A few pictures of the garden in early June. North of Seattle that means that we’re still a month or more away from the first real harvests.
The first picture is an overview from the “front” , facing east.
Front Left – tomatoes (indeterminates are on the north/left, determinates in the front).
Front Right – Carmen peppers.
Back Left – Fortex beans and Tromboncino zuchinni.
Back Center – basil (hiding) and cucumber trellis.
Close-up of the Tromboncino zucchini. The Fortex beans are in the background:
The Marketmore cucumbers:
The Joi Choi. Planted on April 6, the bigger plants are ready to harvest. The tulle over the wire hoops seems to have kept the bugs out this time:
The frilly cilantro and dill that was planted on March 20. They’re sitting in a place where they get morning sun, then dappled sun after that. I think they’re going to bolt within the next two weeks regardless of care:
One nice thing about planting in pots is that they can be moved around depending upon the season and the demands of what’s been planted. The next picture has young leaf lettuce that is covered by bird netting. We have lots of squirrels and they’ll destroy any seedlings that aren’t protected from digging:
I’m still getting the hang of succession planting. I think I’m always waiting too long between plantings, and I try to start outdoors when it’s still cold and the cold nearly stops any growth or germination. This year I tried planting lettuce outside in early March and the it didn’t germinate at all, though that could have been because the seeds were a few years old. I think that I may need to start in February/March indoors, then move that group out into the cold frame in a “warm” spot, then continue with a new group every two weeks through April.
The weather this year was generally cooperative. Our total harvest checks in at 175.5 pounds not including the beans or basil which we don’t weigh (too fiddly on a weeknight). 175.5 pounds from 10 boxes comes out to 4.7 pounds per square foot of growing media. Summary below the tomato pic –
Carmen Peppers – 1 box, 6 plants, 2.2 pounds
King of the North Peppers – 1 box, 6 plants, 2.9 pounds
Our historical yield for peppers has been around 1.5-2.0 pounds per plant. This year there were lots and lots of leaves and not a lot of fruit. I’m not sure what we can do differently other than hope next year is better.
Black Krim and Cherokee Chocolate Tomatoes – 1.5 boxes, 3 plants, 34.7 pounds
It was two Black Krim and one Cherokee. My feeling is that the Cherokee dragged down the average. We love earthy, rich taste of Black Krims so they’re staying. This isn’t the first year that a Cherokee was “meh”, so we’ll see on those.
In a related “unripe tomato” note – almost everything we harvested green ripened up on cooling racks on the kitchen floor over the last couple of weeks. I think that airflow and a fairly bright and warm environment are the keys to not having stuff rot. No more paper bags for us.
Very uninspiring yield. They tasted ok and they were attractive and something different.. But. The longer we’ve been gardening the more I lean away from cherry tomatoes because I’d rather spend the few minutes to harvest a few large tomatoes instead of tediously picking a zillion small ones.
Roma Tomatoes – 2 boxes, 4 plants, 47.6 pounds
One of the four plants did poorly and dragged down the yield. Either it was a weak plant or it didn’t get enough sun on the north/shady end of the stack. Still, almost 50 pounds of Romas makes a lot of sauce.
Oregon Spring Tomatoes – 1 box, 2 plants, 19.3 pounds
Oregon Spring are the first tomato plant I’d recommend to anyone gardening in the Pacific Northwest (we’re a little north of Seattle). They’re early, they’re prolific, they taste good, and they work pretty well for sauce too. 19.3 pounds isn’t the best year, typical would be 30-50 pounds for two plants.
“Slicing” Cucumber – 1 box, 4 plants, 31.7 pounds
31.7 pounds is on the low end of average. On the other hand they had good shape all summer — the plants waited a long time to start producing “fun house mirror” cucumbers. I’m totally happy with the cucumbers this year.
