2011 was a very interesting and challenging year on the micro-farm. We had definite winners and losers in the crop department. A big LOSE was our fruit crop. The apple and pear blossoms got hit with a very late deep frost so we ended up with no fruit development. The grape harvest was average on our seedless grapes, but we got nothing off the concord vine. Weird spring weather can really impact your harvest so we are very nervous for this year as well. Even though it is still March, the apples and pears are budding and should be in bloom next week. A late frost could wipe out our fruit harvest yet again.
On the plus side, our tomato crop did fantastic. In an area not known for good tomato production, tomatoes continue to be one of our best crops. The key is variety selection. We don't even attempt to grow large Beef Steak types and instead stick to medium-sized, cherry, and grape-sized tomatoes. Marglobe and smaller varieties have plenty of time to ripen and are resistant to splitting from uneven moisture - typical Colorado issues. Our marglobe, yellow pear and sweet 100 vines gave us plenty of fruit for fresh eating and drying. The black krim and purple cherokee tomatoes tended to split so we wont be planting them this time, but they did make some tasty spaghetti sauce. This years varieties will be Sweet 100's, Black Cherry, Marglobe, Red Currant, White Currant, and our experimental variety.... Box Car Willies.
The sweet potatoes were a disappointment, especially since we selected some special short season varieties. We were expecting a much bigger harvest than our test patch of grocery store purchased sweet potato we made in to slips. Unfortunately we got the same pathetic number of small potatoes from the Violetta and Carolina sweet potatoes that we got from the grocery store Garnet. Since these were all grown in containers, it could very well be that the containers were the problem so there will be one last experimental patch of sweet potatoes grown. If those don't produce, we will skip them in the future.
Potatoes grown in containers were a fail. but we did get a small harvest of purple viking potatoes from an in ground patch. Not sure if we will plant those again, but if I do it will be IN GROUND for sure.
The herbs produced very well as usual and are already up and growing rapidly for this season. We are already harvesting chives, and the thyme and oregano are going strong. We haven't seen any of the mint make an appearance yet, but knowing the mint, it will still try to take over the garden by July.
On the critter front, we lost our entire pen of quail due to a stray cat. It didn't just kill for sport. It actually ate them all. The quail pen has been torn down and will be rebuilt from scratch to make it totally critter proof. Obviously nylon netting will not deter a hungry feral cat.
The ducks continue to thrive, but we did have a separate stray incident involving a couple of large dogs. While, thanks to our son, none of the ducks were killed, we did have a hen get a seriously injured wing. Fortunately she recovered, but she will not have use of the wing anymore. Since she couldn't fly anyway, it isn't much of a loss. Extra drakes were butchered and we did some flock shuffling when we inherited some quality Welsh Harlequin hens from a friend that moved. From those ducks we kept three beautiful breeders. Last week we purchased a new drake from champion show lines. Unfortunately his pen at his previous home did not adequately protect him from frost bite and he is missing toes. His feet have healed, but will always look rather ratty. Happily, this does not prevent him from doing his drakely duties. We have named him Fred Garvin, so all of you fans of the old Saturday Night Live sketches can laugh at that one. While not happy with the condition of his feet, his friendly, protective personality towards all the hens have earned him a spot in the flock and not on the BBQ.
Looking forward to 2012, if the spring weather doesn't turn, the gardens should be very productive. If it does go south, we have a small supply of frost blankets at the ready. Stay tuned for more photos, gardening tips, recipes and more.