The garden is in “hibernation” for the winter. Overall, we were very pleased with the garden in our first year of growing vegetables at this elevation. We were able to grow, eat and preserve many vegetables in this first year of gardening at this altitude. It was a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, and very satisfying. Some things did very well, others not so well, and everything we observed and learned will help us in planning for next year.
In general, almost everything took longer to reach maturity than expected. For instance, I picked the very first, 55-day tomato on day 74. I finally harvested the “100 day” onions, even though they could have had more growth, on about day 150 and later. Since the tops never really fell over on their own, they’re not curing properly, and they won’t last long in storage. Many other things took a lot longer than expected as well. I will detail those along with my observation of each vegetable family.
Most things were at least successful in that I at least had something to harvest. Cold-hardy things such as lettuces, spinach, and brassicas such as kale, mustard and cauliflower all did very well. Root vegetables did well (beets, daikon radish, carrots, rutabagas). Summer squash did well, although came later than expected. Bush beans did reasonably well, although all the blossoms did not produce beans. Peas did well. The leeks did well and I am still enjoying them. One of my new favorites is daikon radish, which grew extremely well and fast—I was able to ferment some and they are delicious. I was glad that I planted more kale, mustard and chard than I would eat—the ducks appreciated the greens and I was able to give them less of their expensive feed.
Other things I would not call successful. Knowing that it may not grow well, I had planted corn; Yukon Chief, a cold-hardy, short-season variety, as an experiment. This corn should have been ready for harvest at 55-70 days, per the packet. I did harvest some corn at about 95 days, but the ears were small and many of them had incomplete rows of kernels. Ten huge winter squash plants produced nothing, nada, no squash–just lots of leaves and lots of blossoms. The pepper plants had a few peppers, but they were far from ripe by the first freeze—I picked them but they did not ripen well inside. Tomatoes were somewhat successful in that I enjoyed some nice tomatoes, but not many, and most had to be ripened indoors as they were picked prior to a freezing night in September.
I have lots of notes and ideas about how I might do better next year. For instance:
- I will try winter squash again, but will keep them covered overnight and on cool days. I will hand pollinate them, and will only plant varieties with shorter maturity dates. I will have them grow larger indoors before planting them outside.
- I will start everything indoors under lights—the things that were started outside either did not germinate or didn’t germinate as quickly or as reliably (with the exception of daikon radish, which did VERY well).
- I will grow more of the cold-tolerant things in the perimeter beds, which aren’t as easy to cover, and the vegetables which require more warmth on the interior beds of the garden (easier to keep covered). This may make crop rotation a little more challenging in the future, but I’ll do the best I can.
- I will leave some beds unplanted at the beginning of summer to leave space for later plantings. I may put some quick-growing cover crops in these beds which can be turned in prior to planting fall crops.
- I will start my fall crops earlier than I did this year.
- I will try not to plant too many lettuces at the same time, but leave room for successive plantings! (I always mess up with this.)
- I will start a spring cold frame a little earlier than last year, but with fewer plants, leaving room for more later on.
- Now that we have the greenhouse, the plants that require more warmth will be planted there rather than outdoors, such as tomatoes & peppers.
I am pleased with our first year, and would call it a success. We’ve enjoyed lots of good eating, and had a lot of fun. We sure enjoy doing “good work”. Even though many days have produced sore feet and exhaustion, it’s a good thing, and keeps us busy.