Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Garden Yield

This year involved much more travel, some as much as 2 or 3 weeks at a time, which made planning when to plant trickier. Fortunately, it was also the wettest year on record, so most everything managed without me. The eggplants succumbed to flea beetle (they're going under row covers this year) and I discovered that planting peas in early March is way too late for this region (I'll be planting early January instead).

Here's this years yields:


This winter has been so mild, the oregano, chives, rosemary, sage, spearmint, chocolate mint, lemon balm, thyme, and lemon thyme are still thriving, as well as the dill and parsley which go under cover on the rare nights we get frost. The aerogarden is overflowing with chervil, tarragon, basil, dill, summer savory, and  mitsuba. Throughout the year, the following also made appearances:
  • chamomile
  • lavender
  • coriander
  • marjoram
  • anise
  • cumin
  • caraway
  • sesame
  • black cumin
  • fenugreek

These are all cut and come again so I don't track yields. However, a few plants of each keeps me in fresh greens every day I'm not travelling. Swiss chard is the best value. I planted 3 in March and I'm still eating these while I wait for the winter lettuce. The cold frame went in late this year (early December) due to the quirks of my fall travel schedule. This year's greens included:
  • 6 radiccio (so pretty but need to be eaten before April)
  • 3 swiss chard (still going strong after 9 months)
  • 10 bok choy (so easy to grow but hard to plan planting as most travel is in spring/fall)
  • 4 napa cabbage (for kimchi)
  • 2 patches mesclun (lasted slightly later than radiccio)
  • 4 kale
  • 2 mustard
  • 3 cettuce (doesn't taste like celery, as advertised, but still tasty and crunchy)
  • 1 shingiku (very tasty but picky about temperature)
  • 6 fennel
Root crops

I love root crops, both tops (greens) and bottoms. Yields were small this year due to spring/fall travel.
  • 2 rutabaga
  • 13 daikon radish
  • 8 watermelon radish
  • 5 carrots (still amending our clay soil--radish don't mind but carrots do)
  • 13 kohlrabi (with 3 more I'll eat before year's end)
  • 6 pink beauty radish (our favorite, we had these for Easter)
  • 21 sparkler radish
  • 5 zlata radish
  • 2 red turnip
  • 12 detroit red beets
  • 10 chiogga beets (I won't grow these again as too sweet and greens were bland)
  • 4.6lb yukon gold potato (from 1.5 potatoes cut into 3 pieces!)
  • 28.6lb sweet potato (from 16 slips)

Besides the chives which are basically year-round, we have quick onions as well as keepers for daily picking from spring to mid-summer. Though, I have yet to grow enough keepers to actually keep instead of using for fresh eating.
  • 7 leeks
  • 7 red beard (Japanese spring onion)
  • 2 scallions
  • 3 shallots
  • 8 martina (nice big white onion)
  • 5 red creole (big firm red onion)
  • 44 walla walla

These did well this year due to the torrential rains and the late arrival of the squash bugs. I was pleasantly surprised as I had to quickly transplant them before leaving for 4 weeks of unanticipated travel and basically wish them good luck. This year I trialed 1 or 2 plants of new-to-me varieties. Some I will definitely grow again while others were bleh. The squirrels ate their fair share this year (including the last of the melons while I was in Germany, grrr) so yields were actually higher than the ones we ate ourselves:
  •  220 lemon cuke from 2 plants (will definitely grow these again every year, beautiful, single-serving sized, burpless, and thin skinned)
  • 15 lemon squash from 1 plant (will definitely grow much, much more of these every year as stunningly gorgeous, firm (not watery), and tasty, best summer squash I've ever tasted)
  • 3 rondo squash (pretty but just OK for flavor, squash bugs discovered these first)
  • 1 cucamelon (I tried to like these as they are cute and very prolific, but the flavor just didn't do it for me)
  • 9 melon of 3 varieties (by the time I returned from travel, these were an intertangled jungle so I never did figure out which melon was which, they were all tasty though so I'll try again next year and hopefully be around to trellis them and keep the squirrels away)
  • 37 luffa from 2 plants (these were the pleasant surprise, hundreds of yellow hibiscus-like flowers daily from early May to early November and a life-time supply of luffa, considering the average length was 2')

After the disappointment of the peas (which didn't become big enough to yield until it was way too hot for them to be happy) I discovered the joys of fresh broad beans (fava/lima). Anyone who thinks they don't like lima beans has never had them fresh. And like cowpeas, they thrive in this part of the country. Next year I am growing many, many more. I also trialed a bunch of legumes this year, but many just can't take the heat.
  • 1/4 cup fresh peas (from 18 plants)
  • 4 cup dried razorback cowpea (3 plants)
  • 1/3 cup dried arikara bean (1 plant, the other wilted)
  • 1/2 cup dried henderson lima (1 plant, better dried than fresh)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dragon tongue bean (couldn't take the heat)
  • 1/2 cup dried hutterite bean (2 plants, will grow more as good soup bean)
  • 5c fresh speckled lima (best eaten fresh, will grow many more, 1 plant averaged 1/2 cup beans every second day)

