Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I grew a carrot: A review of the 2012 season

Here we are, gardeners, on the psychological cusp of a new season in the dirt, and in the spirit of ‘better late than never’, I should wrap up 2012 with a review. I know there are some lessons to be learned in every season, but I can be a slow learner, needing time to see connections.

As you can see from the photograph taken in early October, the carrots did fairly well this season, producing many paradigm examples, with a smattering of knobs, and under-sized specimens wedged in between. All in all, one of the most satisfying crops this year, which says something about the year in general. Some of the carrots are still in the ground, sweetening in the cold. Here’s hoping the voles haven’t found them.

The weather was cool and damp at the start of direct seeding, then things warmed up, but there was no rain until the fall; summer ended late and the fall was long and warmer than normal, great for finishing up the season. So at the cool start, heat-lovers suffered: beans and zucchini I ended up starting in 4” pots and transplanting. Inside the hoophouse I seeded pole beans along the back wall (after forking in some additional compost), and those came up quickly and gave us the bulk of our bean crop this year, most of which now resides happily in the freezer.

My mom and her neighbor, Peter, started the tomatoes in Peter’s seed-starting lab in his basement, under a grow light. We ended up putting 64 plants in the hoop house. I installed the shade cloth on the hoop house in late April, as temperatures in there were already topping out around 90 on warm days. This was just enough to keep the flats of greens from panicking into a heat-induced dormancy, or so it seemed; after they were moved into the raised beds, they never really took off, even though I was much more diligent in general about watering the hoop house and the raised beds this season. That made for a lot of 2a.m. star-gazing while making the rounds with the hose after coming home from the restaurant. I got less sleep, but I don’t begrudge the time outside with my head thrown back, listening to the swish of the water on the leaves, catching the occasional meteor.

Not so good this year were … well, many things. The exceptional surprise was the Natacha Escarole (started by mom back in March), which came in with big, beautiful heads; heat resistant, as advertised. Bush beans: a delicious but very small crop (too cool at seeding time, and beds didn’t get the compost they needed). Peas and favas: too hot, must plan for spring or fall crops. Onions and beets: poor germination, but tasty survivors. Surprises were the Badalucco soldier beans, the cannellini (lots of shelling in store for us this winter while we catch up on movies and TV series), the daikon radishes, the cucumbers that just would not stop, and all the volunteer Delicata squashes and small tomatoes on the old compost. The few solid performers were the hoophouse tomatoes (through until mid October), the arugula Sylvetta, and our 6 varieties of zucchini, which came in at an uncharacteristically relaxed pace (thank goodness) perhaps due to the lack of rain. The radicchio rows in the vineyard were an end-of-season surprise, and provided the bulk of transplants for the winter greenhouse, as my summer-seeded flats did not provide many good specimens; why, I do not know, but I suspect inconsistent watering resulting in more heat-induced dormancy! Yes, Teacher, I will try to do better.

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