Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Doing the Scarlet

In the story Gone With the Wind at the end of the Civil War, Scarlet stands in the barren fields of her beloved Tara and declares, "As God is my witness, I will never go hungry again!"

And then, she proceeds to ... use her feminine wiles to get herself a man to take care of her ...

... anyway.

I don't know how that relates to anything, exactly, except that it was on my mind this past weekend.

We started the process of razing the garden beds, harvesting what there was to harvest and mulching all of the beds with their winter blanket of leaves.

Some of the things I grew gave a very disappointing harvest.

I was disappointed with the potatoes from which I only harvested a meager 35 lbs, but as Deus Ex Machina pointed out, I only planted 5 lbs, which means it was a 7x return. So, I guess that's okay. Just like last year I ended up with some enormous spuds. I pulled one of them out of the ground, and immediately thought "Go long!" It is almost as big as my foot(ball).

Big Little Sister harvested almost 4 lbs of scarlet runner beans from her garden. If we're looking at which crop gave us a better ROI, I'd have to say it was her beans. She planted four or five seeds and ended up with a half bushel of beans. Pretty cool! I'm going to try stringing them to dry, but not too long ago, I also discovered how incredibly delicious fresh scarlet runner beans are when they're cooked ... so, I'm kind of torn - eat 'em now, or save 'em for later .... Hmm?

I was really impressed with the tiny pie pumpkins. The vines were really short, and each vine produced between two and six pumpkins weighing between 1 lb and 3 lbs each. They're one-pie-per-each pumpkins, but we'll end up with thirteen pies with only four vines total.

The three sisters bucket garden didn't do so well. None of the beans grew, and the pumpkins in the buckets were smaller and fewer than the ones in the garden bed. I also planted the blue field corn, again this year. The ears are supposed to be smaller, but seriously? These are tiny, and I can't even imagine trying to get the kernels off the cob. I'm going to switch corn varieties next year. I'll still plant field corn, but I think I'll put the three sisters in the 8"x4" garden bed in the back and plant the small vine pumpkins, a field corn variety and scarlet runner beans. Worst case, I'll end up with a ton of scarlet runner beans, which are beautiful and grow prolifically. Best case, I'll have a great crop of corn, beans and pumpkins, and next year's pumpkin harvest, alone, will surpass this year's entire harvest total .... Well, I can dream, can't I? :)

Of course the piece de resistance this year was the Hubbard squash, and I'll probably be talking about those things for YEARS! After this winter, I may never want to look at another Hubbard squash, but if TSHTF this winter, we definitely won't go hungry. The grand total for the Hubbard squash 180 lbs ... all volunteers! Incredible!

We still have some things growing in the garden. I never harvested the beets, and now, with the cooler weather, the greens are amazing. I also still have lettuce and kale thriving in the garden. The comfrey should be harvested and dried, and since Deus Ex Machina prepped the poultry "coops" for winter (i.e. put the plastic on to keep the birds warm), I have a place to hang them outside to dry them. As they will be winter animal fodder, it's appropriate to dry them out there, I think :).

The next step, and something I've never really done with any degree of success, is to start the winter garden, which, this year, will be containers on tables in the duck coop. My plan is to try peas and the spicy mesclun mix that includes a lot of cool-loving greens like kale. It will be awesome of the plants do well. The girls LOVE peas, and to have fresh greens all winter ... ah! Heaven!

And garlic needs to get planted ... soon.

I haven't added up all of the totals for this year's harvest, and I still haven't harvested everything (there are still some things like Jerusalem artichokes that I probably will not harvest until spring), but I have to say that I'm not disappointed in how well our garden grew. I'm not up to a ton of food, yet, for sure, but we're getting there :).

And if anything happens to the grocery store in the next six months, we certainly won't starve, but if the worst case does happen, the first thing I'm going to do in the spring is scatter the squash seeds all around the yard, and that way we'll never have to resort to shaking our fists at a celestial witness, because with the very generous Hubbard squash as our "famine food", there is no chance of going hungry :).

How did your garden grow?


