As the year comes to a close I always like to include a few posts wrapping up our garden year. Every year we like to try a few new crops. Of course we have our favorites that get planted every year but part of the fun of gardening for me is experimenting. Every year we try to add a few new varieties to our collection, here’s a run down of what was new to Stoney Acres this year:
One our our favorite additions to the garden this year was shallots. We planted them in the fall of 2011 and had a terrific harvest in early summer. 5 little bulbs produced over 3 pounds of shallots. We love the taste and they are storing well. We still have about 1/3 of our bulbs left in storage almost 6 months after they were harvested.
Shallots will be grown around here from now on! They also take up very little space so they can be tucked in any little corner and they are harvested in July leaving room for an early fall planting of something else. If you haven’t grown shallots before I’d really encourage you give them a try! You can click here to read more about our shallot growing this year!
Tomato – Early Girl
So it had long been my goal to have fresh tomatoes to put on our 4th of July hamburgers. Finally after years of experimenting with different timing and varieties I finally got it right this year!! I know that many of my readers in warmer areas would laugh at this goal but for us it is quite an accomplishment to have ripe tomatoes in early July.
Early Girl was the variety that finally got me to the goal. Our one plant of early girls faithfully produced 5 to 8 small/medium sized fruit every week from July 4th till we ripped out the plant in October. Now the main benefit of Early Girls is they are early, they aren’t big fruit and they aren’t the best tasting tomatoes (don’t take that wrong, they taste just fine, they just aren’t they best). But they lived up to thier name and gave us a consistent harvest of tomatoes 6 weeks sooner than normal. And they did really well started under the wall-o-water on 4/21/12, that was a solid month before our last frost date. So Early girls will now find a place in the tomato garden every year!!
Totamto – Sun Sugar
Sun Sugars were another great find for 2012. I got this start from a friend I made in the master gardener program. This one also went in on April 12th under the wall of water and a small harvest was ready in early July. But the plant really came on in late August and September. Sun Sugars are a cherry type tomato but they ripen to a nice orange color instead of the traditional red.
We loved these tomatoes, in fact they are now our favorite cherry tomato and will be replacing one of the other two types we have always grown. The fruit is sweet and delicious, just be sure if you grow them that you let them ripen well. The taste is not nearly as good if they are not perfectly ripe. They ripen to a nice dark orange color.
Cucumber – Wisconsin SMR
This year we wanted to branch out a bit and grow some pickling cucumbers. Wisconsin’s did a great job for pickles. They grow a nice pickled size fruit (2 to 4 inches) and were very productive. A short 2 foot row of these cucumbers (only 6 or 8 plants) produced 25 pounds of fruit this year. We had pickles running out of our ears!! The Wisconsin’s stay crisp and delicious as either fridge pickles or canned.
One warning for you, don’t plant this variety as a fresh eating cucumber. Everyone we ate fresh was a little bitter, but add a little salt and vinegar and they make great pickles. They are also very forgiving if you happen to not pick them on time. The quality was still good even if they were a little bigger, and the seeds were still small and eatable. Another keeper for us!!
Summer Squash – White Patty-Pan
Summer squash is about the only kind of squash we like around here, so this year we wanted to add to the variety we grew. This white Patty-Pan squash was a great addition. The plant is fairly compact (compared to zucchini or yellow squash) and the plant was also productive despite the struggles it had all summer with a bacterial wilt that affected all of or squashes this year.
The fruit taste good, pretty typical for a summer squash. But the fruit is a little firmer than zucchini and the seeds are much smaller. It holds up a little better when cooked and it also freezes well. The fruit is very unique looking, we gave a few away and everyone just loved the way they looked and tasted. But come on who can’t love a squash that looks like a flying saucer!! We may not grow this one every year, but it will stay in our line up. Maybe we will alternate years with yellow crook neck squash.
This one was recommended to me by our master gardener instructor. Crinshaws are a melon I had seen in the grocery store before but had never tasted. Now that I have tasted them I can’t believe I went this long without growing them!!
All of our Crishaws grew to roughly 5 pounds. They need plenty of time to mature, our first fruit took over 100 days to mature, the seeds were planted on May 12th and the first fruit was ready on August 29th. We had 3 large fruits that never made it to maturity. The fruit ripens to a beautiful yellow color and the flesh is orange and delicious. The taste is similar to a cantaloupe but is sweeter and less “cantaloupey” if that makes sense. The taste is sweeter and milder than a cantaloupe. Because this year was a test the plants didn’t get the best spot in the garden but next year they will get a place of honor, in fact I think they will replace one of the two varieties of watermelon we grow.
This was the first year we have tried celery. We learned that it is not for the inpatient gardener. It took a solid 4 months for it to mature from starts. But it was worth the wait! I don’t know the name of the variety we grew because the seeds were a gift from a friend, but it was a self blanching variety and the taste is very good!
We also learned that you really don’t need to plant many celery plants. We planted 6 and that was twice as much as we needed. 3 plants will provide is with plenty to eat fresh and a lot to chop up and put in the freezer for winter soups!
Sun Flower – Mammoth
So this was Mrs. Stoney’s contribution to the new plants for this year. I love sunflowers and always let any volunteer starts grow in the yard. But Mrs. Stoney doesn’t like them, she says “they waste space and we can’t eat them!” So this year she set out to change this by grow a variety for seeds!
It worked out pretty good. We only grew 2 of these beautiful giant flowers, each on the end of a row of our garden beds. The flowers were fantastic, they attracted bees like crazy and when we cut and dried the heads we ended up with over 2 pounds of seeds. It was kind of a fun project and we will be planting a few of these beauties every year!!
Other New Crops
There were other new crops we planted that just didn’t make the cut:
Cauliflower – I think I’m just destined to not grow cauliflower- We got lots of plant and no heads with this new variety. I just think it’s too hot for cauliflower.
Broccoli – Premium Crop – I planted this one in the fall because it was supposed to have a short maturity. But the “Pac Man” that I planted two weeks later beat the Premium Crop to harvest, and had bigger and tastier heads. I will be sticking with “Pac Man”.
Scarlet Runner Beans – I planted these next to the cucumber trellis and they never really had a chance. We did get a few pods to harvest but just a handful, I will have to give these another chance next year.
Sweet sugar/pie pumpkin – This one didn’t really get a fair chance either. We only had one pumpkin because that bacterial wilt we had during the summer set this plant back so much that it never really got a chance.
Over all it was a good year for new plants at Stoney Acres. Our tests did what they were meant to and we now have several new varieties to plant in future year! Check back in a few days and I will be giving a wrap up for the gardening year as a whole and also talk about a few more of this years highlights!!