The cooler weather is settling in, and the last of our summer veggies are being picked this afternoon. We had some major successes, a few blunders, and learned a lot. I just feel very fortunate that we were permitted the use of the small backyard at our apartment to grow a garden, even if it was a small one.
We grew two types of sauce tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, and green beans. June was exceptionally wet, and it provided the right circumstances for a fungus, the same one that caused a blight leading to the Irish Potato Famine, to run rampant. The blight effects both potatoes and tomatoes. While we didn't plant any potatoes, we did plant about eight tomato plants and hoped for the best.
Somehow, we escaped the blight. Five out of eight tomato plants survived the transplanting outside, though I suspect the biggest problem here was human-related. I think I planted them too close to each other, and the stronger plants choked out the smaller ones. The remaining plants produced some of the biggest and meatiest tomatoes I've ever had the pleasure of turning into sauce.
The peppers took the longest to start producing. But when they did, it was unbelievable. The bell peppers were smaller than the ones you buy in the store, but they still held their own in several servings of stuffed peppers (made with the above-mentioned tomato sauce). We also planted several hot peppers- some long red ones, and some small round cherry bombs. Let me tell you, these were hot! I ended up having to put rubber gloves on to handle them safely. No matter how careful I was, I would get the pepper oils under my fingernails and it simply would not wash off.
We ended up with more than we could readily use, so I took the opportunity to learn about dehydration. This year, I dehydrated the peppers in my oven. I removed the seeds, sliced them a few times, placed them on a cookie sheet, then popped them in the oven on the lowest setting. After a couple of hours, they were perfectly dry. I took my onion chopper gadget and chopped them up into flakes. They came out well, and I now have red pepper flakes stored in my spice cabinet. They will come in very handy during cold and flu season. Next year, however, we will invest some time and money in building a solar dehydrator.
The cucumber plants were the stars of this year's garden. We had several cukes almost every single day. Nice, large, and perfect for salad or juicing. They were the first to start producing and the last to finally slow down production. On a hot day, and August certainly brought many of them, these were the perfect snack.
A close second to the cukes in production were the green beans. They also produced early and have steadily continued for the entire season. We planted eight plants, and six survived after transplant. Some heavy wind and rain took out the others. These really didn't take up much room at all, and provided us just the right amount of green beans.
I wish that we had a proper scale so we could have calculated the total number of pounds of produce our garden gave us. What I can say is that given our inexperience, bad weather, and late start, I think we did pretty well and learned a lot.
While many people are closing their gardens until next spring, we're busy planning a Fall/Winter garden using cold frames. Stay tuned for that blog post.
Live better, a little every day.