“Green” Tomatillos – 1 box, 2 plants, 13.7 pounds and
The tomatillos and zucchini shared a trellis with the idea that the pollinators would hit the zucchini as a byproduct of visiting all of the tomatillo flowers. I also helped out a little bit, pollinating with a toothbrush later in the season. It seems to have worked ok — in a bad year we’ll get five pounds of zucchini and in a good year we’ll get 15-25 pounds. We would have gotten more but critters (birds?) did some damage and destroyed a few zucchini when they were smallish. The tomatillos were right around the low end of average at 13.7 pounds, which is plenty of green sauce/salsa. I think we’ll try the same “share the trellis” strategy next year.
The trees are continuing to block out more and more sunlight as the years go by. Next year it may be that we reduce it down to one box of indeterminate tomatoes (Black Krim), just ensure that everything gets enough sun to be productive.
There were fewer destructive bugs than usual, but also fewer bees and more animals or birds destroying the random tomato.
It was a very marginal year for peppers and an average / low average year for everything else. October has been beautiful and sunny and if it had traded places with May the total yield would have been around average or a little better than average.
To paraphrase Yogi Berra: It’s getting late early around here. Our oak tree that always confirms the season is just starting to turn to fall colors and the garden is basically done.
On the 12th it became clear that the bugs were threatening to impact the pepper harvest, so we pulled what was left of the peppers:
The next week we harvested another sheet tray of ripe Romas. (not pictured)
As of the morning of the September 24 the garden looked like this:
A closeup of the “better looking” Roma box on the 24th:
The Purple Bumblebees on the 24th:
The tomatillo and Tromboncino shared a trellis. I think it worked out well. Our Tromboncino yield is up relative to the last couple of years and it didn’t seem to impact the tomatillos one way or the other. Yay pollenators:
Then after “picture time” we harvested everything except the tomatillo and Tromboncinos. We left those two boxes with the hopes we’d see a little more output. And the yard waste bin was full so that was a good stopping point.
The Rattlesnake and Fortex beans that we’re saving for seed or dried beans for eating. We’ve been harvesting the Fortex all summer in addition to what’s pictured:
And the last somewhat unripe harvest — it’s around 30 pounds of tomatoes:
We’ve had the most success with ripening not-ripe tomatoes on the floor of the kitchen on cooling racks. The kitchen is generally warm, and when the furnace starts up there’s a heater vent that provides good air circulation.
I feel like 2022 was a better year for the garden than 2020 or 2021, though the shade trees continue to grow and are gradually going to force us to reduce the size of the garden or just accept that the yields are not going to be what they were ten years ago. The wildfire smoke was minimal, and July and August were relatively warm and clear.
Next post will be the How Much Did That All Weigh? I’m curious to see if my perception of yield matches reality.
In the Seattle area, mid-to-late August is when the garden starts to ripen in earnest. It’s also when the plants are starting to show that they’re thinking about being “done”.
A sort of close up overview picture:
The front right is Carmen Peppers and King Of North Peppers. The Carmen’s are having a much more productive year. A Carmen close up:
Normally we lose a few to earwigs, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year. I’ve only counted one lost to the bugs.
Pictured next is the more energetic of the two Roma Tomato boxes. This box got the sunnier location and it shows:
That’s two plants in one box. They’re leaning over to the left and invading the space of the Oregon Springs. The nice thing is that the Oregon Springs are a very early harvest so we should be able to pull those plants out in 2-3 weeks from now.
I think the Tomatillo and Tromboncino “sharing a trellis” is working out pretty well. The center of the space is dominated by the Tomatillos. We need to harvest a big batch of them within the next few days.
The Tromboncino are growing up the sides and along the top. They’re having a better year this year than they have in the last few. We got a 32″ fruit about a week ago. Today we harvested this:
Tromboncino have all of their seeds in the bulb at the end of the fruit. The flesh firmer than a regular zucchini. Their leaves are less susceptible to mold, which helps in our climate. They work especially well for us because we’re gardening on a concrete patio and the vining aspect of the variety keeps the fruit off of the hot summer cement.
Finally, the Rattlesnake Beans:
We’ll let these dry and use them like Pinto Beans. I like growing beans – we plant 20-40 seeds in a box and make sure they get water and that’s about it. It’s basically “free” food.