  1. I was disappointed in my garden, but it's the first I've planted in years, so I have to also say, "well, that's pretty impressive!" My tomatoes were the big winner - plenty of fresh tomatoes all summer with plenty left over that I stewed and canned. My blackeye peas also did well (nothing better than fresh blackeyes!). Everything else was pretty much a bust. But we had a weird summer, either dry as the desert or torrential rainfall (I'm in Florida). I'm not planning a winter garden. I've been concentrating on building up my soil instead and can't wait for next spring!

  2. Because we moved middle of April--the time I normally really get going with my Pot Garden, I didn't get as much planted this year as I would have liked.

    Next year though, we've got more space and I might take a cue from Basement Neighbor and do my taters in a bucket.

    Chunky really wants to do beans. We scrounged some beans from the ones BN let dry on the vine so he'll plant those in the spring.

    I think I'm done w/lettuce. I never eat it fast enough and it bolts so quick. So I'm planning to try garlic in the lettuce pots. I just need to remember to plant after the first frost.

    Herbally, we're rolling in basil and oregano! I'm hoping Chunky can score me more basil at the Spring Herb sale again next year.

  3. Mrs. Fetched talked me out of planting anything this year, since her mom had it covered. But the oregano, sage, lemon balm, and thyme all winter over here and is taking off with the advent of cooler weather. Then there's the tomato plants that sprang up in the greywater draining area. I'm pretty sure at least some of them will ripen before we get a frost.

    Good idea planting garlic this time of year. I'm thinking about trying some iceberg lettuce once the tomatoes are gone. Might be a little late for spinach, ditto broccoli, but it might be worth a try.

  4. I've been thinking about doing three sisters in one of my raised beds next year. I am curious what spacing you are planning on using...

  5. Every year when we dig potatoes I do my "Scarlet" impression too.. about half way through all the digging and grubbing those taters with dirt under my nails and smudged on my face,."as Got is my witness, I'll never go hungry again!" Love it. Pretty decent garden this year, except squash all died, only got about 4 or 5 summer squash and 3-4 winter.. don't have a clue why, last year they did great. I have started some broccoli and cabbage in containers next to the brick house as an experiment to see how long I can keep'em growing. Also have a nice crop of spinach growing and lettuce. Last year I was able to winter over lettuce in my raised bed with an old window covering it.. will try again this year and see how it goes. Pantry is looking pretty good right now

  6. Barefoot - I haven't thought about the spacing yet ;). What I will most likely do is to follow the spacing recommendations for the corn, except that it will be block planted, which means there won't be any "rows", per se. Each corn plant will get at least one bean, and I'll just toss some pumpkin seeds in the bed - a couple at each end and a few in the middle. I tend toward the "let's try it and see what happens" method of gardening.

    FARf - Most folks I know up here plant garlic in the fall. We have such a short growing season and all ;). You might want to try planting spinach now. In your climate, it might do well this time of year. From what I understand, spinach likes it cooler.

    Kaye - Beans are wicked easy, and the scarlet runner beans are awesome! They taste amazing, and let me just say that when I read they were like lima beans, I almost didn't grow them, but they are so NOT like lima beans! Also, the beautiful red flowers are edible, and they grow like CRAZY! Big Little Sister TOTALLY neglected (ignored) her garden all summer long, and she was rewarded with 4 lbs of beans for no trouble at all :).

    Karen - I'd bet you probably did way better than you think you do. It's such a learning experience, and every year, I figure out something I should have or could have done better - like the Three Sisters.

  7. I am glad yours did something.
    Here in the Pacific Northwest, I planted lettuce three times and never saw a plant come up. My peas grew less than a foot tall, even the radishes went straight to seed. The only things that actually grew were the plants I bought at the local big marts. Today is some where near the end of October and my tomatoes are still green after three months.
    I give up. I am going to kill everything out there because the only thing that profligated were the dang weeds and start over some time next July, if this year was any kind of precursor.
    It rained here until the Fourth of July and I could not even step foot in my garden area without rubber boots.

    Consider your self lucky, every one I talked to , even across state lines had the same luck.

    Nice blog by the way, I only recently found you again when I got this computer back on line. I had ya book marked.