I only planted a few peppers this year as I still had lots of paprika, pickled peppers, and frozen peppers from the previous year. Next year I'm growing many more jalapeno as I discovered a recipe for an addictive jalapeno relish. The minibells were cute as they were appetizer-sized and most of the fresh bells ended up on the daily grill with that day's onion.
  • 61 jalapeno (2 plants)
  • 36 minibell (2 plants)
  • 50 bell (2 plants) 

The star this year (as the overflowing freezer attests to) was the Roma. This was my first determinate and I feared they would all ripen on the same day while I was travelling. Instead, I picked daily from mid-July to mid-November and was using the tomato mill to process them every second day. 4 plants were enough to keep me in daily tomato soup or marinara until next July. As usual, the cherry-size (blush) were prolific. The German pink (a beautiful beef steak) seems less so, but these averaged 2lbs each. The tie dye are worth growing just for their looks and the Carmello (a favorite fresh eater from last year) didn't disappoint. The striped cavern are shaped like a bell pepper, so good stuffers, though as the season progresses the cavern becomes more dense. I probably won't grow the Sioux or Ninevah again. There wasn't anything wrong with them, they just paled in comparison to the other must-haves and I have new varieties to try next year.
  • 688 Roma (4 plants)
  • 467 Thai Pink (2 plants)
  • 184 Carmello (2 plants)
  • 38 Sioux (1 plant)
  • 536 blush (2 plants)
  • 38 Ninevah (1 plant)
  • 27 German Pink (2 plants)
  • 198 Striped Cavern (2 plants)
  • 33 Tie Dye (2 plants)
Fruit Trees

Both the  pear and the persimmon tree enjoyed the amount of rain this year and produced prolifically. Unfortunately, so did the neighborhood squirrels. We had one scrawny squirrel in previous years. This year we had at least 6 well-fed, energetic ones who really enjoyed (every single) pear, most of the persimmons, and lord knows how many melons. I did manage to pick 8 persimmons for this year's mincemeat and left the rest for the wildlife.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 Garden Yield

This year I expanded the garden a bit to about 400 square feet and learned the difference between cold and hot season vegetables. I experimented with gardening year round, using plastic hoop tunnels over the cold season crops once the temperatures dip below zero. Next year's yields will be much higher for the winter crops as I seem to now have the hang of it. If next spring cooperates, I should also be able to get round 1 of the summer crops harvested by end of June and round 2 of the summer crops before first frost, skipping the month of July which tends to cook everything except for the most hardy, drought-tolerant vegetables.

Here's this year's yields with my notes:


My kitchen counter is now home to the world's largest spice collection. If you haven't grown anything before or have a brown thumb, give spices a try. No yields for this list as I  pick fresh as needed, collect seeds as the flowers dry, and dry any remaining leaves in the dehydrator before first frost hits. Some of the perennials were in their second year. I dug up last year's oregano (I didn't like its taste) and replaced it with a tastier oregano. I also don't like the taste of 2nd year parsley so plant it fresh each year. I usually have 1 plant of each of the following tucked in throughout the garden as they attract pollinators and replant those that bolt as needed.
  • anise
  • basil
  • black cumin
  • caraway
  • chives (2nd year)
  • cilantro
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • dill
  • fenugreek (didn't like the rain but will try again as it's so tasty)
  • lemongrass (last harvest was 4.5lb)
  • lemon thyme (2nd year)
  • lime basil
  • marjoram
  • black mustard seed
  • parsley
  • pinapple sage
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • safflower (sports from bird feeder)
  • sage
  • sesame (beautiful plant, much more next year)
  • 1 giant sunflower
  • 4 mini sunflowers from Tokyo
  • tarragon
Sport is a term I picked up from a book about tomatoes and refers to plants that show up on their own.


