the spring.

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