The original purpose of this blog was to track the performance of the garden over the season and get a better understanding of what works best for the garden site and our preferences. I have a huge collection of thoughts, but alas, never organized those to enter in the log. Still, I thought we could salvage some of the project by providing details on what grew well, and what we liked – as well as what we don’t need to grow again.

Garden from the deck

The garden site had been chosen by a previous owner and had the advantage of being out of the way, and fairly wet. In fact, the soils become hydric at a depth of eighteen inches below the surface. These conditions actually prove very good for growing a wide range of vegetables. Tomato, squash – almost all above ground vegetables thrive in these conditions. The benefit is that they require very little water.

I changed that by planning a new garden that would eventually move all the plantings to raised beds. This was to be an incremental change. That is, we would keep the existing garden and place in raised beds to evaluate the performance. By virtually all measures the new raised beds proved successful. At an average of sixteen inches high, they were accessible without bending, easy to weed and water, and easy to harvest. Part way through the summer I installed drip irrigation with headers that allow metering the water to various crops. This worked somewhat effectively. One issue was that I terminated several of the runs by wrapping them around a thin stake and using a zip tie to essentially cut off water flow. On many of the hose ends this failed when after exposed to UV degradation the hoses deteriorated at this point. In the future they should be terminated with wooden dowels or plugs that don’t stress the drip lines. Alternatively, I would recommend using pvc tube and simply drilling holes to allow the water to drip out. At $2.29 cents per ten foot length, this is a very cost effective solution.

We built two raised beds twelve feet long by four feet wide. The beds were built from two levels of two by twelve and were dug into the hillside so that the most exposed they could be was twenty three inches. With the “high” end exposed twenty three inches, the low end was perhaps eight inches above ground, with a continuum between.

The soil mix ws a combination of about one fifth vermiculite, one fifth perlite, one fifth peat moss, and the balance equal parts soil and compost. It came out more organic and lighter than I had anticipated. The low clay content made it less able to hold moisture and possibly nutrients (cations). I amended the soil with small quantities of slow release organic fertilizer. Clearly this mix would not be suitable for any of the squash family, but it was suspected it would prove very suitable for the leafy greens and legumes.

One of the early crops was radishes which grew fabulous foliage and horrific root systems. I was unable to tell if this was due to the weather, the soil or some combination. Irrespective, we decided that no one save I liked radishes of any sort, and that this crop would not be repeated. We planted several varieties of beets – both red and golden. These were fantastic, both the tops and tubers.

Golden Beets

The single row we planted will become two three or even four rows next year. Beets can be grown at a fairly high density in the raised beds so the recommendation is for about six inches on center for the rows and three to four inches within the row. Both red beets and golden found their way into one of my favorite Indian dishes shorvedar chukander. We had enough beets to prepare this several times and it was a great success each time.

BEETROOT WITH ONIONS (SHORVEDAR CHUKANDER)
350g raw beetroot (without stems/leaves)
4 tbs veg oil
1 tsp whole cumin seed
1 clove garlic finely chopped
100g onion peeled & coarsely chopped
1 tsp plain flour
1/8th to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
225g tomatoes peeled & finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 pint water

Peel beetroot and cut into wedges (e.g a medium beetroot 5cm long into 6 wedges). Heat oil over mediim flame, sizzle cumin for 5 secs add garlic and stir fry, then add onion and stir fry for 2 mins. Add flour and cayenne and fry for another minute. Then add tomatoes, beetroot, salt and water – bring to simmer, cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 30 mins or until beetroot are tender. Remove lid, return heat to medium, and cook uncovered for 7 mins, or until sauce has thickened slightly. (Dish can be made ahead and then reheated)

I simply loved this dish with its vivid red sauce thickened with onion, beet and flour.

Beets

I also planted a row of carrots and this too was a great flop. The carrots never developed the length I anticipated and the subsequent late harvest did nothing to enhance their flavor. They unfortunately, for the most part, ended up in the compost. Carrots are definitely out! We planted corn, a dozen plants some of which had multiple stems. This too was a complete bust. None of the ears had the amount of pollination I expect from corn, and the number of ears was an abysmal total of two dozen. I had read that one can use corn as a trellis for climbing beans and planted my wax and french green beans around the base of the corn. The idea is that since beans are legumes they will add nitrogen to the soil and the planting will be complimentary. The beans worked great! The production was almost continuous from mid July onward. But they never climbed the corn, and it was a nightmare trying to pick the beans in the tangle at the base of the corn. The verdict – can the corn and the wax beans … keep the french green beans but put them on a proper trellis.

Speaking of trellis’. We built a wire trellis using the polypropylene material used to hold up the fencing. Basically we bolted rough lumber to the raised bed and then drilled a hole for the wire and knotted it with a back knot, and then stapled it taught to the edge of the raised bed. This was used for the sweet pea to climb.

Pea Trellis

The only issue was that the season was so wet and cold … and we started the peas so late that they didn’t get a good jump on the season. The wife thinks we can do better by using the trellis for beans or chinese snap peas. The key lesson learned is that the trellis could support perhaps twice as many plants. I also think horizontal string wrapped around each trellis wire would make weaving the plants up the trellis much easier.

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