The cucumbers are also having a better year than in the last couple of years. After the early cool weather it’s turned into a fairly warm summer, but we haven’t had wildfire smoke sucking up the UV.
Up until three days ago it’s been a very mild summer. The last three days have been in the mid-to-high 80’s. So far we’ve harvested basil, beans, and zucchini, which is normal for this time of year. We should have cucumbers in the next few days. The tomatoes and peppers are further away.
A view from the front right:
Peppers on the right, tomatoes in the center. More tomatoes in the middle-left. Cucumbers middle right.
From up the slope on the left:
The three tomato plants in the front from left to right are Roma, Oregon Spring, and another Roma. The left side of the garden is North, and that side of the garden has been more shaded over the last few years by the ever-expanding oak tree to the northwest. The Roma plant to the South is doing tons better and it’s not close.
From the house:
The big thing in the center is Fortex beans. They always do well, and we always save bean seeds for replanting in the early summer. The basil is poking out from behind the left of the cucumbers.
We also set up the Tromboncino Zucchini and Tomatillos to share a trellis with the idea that the pollinators would hit both and we’d see a better yield from the Tromboncino. There aren’t very many bees this year, so we’ll see how much it helps. What’s odd is all of the Tromboncino flowers were male a couple of days ago:
But so far so good anyway. The Tromboncino on the left weighs right around three pounds.
We’ve had exactly one day this year that could be considered “hot”. It feels like the garden has yet to “take off”. It’s overcast and drizzly this weekend with the next sunny stretch forecast for… not in the next seven days. Highs are forecast as the mid-to-low-70’s. We’ll need some hot weather for the basil and peppers to really grow and fight off whatever is chewing on them.
Front (L-R): Rattlesnake Beans, Roma Tomatoes, Oregon Spring Tomatoes, Roma Tomatoes, Carmen Peppers, King of the North Peppers. Middle left are the Black Krims, Cherokee Chocolate Tomato, and “Purple Bumblebee” Striped Cherry Tomato. In the middle are “Slicing Cucumbers” and (hiding) Sweet Basil. Middle right are Fortex beans. In the far back left there are Tromboncino Zucchinis and Tomatillos:
So far the Tomatillo and Tromboncino are sharing the trellis nicely — The Tomatillo are in the center and the Tromboncino have been trained up the sides. I’m hopeful that by removing browning Tromboncino leaves towards the middle and bottom as they arrive it’ll leave enough light and space for all four plants.
One more view from the “front” of the garden:
The photo also highlights how we label the plants. The indeterminate tomatoes are doing well, and the beans grow regardless of the weather.
Hopefully we have some sun coming in the next couple of weeks.
Our yield for the year was 112.6 pounds from 10 EarthBoxes. This is a lower amount than when we started gardening, but higher than the last couple of years. I think the factors that have led to the lower yield include:
Aging potting soil. We’ve replaced a good portion of it over time but salts may be building up and/or the soil may be getting denser. How much this negatively impacts growth I’m not sure.
In 2019 and 2020 the weather included lots of wildfire smoke during the peak growing season.
We’ve been sourcing the plants from different places since the pandemic started. Historically it’s been the annual Seattle Tilth Plant Sale, but that hasn’t been a real option the last couple of years for us. We’ve been buying the plants from “reputable nurseries” instead, so I’d like to think the sourcing isn’t that big of a deal.
We might be cramping the plants on the patio. The right answer might be to grow more shorter plant varieties. It feels like the patio might be getting less sun than in 2013, due to trees growing bigger all around the property.
I think the early enthusiasm for gardening has worn off, and we’ve been relatively shorter on free time the last couple of years, so I’m not doting over the plants like I had been. I’ve sort of pivoted to “maximum output relative to work input.”
Overall it felt like everything “popped” sort of late but in any event we still got a decent yield by year end. The “pounds” amounts below are for the full box or boxes
Marketmore Cucumbers – 1 box, 4 plants, 21.1 pounds. This is lower than some years, though the fruits themselves kept good shape and taste all season. The quality was better but it felt like the plants were shorter than usual.
