Monday, November 16, 2015

Garden Review

It's the time of the year that we're wrapping up the bulk of our gardening activities for the season.  When the frost threatened in mid-October, we picked all the remaining tender veggies, protected the hardy greens, and started putting the garden to sleep.  The fall greens will continue to trickle in, but the majority of the harvesting is done until spring.  And now that we've had a few weeks to let the fervor of vegetable processing subside, we wanted to take a look back and see how we did!

First, what did the garden look like?  This was our general setup: 15 beds at 3' x 9', or about 400 square feet of growing space.  However, we harvested basically nothing out of six of those beds due to poor germination, inconsistent irrigation, or marauding varmints.  So, we were actually working with more like 250 square feet.

Second, what did we grow?  Mainly tomatoes, squashes, potatoes, and onions, it turns out.  We totaled a little over 150 lbs total.  Back in January, we had set an arbitrary goal of harvesting 100 lbs of food from the yard, so blowing past that mark by more than 50% was satisfying.  It might not sound like much when some of our electronic friends are growing more than 225 lbs of butternut squash alone, but hey, we gotta start somewhere!

Third, how did it compare to our meal plan?  Most things were quite a bit less, but the summer squash and zucchini exceeded our plan by a lot.  We didn't have any delusions of being able to grow all our vegetables in 250 (or even 400) square feet of growing space, but we hit about 20% of our total annual vegetable demand (or about 50% during the harvest season).  That is, over the summer, we were bringing in about 7 lbs/wk of produce from the local farmers market, and harvesting about 7 lbs/wk from the garden, which was about as much as we could keep up with.  Those 14 lbs/wk through the whole year work out to 728 lbs of veggies.  For what it's worth, our meal plan called for about 675 lbs of vegetables over the course of the year (not counting garlic powder, onion powder, or herbs, if we wanted to make those, too), so not too far off.  Is it just us, or does the fact that our theory and our experiment line up so well make you really excited too?  ...Just us?  Ok, nevermind.

We'll just finish up then with a few pictures to show you how the end-of-growing season frenzy played out here.  This is the 25 lbs of veggies we brought in right before the frost.  It's about 80% green tomatoes.

These are the volunteer potatoes we dug a few days later.  The volunteers made up about 60% of our potato harvest, probably because they got to start growing right away in the spring while the rest of the garden was still too wet to dig and plant until early June.

Part of putting the garden to bed is pulling out the delicious weeds, like these dandelions.  But wait!, you say?  You're harvesting and eating the quintessential spring green that supposedly turns irreparably bitter after blooming, in October?  Why yes, dear readers!  Soaking the greens (and roots!) in cold water removes most of the bitterness any time of year.  It's great!

All the damaged volunteer potatoes ended up in this casserole, along with some freshly smoked bacon, some of the damaged tomatoes, green beans, some onions and garlic, and a creamy plain yogurt sauce.  It doesn't look terribly colorful from this angle, but the flavor was great!

The sweet potatoes, nearly all of which were damaged on harvest, ended up in this quiche, along with more tomatoes, onions, garlic, and plenty of herbs.  Yum!

We had made buffalo-seasoned cauliflower before, but then we got the idea to try it with other veggies, too.  The eggplant, with its spongy, sauce-saturated texture, was the best, but the summer squash and zucchini weren't bad, either.

We made multiple types of pizza; these two had a buffalo-type sauce, except with spicy salsa instead of Frank's hot sauce.  Our recipe needs some tweaking yet, but the concept is good, and the pizza was delicious!

How is your gardening season wrapping up?


  1. That's pretty impressive! Actually, I'm most impressed by you weighing everything. I didn't even weigh those butternuts I bragged over --- I weighed one average squash and multiplied. Somehow, food never seems to make it onto a scale here between garden and kitchen....

    1. I suppose when you're growing as much as you do, it would be a lot more of a chore to weigh everything! :-)

      Until the end when we were bringing in big hauls of green tomatoes and potatoes, it was mostly harvests like 0.4 lbs of green beans and 0.7 pounds of leafy greens on any given day, with some 2-3 lb zucchini here and there. But every little bit helps, and it adds up surprisingly fast!

  2. Nice work! If you need some extra potatoes to round things out, let me know when you make it home next. We had a bit of a surplus. And by bit, I mean like three and a half five gallon buckets full.

    1. Sounds like you need a root cellar! Or, if you have the freezer space, you could grate them up into hash browns or chop them up into fries and save them that way.

  3. Really interesting analysis.
    Thanks for the post.
    I would like to keep harvest records like you have.
    I have already done the planned meal weights.

    1. Hi George, thanks for reading!

      I'm happy to hear you've given the meal planning a try. We've also got a garden planning spreadsheet that helps tabulate the harvest if that would be helpful for you.

      We just kind of got in the habit of weighing stuff as we brought it in, and have been keeping it on a ledger in the kitchen, then punching it into the spreadsheet once a week or so. If you're not bringing in dozens of pounds of food every day, it's not too burdensome. Good luck!

    2. Thanks for that Jake.
      I was able to download the spreadsheet but not open it unfortunately.
      I have Excel 2010.
      I found 3 other spreadsheets you have links for (Gate brace, seed viability and egg production) and they all opened OK.
      They were done in 2014 and 2015 so maybe later versions of excel or something.

    3. Thanks for letting me know; I'll see if I can figure out what's wrong with the garden spreadsheet. I'm still rockin Excel 2010 also, so maybe the file I uploaded got corrupted somewhere along the line.