Tipping The Scales – 2021 Version

Well, I am a little late on this post as other projects have taken over my time, resulting in less posts on here. Our 2021 growing season was awesome, with our new garden beds proving to be the perfect home to our vegetable plants. For the first time this year, we also did some companion planting because we finally had the space to be a little more picky about what when where. If I were to wager a guess, I would say a good portion of our success was from the companion planting, however we will have to see what the next few years bring to confirm that.

Let’s jump right in.

I had to double up on my infographic this year because we had so much more variety in the yard this year, which is a great issue to have.

From the top, our strawberries came in lower this year. I am not sure if it is because we replaced a lot of our plants this year and they haven’t had a chance to establish themselves, or if it is because the tower they are in is on it’s last leg and should have been replaced, or possibly the heat wave stalled some production. Whatever it was, it is too bad, but I made so much strawberry jam last year, that we are still good for this winter. I even managed to freeze a couple bags to add to desserts through the winter months.

Our herbs overall did a lot better, but breaking it out by area shows some weaknesses. The basil plants that we companion planted with our tomatoes did better than any basil in our yard ever has. This is the only way we will be growing basil in the future. They grew HUGE and were so full of flavour. Our pot of herbs that is by our patio set, also did well overall. The two planters by the air conditioner however did not do well. I managed some tarragon and rosemary harvests from there, but everything else did not do well. I think we will go back to flowers in there next year. Though part of the problem was likely that we were hand watering as our irrigation needs to be replaced for those boxes, and we had a heatwave. Perhaps they would do better next year. I still think we will focus flowers in there for more colour. My little herb planter that I built a few years ago did amazing. I had some thyme that came back this year, and added another variety in with it. With the mild winter weather (no snow), they are still doing well enough that I can harvest stalks every now and then. I added oregano and basil and both did well. Though the basil in the planter did not do as well as the ones by the tomatoes.

Peppers! This was our year. We know the way to do it now. They don’t go out before June 1, giving them time to get nice and big with strong roots. The new spot for them provides them lots of sun for most of the day, with a bit of shade during the hottest part of the day. We picked a ridiculous amount of store quality peppers this year. The sweet peppers were large, thick-fleshed and full of flavour. The hot peppers also great like crazy, with an abundance of cayenne that I have frozen and dehydrated for winter soups, chilis and other recipes.

Our tomatoes also did fantastically well. We had the same number of plants, but the area that they are now in gets more sunshine throughout the day, which really proved to be a game-changer. We had tomatoes ready earlier in the season, and the plants were over-full with fruit (or vegetable if you would prefer) all summer. I am still finishing some off in boxes in the basement, which is awesome.

We harvested a lot more rhubarb this year, but a large part of that is that we had the plant right from the get-go this summer. I also learned how to properly harvest so that it would continue to send out new shoots all summer, resulting in tender pieces rather than woody old pieces.

We didn’t do as well with onions, but we also didn’t plant as many as we usually do. I am not sure if I ran out of time, or just got overwhelmed with everything else going on, but I only did sweet onions. Last year I had sweet and spring onions. Next year we will do some more variety.

The zucchini this year was crazy. I have loaves of zucchini bread, chopped zucchini and grated zucchini in our freezer to prove it. I had only meant to grow 1 plant, but ended up with 2. They were happily shaded by the cucumbers and kept pumping out delicious zucchinis. So much so, that when I was pulling the plant out after the first frost, with the leaves completely covered in mildew, I found two beautiful zucchinis. The frost hadn’t gotten to them nestled in by the wall, so they made it into the house and into a batch of the summer vegetable soup. Next year though, I am seriously sticking with 1 plant. You cannot give away zucchini. Everyone has them!

We didn’t come close to the carrot harvest we did last year, but we also didn’t plant nearly as many. We went a little overboard last year with a 4′ x 8′ bed of carrots. TOO MANY! This year, we had a more reasonable amount, and I still have lots in storage for the winter. Plus, the dogs are still getting carrot with most meals as part of their homemade portion of their meals. Lucky brats.