Black Beauty Eggplant – 1 box, 2 plants, 1.4 pounds. The first year we’ve grown eggplant of any type. My feeling is that the eggplant box could have been in a sunnier spot though at the height of summer it may have gotten to hot on the patio for the plants to be happy. They set fruit really late, so the fact that we got any at all was a pleasant surprise. If we do eggplant again we’ll move them to a different location on the patio and *possibly* try hand pollinating to help things along. Additionally: I think the plants themselves were mislabeled and they were actually Chinese or Zebra eggplants – they were relatively spherical and had stripes.
Carmen Peppers – 1 box, 6 plants, 8.8 pounds. This is right in line with the 1.5 pounds per plant we’ve seen from Carmen Peppers historically. They ripened well overall and we lost very few to critters. Our favorite peppers to grow come though again.
King of The North Peppers – 1 box, 6 plants, 3.8 pounts. These kind of got out-competed by the Carmens. They were adjacent to the Carmens but the Carmens flopped on top of them to some degree. Not a great yield but again we lost very few to critters — 3.8 pounds is “fine”.
Black Krim Tomato – 1 box, 2 plants, 12.5 pounds. This represents a below average yield for this variety. On the bright side almost all of the tomato plants either ripened on the vine or ripened after harvest. We grow these every year for the terrific earthy flavor and this year lived up to expectations.
Green Zebra and Tigerella Tomatoes – 1 box, 2 plants, 11.5 pounds. Planting to tomatoes that look that much the same next to each other wasn’t the best idea. The Green Zebra was the weaker of the two plants, so I’d guess the total yield is more Tigerallas.
Oregon Spring Tomato – 1 box, 2 plants, 20.2 pounds This represents a below average yield for what is always a top performer. They still ripened first, though I think we lost a few pounds to critters taking a chunk out of semi-mature fruit.
Roma Tomato – 2 boxes, 4 plants, 26.8 pounds. Below average yield again, but literally everything ripened. We ripened all of the unripe and semi-ripe tomatoes on cooling racks on the floor of the kitchen near a heater vent. I think the air flow and warmth helped ensure ripening rather than rotting. We grew plants from two different farms and they seemed to produce equally well.
Tromboncino Zucchini – 1 box, 2 plants, 4.3 pounds. Another downer year for a plant that is relatively more labor intensive than some other possible choices. It may be that we need to hand pollinate these for a better yield, or put them in a location where they get more sun.
We also got more basil than we could possibly use from the EarthBoxes, as well as a good amount of beans and scallions. The raised beds provided a nice amount of asparagus, rosemary, thyme, chives, and garlic chives.
Overall that’s 73 pounds of tomatoes and the freezer is full of tomato sauce. We enjoyed fresh cucumbers and tomatoes over the summer. If we’re going to spend “extra” time in the yard then producing our own food feels like a rewarding time-sink.
About a month ago it was pretty much the end of basil season here North of Seattle. Any additional growth would be a “bonus”. This year I didn’t wait around until basil turned purple — I proactively cut best looking 3-6″ everywhere on the plants and hung them on the sweater drying rack:
There are also oregano sprigs laying across the top of the bars on the left-hand side. The stuff that was too small to hang on its own wound up on a window screen that we laid flat between two chairs.
The weather has been cooperative North of Seattle so far this year. No overcast and rainy May. No smoke filled skies from wildfires. We’ll start seeing Harvests Of Things in the next 10-14 days, which is right on pace with when it’s been nice outside for most of the summer.
An overview pic from the “front”. The camera is pointed mostly East, slightly North:
That’s tomatoes on the left, peppers in the center, and basil on the right. On the back left are the Tromboncino zucchini, on the right are cucumbers, and behind the cucumbers are pole beans.
The first cucumbers are nearly ready:
We had a day in the 100’s recently. The basil absolutely loves that, though I’m guessing concrete and the garden area must have been over 110 degrees:
Last year we made a big bag of “Italian Seasoning” with oregano from our raised beds and the basil. I see another big bag or two in our future.