This is it; the post where we dig it all back up and show you the fruits and flops of our labor for the 2023 growing season. Gardening successes are a joy to photograph and share, but the failures need to be documented as well. That’s how we . . . grow, right?
*We start all our veggies from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds excluding garlic, potatoes, and asparagus which we grow from starts.
This year’s TOP 10:
#10.) TOMATOES and TOMATILLOS
Although less abundant than last year, we still had more tomatoes than we could possibly process by the end of the season. In addition, we grew some absolute beauties in the bunch. Our favorite varieties from this year were: Dr. Wyche’s Yellow and Black Strawberry. As for tomatillos, I’m beginning to wonder, do they ever flop? At the moment of my writing this, I still have a full five-gallon bucket of them in the basement that I doubt I will find a future for.
Our bell peppers this year were somewhat scant but we had an explosion of hot peppers. Our salsa-making needs were more than covered by our hauls of jalapeños, Anaheim’s, and chilis. Oh, and most of them were outrageously purple with a flash of red at the last to make for a spicy display.
Holy basil ‒did we have our pesto and eat it too. I must confess, I went bonkers for basil this summer and planted it in amongst the beds anywhere that had a free spot of dirt showing. I believe I sowed a total of eight seed packets in all with Emily, Genovese, and Dark Purple Opal being our favorite varieties. We were rewarded in garden munchies, salads galore, green and purple pesto, plus bruschetta sandwiches, pasta, and omelets.
#7.) BLAUHIDE BEANS
These dark purple “green beans” are as dependable as they are beautiful. While the other varieties exploded in a sudden and abundant harvest, the Blauhide beans paced themselves and continued in measured generosity for weeks after all the other beans had given up the ghost. What’s more, these beans kept producing even on through very chilly September and October nights. There were purple gems hanging from the trellises until the first snow came.
Garlic “scapes” were one of the best culinary surprises of our gardening endeavors this year. How fun is it getting to eat new things that you’ve never tasted before fresh out of your own garden? You can read about how we have our garlic and eat it too here.
I love everything about growing carrots. Yes, I’m even loving the challenge of getting them to germinate, which of course is the tricky bit. It’s a wonder to me how dusts of uncovered seeds can take hold (provided they are kept truly damp) and over the summer become a crunchy, spicy-sweet rainbow underground. Best of all is how long they keep giving. We began thinning the carrots months ago, pulling up over-crowded clumps and adding delicious baby carrots to soups, stews, stir-fry’s, and roasting trays. Then, the big reveal harvest we celebrated and stored in the basement fridge to carry us well into winter. And lastly, which probably goes without saying, storebought carrots are seriously degenerated from the original.
It just occurred to me that the expression “easy-peasy” could have originated from the A-B-C simplicity of growing peas. Hold a moment while I Google it. Hmm, Madame G deduces that it originated out of thin air in a school yard over jump ropes and hopscotch. Well, “easy-peasy” as far as I’m concerned has a whole new meaning. These peas were probably the lowest maintenance vegetable of the summer with one of the highest yields. Plus, grown on a trellis, they add such beauty and enchantment to the garden. Watching your kids pluck down fat peas to munch while swinging and sliding under a summer sun is one of life’s most underrated privileges.
Originally, I grew calendula for the bees and butterflies. But now I’m growing them for me! These flowers remind me of the conveyor belt of chocolates in that I Love Lucy episode ‒they just keep coming. I strip an entire plant of its blooms and she rewards me the next day with a fresh, strawberry-scented display. They are a joy in our garden, a joy in my tea cupboard, and a joy in my cup.
#2.) OYSTER MUSHROOMS
What a spectacular addition our mushroom tent has made to our homestead kitchen! We highly recommend giving mushroom growing a go. Check out our full experience here: 🍄March of the mushROOM🍄
Homegrown potatoes are a must. They are nothing like what comes out of those little mesh plastic sacks at the grocery store ‒not in color, flavor, or nutrition. And they basically require only two days of effort: sowing and harvesting. It’s quite the yield for so little input.
This year’s MOST IMPROVED:
Berries and brassicas are on the up and up at our mountain homestead, thanks to two little changes. One, we welcomed four kitties to our homestead and I haven’t seen a mouse since . . . seriously. The majority of the strawberries actually made it to the house whole this year. Imagine that! Two, we bought BT spray, a natural pesticide (if you can call such a thing natural) and warred on the aphid colonies in our brassica bed.
This year’s BOTTOM OF THE BARREL:
Sadly, the cilantro this year was stingy with us. We got some bunches and they were lovely, but I use a whole bunch per every batch of salsa. What can I say? Cali-girl roots die hard. Basically, I want to be able to mow cilantro. Stay tuned.
Starting onions from seed is a persnickety thing that I have not mastered yet, apparently. We had an abundance but they just didn’t have time to reach their full size. Oh well, we’re enjoying delicious onions (albeit little ones) and greens but I would love to add onions to our we kissed shopping goodbye list! So, I may swallow my pride and grow them from starts next year.
These poor little damsels never made it to their debutante ball. We had a lovely long summer this year, but it was milder overall than last year without those intensely hot days that the nightshades seem to love. Uh-oh. Here I go dreaming about that greenhouse again!
That’s a wrap, my friends! Thanks so much for taking a peek at our homestead today. If you enjoyed this post, please share! 🙂
Love, Candace Arden