Previous articles on my Niagara Vegetable Garden:
- In Part One I start my grand adventure in container gardening and offer a terrific pest tip.
- In Part Two my garden survives a squirrel attack and growth begins.
- In Part Three a heat wave lands in Niagara, vegetables start to take shape, and cabbage worms get murdered. Oh my!
Wow, Part Four already. It’s been quite the summer and I am really happy with my garden. I have tons of info to share so in an effort to keep this organized and easier to read I will break up my growing experience by plant type.
I have fallen madly in love with heirloom tomatoes. All other tomatoes are tasting like gritty mush cubes to me now. I was never overly fond of tomatoes to begin with but I am now aware it is because I just never knew what a tomato was SUPPOSED to taste like.
The Bush Beefsteak has been a perfect all-purpose tomato. The flavour is sweet, the color is a beautiful red when sliced and it keeps a decent amount of time on the counter. I will buy this plant again (seedling purchased from Linda at Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm). As a determinate plant, I was worried that all of the tomatoes would drop at once but the ripening has been manageable. I pulled my first tomatoes in July and it is still producing. The tomatoes are smaller now that the weather is getting slightly colder but there are more of them so it kind of makes up for the size.
The Micro Tom has been an unexpected surprise. When I popped the first ripe one in my mouth I was greeted by a sweet, almost grape-like punch. It’s definitely a tomato taste but with a delightful freshness that makes it perfect for a salad. I regret having only one plant! The yield has been decent for its size but it is pretty small. I’m thinking 3 or 4 plants in the future would be the right amount.
It’s a strange feeling to be waiting for a plant to die but that is exactly where I found myself about a month ago. There are few things in this world I love as much as potatoes so I was giddy at the thought of eating my own.
Finally the plant died and was able to claim my bounty. Growing potatoes in a container is so much easier when it comes to harvesting. Instead of grabbing a shovel and carefully prying the plant up, you can just turn over the pot. I laid a garbage bag out first for easy clean-up and the whole thing was done in a matter of minutes.
I didn’t end up with very many potatoes. I’m not sure if this was because of the hot weather or if my container was too small. No worries, I claimed a few medium potatoes to use as seed potatoes for next growing season. This was only a single potato plant so I should have at least 3 or 4 times the potatoes next year!
I had no idea just how incredibly easy cucumbers are to grow. This was by far my most bountiful vegetable this summer. As you saw in Part Three the cucumbers had already started appearing. The plant looks like it’s on its last leg now, but there are still cucumbers clinging to it. I have probably had anywhere from 25 – 40 cucumbers so far.
My cucumbers were also featured in a previous article on Bread & Butter Pickles. If you missed that article, then you should know that I hate cucumbers. Fortunately, as a lover of pickles I was able to turn a massive cucumber situation into a winner. Dan, however, adores cucumbers and was happily munching away all summer.
Also in Part Three I discussed my horrible cabbage worm situation and eventual murder. I haven’t had any repeat pests and with Kris’s suggestions (via Comments), I cut down the main stalk. For awhile the plants bounced back and all was well but with the heat it’s been a constant battle to keep the bolting at bay. I am watering them well, making sure they are in the shade as much as possible without depriving them of sun, and am carefully cutting back what starts to flower.
I am hoping with the cooler weather rolling in that the broccoli can pull through and become something edible.
Instead of ‘strawberries’ I should just say ‘strawberry’ because that’s exactly all I’ve eaten. And really it was half a strawberry since I split it with Dan. Every other flippin’ strawberry has been stolen. STOLEN!
I tried to fashion a cage to discourage access but it didn’t do a thing. These strawberry plants are a bust until I can find a different planting situation. As I’ve mentioned before I have chipmunks under my deck, squirrels swarming my trees, a skunk likely living under the shed and other wildlife critters we’ve seen here or there. It’s a veritable zoo.
To recap I am growing Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, and Chives. Having fresh herbs enhances your cooking like nothing else. There isn’t a better way to add flavour without adding calories or cost to your dish. My Rosemary plant is doing quite well but my Oregano and Basil are down to tiny leaves from over-picking. I guess I need larger pots next season or more plants.
Let’s talk about my Chives now. I was originally unhappy with the fact that I got very fine chives as opposed to the thicker variety I am used to seeing. After trying these chives, I do prefer the finer version. They add the right amount of onion punch to a dish without adding the texture of chives (exactly what I want my herb to do). Plus these finer chives have allowed me to be trickier with my cooking all summer.
Let me explain…
Dan hates the texture of onions and chives with a passion. He will either refuse to eat the dish or pick the offending items out before consuming the meal. Over our nearly 13 years together I have avoided trying to push anything like onions onto him. That has changed as of this summer. Dan has been happily munching on these chives for 3 months without complaint. He may not know it (he will now) but these chives have been minced and tossed in with the other herbs for various dinners. I have felt kind of evil because he has even paid me compliments for the ‘wonderful flavour’ the herbs have added to the meat.
Ha, sneaky chives – I love you. You add all the taste without the texture.
As I wrap up this garden experiment, I have come to the conclusion that there are just some things better purchased at the Farmers Market or from a local grower. I have given serious thought to joining a CSA next year and only growing a few vegetables at home.
Container gardening didn’t grow enough food to fulfill our regular needs and I’m just not ready to cut up part of our yard to dedicate for a proper garden. I could get a bunch more containers next year but when you factor in the cost of supplies, soil and water you really are better off paying a farmer to grow it for you. They do this in mass quantities and can pass that savings onto you.
Do I plan to grow anything next season? Yes but I will likely only have tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and herbs. I have the seed potatoes from this year’s crop, I already own containers for all the plants and if I’m watering a single plant it’s just as easy to water a few.
Thanks to everyone that has followed along with me on this journey! Gardening is a wonderful experience and everyone should try it at least once.