We are back to good harvests of cucumbers. We had a lot of the lemon cucumbers, and a good amount of long english. I may switch it up next year and do another variety of cucumber instead of the lemon cucumber, but we will see. They are such a great producer. They do tend to be more seedy though, which is why I am considering the switch. We prefer the long-english, so maybe another variety of that. We did straight eights a few years ago and they were a nice cucumber.

Our potato harvest was quite sad. This was our worst year for potatoes…by A LOT. I think there are a few factors in this. The first, and most important being that we really didn’t pay enough attention to them this year. The second was that we haphazardly setup the towers this year. We moved them when we took out the raised beds so that we could work on the back area and flattening it out. We plunked the three of them side by side by one of the water supplies and planted there. It may not have been so bad if the heat wave hadn’t hit. In not paying attention to them, I am not sure if they were getting enough water, or even too much since one tower grew fungus. I also didn’t top them with soil & straw as often as I have in the past. My co-worker who gave us the seed potatoes had a great harvest, so I am pretty sure it is what we did, and not the fact that we used different seed potatoes than we normally do. We will fix this for next year.

I put the apricots in our counts since we harvested so many. Technically they are our neighbours from their tree, but so much of it was hanging over our yard and squashing our cedar tree. Before pruning their tree back to save our cedar, we decided to harvest the fruit. It would have ended up all over the yard anyways when we pruned, so by picking them, we actually got to use them. The few that did fall left their pits everywhere, and the dogs are constantly chewing on them, which stresses us out since the inside has cyanide in them and can be dangerous for dogs. We think we have cleaned them all and the next thing we know one of them is chewing on a pit. We have no idea where they keep finding them. Anyway, since I processed them, we are counting them in our harvest.

Our little cherry tree finally started producing well, just in time for us to take it out of the yard. It is too bad because the cherries were delicious, but unfortunately the tree is right where we want to put our gazebo. It was the concern for us when our neighbour passed it over the fence to us in the first place. We have put off adding trees to our yard because our landscaping keeps changing as we work on the yard. Sometimes because of our preferences, but sometimes because the way the yard develops requires us to adapt our plans. We will put another cherry tree in at some point, but it will be an espaliered tree, which will also be easier to manage.

Golden beets, oh my goodness. So many delicious beets made so many different ways! My favourite was roasted and put into salads. We will do many more beets in the future. Next year I would like both red and yellow beets for a nice variety. This was definitely our most successful year with beets. I’ve had some good harvests of red beets, but this years harvest still beats those years.

Celery was a fun experiment this year. We will definitely be doing the tango celery again. The peppermint celery didn’t do that well, and didn’t have as good a flavour as the tango. I didn’t realize how much celery we use until I couldn’t go pick it anymore. Luckily I have a bunch frozen to use in soup stocks and pasta sauce this winter.

Our cabbage was a success and will definitely be included every year moving forward. Despite some caterpillar battles, we were able to produce nice healthy heads of cabbage that were processed into delicious rotkohl.

We could have had a much better year with our cauliflower, but I will take the small harvest that I managed. It was my fault that our harvest wasn’t better, but lesson learned! Now I know what not to do with coloured cauliflower in the future and what to do with white cauliflower. A big part of our blog is all the lessons we learn as we fumble and bumble our way through learning it all. This was an important one!

Growing corn was also a lot of fun, and will also be a staple in the garden. I would like to try a different kind this next summer. The one we had this last summer was delicious but a little starchy. Excellent for in soup. I would like to try one that is a little juicier rather than starchy.

The last three on the list were our bust plants. Our cilantro bolted almost immediately after planting. The brussel sprout succumbed to aphids despite constant spraying, monitoring and lady-bug activity. Our butternut squash plant only produced male flowers. I will try cilantro and squash again, but I am giving up on brussel sprouts. I would rather plant something else in that area since I am sick of losing to those pesky aphids. I worked so hard this year to keep them at bay and they still managed to take over and ruin the plants. Plus, I was also battling the green caterpillars, so it was a double whammy for the brussel sprouts this year.

That’s it, that’s all for this year. We are really pleased with what we grew, and the value to our grocery bills that all this delicious home-grown food brought. Until next year we will enjoy the harvest that we have processed for winter enjoyment.

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