Most of these don't show yields as I pick as needed, typically having a feed of greens every day starting in early March. I freeze the rest (shown in cups) before the plant bolts in the heat:
  • 7 bok choy (planting much more next year)
  • 12 c collards
  • 8 c kale
  • 8 c mustard greens
  • 1 radiccio (beautiful but bolts early, planting earlier next year)
  • 8 c rapini
  • 16 c swiss chard (1 plant could easily feed a family daily from before last frost to after first frost)
Root crops:

I tend to stick in a few root crop seeds whenever there's a bare spot in the garden. The soil is still too clay-ey for carrots and daikon, but that will improve as the soil continues to be amended. Except for the potatoes, I also eat the tops of root crops before and when I pick the root. I had heard that onions and garlic are fussy and was surprised at how easily they grew.
  • 13 beets with greens
  • 7 carrots
  • 1 daikon with greens/flowers (beautiful flowers)
  • 6 garlic (easy to grow, more next year)
  • 38 onions (easy to grow, more next year)
  • potatoes (50lb from 2.5lb seed, grown on top of the soil then covered in deep mulch)
  • 9 red turnips with greens
  • 19 white turnips with greens
  • 3 red radish
  • 5 watermelon radish (very good, much more next year)
General vegetable:

Anyone who tells you that 1 zucchini plant will feed the neighborhood has never gardened in the Mid South. If you miss scouring your plants for one day, the stink or squash bugs will take over and eat all of your curcibits--they can literally kill every plant within a day or so. This year I bought a bug gun (with quick reload action) and prowl the garden with it several times a day.  I also learned the difference between a lady bug (which I knew was good) and a harlequin bug (which can devour an entire cole crop in a day, in my case, the kohlrabi).
  • 24 butternut squash (49.4lb before the bugs came)
  • 27 cucumber (before the bugs came)
  • 10 kohlrabi
  • 3 leeks (easy to grow, will plant much more next year)
  • 7 radish tail (huge plant, could have picked 100s more)
  • 4 zucchini (bugs got these quick)
Cherry Tomatoes

This year I experimented with tomatoes, planting 4 variety of cherry tomatoes and  7 variety of indeterminate large tomatoes. If you have a brown thumb, plant a black cherry tomato, as you can see from the following yields:
  • 1071 black cherry (2 plants)
  • 84 red pear (1 plant)
  • 451 thai pink (2 plants plus 1 sport)
  • 139 yellow pear (1 plant)
  • 713 yellow cherry (from 1 sport!)
Some bird planted a yellow cherry for me this year, which was very prolific. Thai pink is my favorite small tomato as it is tart and not too juicy. Good for eating as-is or in sauce.


5 arkansas traveller (1 tomato)
16 brandywine (1 plant, too bland for my taste)
42 carmello (1 plant, growing these again as tasty)
38 caro rich (1 plant)
11 german green (1 plant, too mushy)
15 green zebra (1 plant, pretty and nicely tart)
67 ozark pink (1 plant)
8 yellow tomato (1 sport)

Of the  larger eating tomatoes, carmello was my favorite, followed by green zebra and ozark pink. Next year I will try some determinate tomatoes for sauce and paste as well as a variety of eggplant.


This was my first year growing paprika and I was impressed. Beautiful looking pepper and very prolific--I dehydrated and ground nearly 2 pounds of paprika for the spice counter. I enjoyed cubanelle last year so repeated it this year. We had a wet July which killed all of the sweet peppers before they even flowered and killed the jalepeno after it managed to make a few fruit.
  • 94 cubanelle (2 plants)
  • 392 ember (1 plant, pretty and prolific)
  • 3 jalepeno (1 plant, didn't like this year's rain)
  • 232 paprika (2 plants, very prolific)

I didn't count the yield on beans as I also plant these all season long whenever I see a bare spot. I don't like fresh beans so I pick them as dried and have enough to use in chilis and soups all year.
  • black eyed peas
  • black turtle beans
  • cranberry beans
  • kidney beans

I was lucky enough to inherit 2 fruit trees with the house. The trick is to be home during picking season which usually coincides with fall conference season. The pears were happy this year due to more rain than usual. I missed most of the persimmon crop as the first hard frost hit while I was traveling.
  • 56 asian pears
  • 43 persimmons
What's Under the Hoop

Currently I have these winter crops under 2 hoop tunnels and they are doing well: 
  • 5 daikon radish
  • 5 rutabaga
  • 4 leek
  • 4 kohlrabi
  • 3 carrot
  • 4 fennel
  • 6 chinese cabbage (almost ready to pick)
  • 3 bok choy
I'm getting another hoop tunnel for Christmas and plan to plant some seeds on Christmas day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Intarsia Pillow

For the front, I used the pattern from here. My colours are slightly different as I was using up bits of spare yarn. I did the back in the main colour (royal blue), using this pattern:

CO 104
Row 1: K2, (P5, K5)10 times, P2
Row 2: K3, (P5, K5) 10 times, P1
Row 3: (P5, K5) 10 times, P4
Row 4: (K5, P5) 10 times, K4
Row 5: P3, (K5, P5) 10 times, K1
Row 6: K1, (P5, K5) 10 times, P3
Row 7: K4, (P5, K5) 10 times
Row 8: P4 (K5, P5) 10 times
Row 9: P1, (K5, P5) 10 times, K3
Row 10: P2, (K5, P5) 10 times, K2

Repeat until back is same size as front. Use kitchener's stitch on three side seams. Insert an 18"x18" pillow form and use kitchener's stitch to close last side. Here are some pics:

Figure 1: Pillow Front

Figure 2: Pillow Back

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Modding a Knitted Crab

Recently I found some time to knit the crab from Amigurumi Knits. It actually knit up pretty quick, only taking 2 evenings and part of an afternoon.