  8. Hey, Busted ... and welcome (back :).

    But don't give up! :) If you haven't had a frost, yet, those tomatoes may still ripen.

    I don't know what your climate there is, but if you were interested in trying again, there are some plants that really love it cool and wet, and this time of year might actually be better for growing those types of plants than the summer. In fact, if I told you that I still have stuff growing in my garden here, would you be surprised? Kale, broccoli, lettuce, beets, and Jerusalem artichoke still seem to be hanging on. In fact, the Jerusalem artichokes still have flowers ;).

  9. I don't know anyone, locally or in the blogosphere, who's happy with how their potatoes turned out. (Except maybe Matron of Husbandry, iirc).
    I'm not organized enough (this year at least) to say what my return is with any precision, but in the tubs I planted potatoes in, I think its about 4x. I haven't dug my main bed yet to see. My early bed was probably about 4-6x as well.
    That said, we here on the Colorado Front Range haven't gotten a frost yet!! (It's coming Tuesday night for sure though, maybe monday) So my harvests have been especially long and lovely. In seasonal order: strawberries were so bountiful the kids got sick of em and I canned 3 dozen jars and froze 4 or 5 gallons. Greens came in beautifully and we got overwhelmed by those too, so the chickens got a feast. I did 3 sisters in two different beds, one sweet corn and one blue corn for drying, on a four foot spacing. I planted a variety of melons as the ground cover, as I haven't figured out how to love eating the winter squash yet. The melons were fun, some more successful than others, and the kids had fun experimenting with them. The beans bore (I put more in each mount this time, 3-4, cuz I didn't get much last year when I tried) but it was hard to find them amidst the tangle of corn stalks. I think I'll try an additional separate pole crop next year just to be sure I can find some before they get too huge.
    Corn came in great, though it seems silly to get just one ear, mayyyybe two, from such a huge plant, but I do love sweet corn so I keep planting it every year. Broccoli was insanely happy, planted from seed inside in February,I think (records, Sue, gotta keep better records! Or not.) and transplanted out maybe in late March.) Cauliflower did great as an early crop. I'm reserving judgement on the extra starts that I xplanted in June. At the moment they're aphid-infested and several haven't headed out properly, but others look good and after our freeze maybe I can get the aphids out easily.
    Raspberries, bless their canes, are an amazing producer for us and I absolutely love them.
    Red peppers, after an alarming start (withering on the plant or becoming inhabited by earwigs) ended up producing well enough, I think I got at least two perfect red bells off each plant and have many more green bells that I don't really like, so I'll give to friends and neighbors over the weekend. Tomatoes, sadly, I crowded, because I excelled at seed starting this year and had many more than I had space for, even after trading them away at our starter barter and giving them to anyone who expressed an interest in gardening. So they produced heavily, but the fruit were smaller and the whiteflies plagued the plants. Next year I'll be firm with myself about giving everyone enough space. Leeks look great. Onions, soso. Didn't size up but at least they grew. For the most part I had tucked them into the new strawberry beds, so they may have been too crowded.
    I've got spinach and carrots started at various stages in the gardens (summer starting of carrots for a fall crop was a big fail -- too hot. I think I need rowcovers for them next year). I'm not sure how much they'll grow before the ground freezes solid. We've done row covers and cold frames our first three winters here, I'm not sure how much of that I"ll do this year. I will certainly mulch my newest bed of carrots and spinach deeply with straw and leaves at the least, and I may cover a bed that's got bigger spinach and beets to get us through December.
    Good lord. I should never let anyone ask me about my garden IRL. I'll bore them to death!

  10. Sue - your garden sounds awesome! Mine definitely didn't do that well ;). What's great, though, is each year is an opportunity to learn a little bit more ;).

  11. Oh, I'm sure I'm making the gardens sound way bigger than they are. I dabbled a lot with some very limited plantings in some cases. I got, I believe, one cup of a dry black bean from the three black cocoa bean plants I grew. The blue corn, I have maybe eight ears of. Barely enough to grind, but I wanted to learn how to dry and grind corn. As you say, it's all a learning experience!