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.
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.
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.
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.
Since I now need to harvest all of my tomatoes before the cool nights cause them to split (not to mention the basil, tarragon and Vietnamese coriander), dinner pretty much every night in the Iron Chef household is going to consist of something tomatoish. A nice, quick and easy recipe is a tomato salad. It is cool and refreshing for those remaining few warm evenings and it is quick and simple if you don’t want to think about putting together something elaborate.
½ cucumber, seeds removed, cut into ¼ inch pieces
¼ cup onion, sliced thin or cut into ¼ inch pieces
¾ lb. tomatoes, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tbsp. basil, minced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp. red wine vinegar
Combine cucumbers, onion, tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar into a bowl. Toss to combine and let stand for 7 minutes on the counter. Add basil and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a crusty piece of bread to soak up the juices.
That is it, quick and easy. You can skip the sitting for 7 minutes piece and serve right away, but that will mean your onions will be stronger in flavor and you won’t get the really tasty juice to soak up. You can really add anything you want to this, but in season tomatoes bring much more flavor to the party. If you are using out of season tomatoes, use balsamic vinegar instead of red wine to account for the lack of sweetness in the tomatoes. If you tomatoes are like mine, super sweet, don’t use balsamic – it will be too sweet. The recipe feeds two easily and can be scaled as much as you want.