Since the recipient was old enough to know that cooked crabs are red (and obviously didn't want to display a cooked crab...) we settled on teal for the body. We also wanted a more realistic shell colour and found a shiny yarn that variegated between ivory and sandy brown. The under colour was a fluffy yarn in a mostly ivory, somewhat sandy, colour to give the appearance of hairy bristles.

The pattern needed some modification as the recipient had no intention of receiving a 6 legged decapod with no body (as suggested in the original pattern). The extra 4 legs were easy: wrap the body colour around appropriately shaped pipe cleaners.

I knit up the body as follows:

In main body colour (called BC1 in the book), cast on 27 in the round. Knit 9 rows in stocking stitch. Unless specified otherwise, knit the following rows in BC1:

row 10: (K7, K2tog) 3x
row 11: K in under body colour (called BC2 in book)
row 12: (K6, K2tog) 3x
row 16: (K5, K2tog) 3x
row 17: K in BC2
row 18: (K4, K2tog) 3x
row 21: K2tog, K4, K2tog, K2tog, K3, K2tog (divide on 2 needles)
row 22: K in BC2
row 24: K2tog, K2, K2tog, K2tog, K3
row 25: KFB 8x
row 28: (KFB, K6, KFB) 2x
row 30: cast off

Use kitchener stitch to stitch up body, stuffing as you go. Sew 3 vertical rows in BC2 to make slits in tail.

Here are some actions shots of the end result.

Figure 1: Crab inside shell

Figure 2: Crab outside shell

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hot Pad

It's been some time since I've been able to knit, but the book is winding down and I now have a few hours for small projects. Last evening's was a hot pad for the kitchen. I used a dark blue acrylic worsted mixed with the white/gold crochet cotton to add a bit of stiffness and sparkle. The pattern is very simple and results in a thick knit. It took less then a skein and about 6 hours to complete.

Cast on an even number of stitches (I used 50 which resulted in 7.5" across).

Row 1: knit 1, slip as if to purl, knit 1, slip as if to purl (repeat across)

Simply repeat row 1 until the pad is square and cast off. Add a single crochet edging in a contrasting colour (I used some leftover yellow from a needlepoint project). If desired, finish the edging with a 2" single crochet loop to act as the hanger.

If you don't think the pad is thick enough or you want to use it as a pot holder, knit 2 squares and use the crochet edging to sew them together.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Old-Fashioned Shell Tidy

I have no idea what a "tidy" is, but I like this knit shell pattern. My version is using Coats and Clark Knit-Cro-Sheen Metallic crochet thread (gold) and Bernat Baby yarn (antique white) on size 5.5 mm needles. Because of the large needle size, I'm using 50 stitches (23*2 + 4).

We'll see what it turns into (probably a table runner). It is starting to look rather doily-ish.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Scarf #2

With the first scarf finished, I began to experiment with knitting with beads. I liked the pattern it evolved into so much, I turned it into a woman's fancy scarf.

The materials used are one skein of Bernat Satin colour 04010 (called camel but more of a light gold to me) and a big bag of 6 mm clear faceted beads (which look like little diamonds). Each row uses 9 beads.

The pattern is super simple as it only uses the knit stitch and does not require any fancy counting, but the result looks stunning. The pattern goes like:

Cast on 21 stitches.

Knit 2 rows.

Knit 2, slide a bead up, knit 2, slide a bead, and so on to end of row.

Knit next row (which is front side of work as you can see the beads).

Knit 3, slide a bead up, knit 2, slide a bead, knit 2, and so on to end of row.

Knit next row (front).

Continue, with the alternating back rows starting with knit 2 or knit 3, til desired length. Alternating the back row gives a nice diamond pattern on the front. The scarf may seem a bit heavy at first, but the weight distributes as the scarf gets longer. I will probably do a fancy beaded fringe on the ends--more on that when I get there.

Now, what do I mean by slide the bead? Before casting on, string a lot of beads onto the yarn. How much is a lot? As many as you can stand scooting back as the yarn gets used as you knit. The more the better as you'll have to cut and splice your yarn when you run out of beads so you can string some more. As you knit, when it is time to slide the bead, slide it right up to the end of the used yarn (right up to the last knitted stitch). That way it will be placed between the last knitted stitch and the next knitted stitch. Since you are knitting (i.e. not purling), make sure the slid bead lies behind the needles.