The tomato patch was a big success and we had plenty for eating fresh, drying and canning as spaghetti sauce. The varieties we grew were black plum, roma, heirloom rainbow, Cherokee purple, and pink climbing tomatoes. The best producer was the black plum. They are also an excellent size for drying. The heirloom rainbow variety was terrible. It vined all over the place and there were only a few, pathetic orange tomatoes that dried out before they could even get decently ripe. The romas did well but this turned out the be the favorite variety for the pill bugs. The ducks got quite a few pill bug infested romas for snacks. They appreciated the extra protein. The Cherokee purple were ok. Pretty good flavor but slow to ripen and they had a tendency to split despite a pretty consistent moisture level. The best flavor for eating fresh came from the pink climbers. While the yield was not high, the taste was awesome. We are more than willing to give these a place in the garden again.
We did ok on the summer squash. There was a fairly steady supply of Italian, yellow, and black zucchini. The plants did get powdery mildew late in the summer, but the plants were pretty much done by that point. As for the winter squash, the squirrels got most of those. We did end up with a rather tasty orange acorn squash. More squirrel protection will be needed next year if we ever expect to get pumpkins, butternut or spaghetti squash like we planned.
The melons were good (see previous post for Collective Farm Woman review) but we didn't get nearly enough. The Charentais melon we harvested was delicious. Imagine a cantaloupe with a spicy aftertaste and a heavenly melon scent. That is as close as I can get to describing this delicious melon. We have more seeds and will definitely giving both the Collective Farm Woman and the Charentais better spots and more space in the garden. These were also subject to squirrel attack so hardware cloth covers are in the works.
We had cucumbers, beans, and alpine strawberries pretty steadily throughout the growing season and even managed a couple clusters of corn. The corn was part of an experimental 3 Sisters garden which uses corn, beans, and pumpkins on the same hill to assist each other and promote weed suppression. Our tiny plot did do rather well so we will expand the 3 sisters concept next year. The corn variety we planted was Golden Bantam Sweet Corn. We save and dried all the kernels so we will have more to plant in spring.
We had a really good pear harvest as well as quite a few apples. Apparently we were faster than the squirrels this year so actually had enough to eat fresh, dry and canned. One grape vine produced very well while the other took the summer off. It had been trimmed back the previous year. There were not many grape producing shoots left. The growth of the vine this year was phenomenal and all those new vines will give us grapes next year.
On the critter front, we had a coturnix quail hatch out 3 chicks, one of which made it to adulthood. Since coturnix quail usually don't set a nest and this was her first time, it is still quite impressive. The survivor, which almost died when he escaped the hutch and couldn't get back to mom, is named Zombie. Zombie is a boy so we will be finding him some girlfriends ASAP. Hopefully his mom will try and hatch out another batch next season.
Our duck total for now is 7. We kept 3 ducklings from the Spring hatch, 2 hens (Prairie Dawn and Abby Cadabby) and a drake (TJ). We also gave the drake that fathered those 3 ducklings away and adopted a new drake (Cartman). A friend is going to do a test hatch for us to make sure he is doing his job.
Even though it is now December and we have had plenty of hard freezes and even a little snow, the gardening isn't done. We are building cold frames and hope to grow some winter greens. Stay tuned for updates!