Published December 28, 2015: Updated 1/25/2016

Grow what you like and eat what you grow

Armagarden 2015: Second year Successes and Failures in our Mittleider Garden

This years garden was double the size and quadruple the success of last years garden.

Arial view of our garden on 8/8/2015

Through additional tilling I finally eradicated the original lawn that was growing in-between the rows and thanks to E&O, (weeding early and often) it was easy to keep weeds under control. I spent about 20 minutes a week keeping the entire backyard weed free and another 20 minutes feeding the plants each week. 

We started out the season with tons of lettuce, Boston Bibb, Romaine, red lettuce, kale and mustard greens, (later harvested yellow mustard seeds). Peas and radishes also came on in abundance.
Carrots came on slowly but mid-season were doing great. Beets, summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers came on in abundance. Throughout the spring and summer, we prepared hundreds of dishes made almost entirely from our garden.

By mid-July, corn on the cob started coming on and because of the staggered planting, we ate fresh corn throughout the summer and late into September.

Thanks to a rolly polly invasion the strawberries almost died off in June. After that was over the berries rebounded and produced 1-2 cups of strawberries every single day from June through September. Raspberries produced briefly but were still getting established in their new home in the garden. Blackberry plants did amazing and produced gallons of berries.

Frozen berries lasted us until late November. We went through them way too quickly m
aking yummy smoothies daily. Next year I hope to grow 4x as many.
Blueberries were planted but have yet to bear fruit. The condensate watering system was also put in place. 

The 9 Artichoke plants did awesome. From June through August we enjoyed over 5 dozen individual artichokes. We devoured them in home made artichoke dip or eaten steamed as if they were lobster.

Celery and Okra came on and we sliced and froze gallon bags of each. Black, white and pinto beans also did well. They all made some awesome homegrown homemade meals.

Homegrown beans, okra and onions (with rice -- not homegrown) stuffed into homegrown peppers.

We grew 4 varieties of potatoes, (purple, red, Yukon and Russet). We got hit with a bad potato bug invasion but survived.

It was a lot of work pulling off the larvae and destroying the eggs. 

We harvested about 60 pounds of small, medium and large potatoes all from a single 30’ row. Not bad for my first time growing them. 

Some potatoes grew larger than others. ;)

Red, Yukon Gold and Russet potatoes (not shown purple potatoes). 

I also tried bottling potatoes in a pressure cooker for the first time. It's so nice being able to have dozens of quarts of precooked potatoes on hand. I will definitely be doing that again next year.

We planted mainly Roma tomatoes and they did amazing. They are great for juicing and make excellent tomato sauce. 

Tomatoes did amazing, especially the Roma tomatoes.

I stopped harvesting tomatoes about 3 weeks before the frost. We put up nearly 80 quarts of tomato this year. That is almost double what we produced in 2014. 

Nearly 200 quarts of fruit, jelly, beets, beans, tomato sauce/juice, hot peppers, potatoes and pumpkin. 

Onions did OK. They didn’t get any larger than about 2.5” in diameter but we harvested almost 100 onions. However, I didn't dry them out property and we only ate about 1/2 of them before the rest had to go into the compost. 
The beets did great. We cooked and ate dozens of them fresh and made up about 18 quarts of spiced beets from the rest. This was all from a 10' row. 

Many a Sunday, we had super delicious root-roast, all from our garden, (potatoes, onions and carrots), cooked in a sun-oven no less. 
By late August and for the first time ever, we ate ultra sweet cantaloupe and honey dew fresh from our garden. 

Single serving sized cantaloupes and sugar baby water melons. 

Watermelons initially failed after the rains killed the vines but surprisingly a few made it through. Also we enjoyed homegrown Crenshaw melons for the first time. 

Melons on the right, pumpkin, acorn and spaghetti squash on the left. 

Pie pumpkins, acorn and spaghetti squash also ripened in August.

We bottled the pumpkins and roasted about 3 quarts of pumpkin seeds.
Nothing goes with homemade spaghetti sauce quite like homegrown spaghetti squash.

The kids posing for a fun game of spaghetti squash bowling. 

Fruit Trees:
The cherry tree produced fruit for the first time, only about 50 cherries in all.
The apricot tree recovered from its 4 year sickness and for the first time ever, it also produced fruit. Only 2 apricots.
The apples still got some worms even with spraying twice in the season. Gala apples produced 4 quarts of apple sauce and about 3 dozen near-perfect, worm free apples worthy of eating fresh.

We also planted 4 more fruit trees, (Fuji apple, Bartlett, Asian pear and a Plum tree).
Nectarine produced about 40 quarts of fruit, peaches an estimated 50 quarts.

The grapes were on track to having the best yield ever. Then in one day the birds devoured them all. Dang. I don't know what to say about that except I will try again next year. 
Experimental crops:
Sugar Beets (10' row) 
Sugar beets made some really sweet syrup that was pretty OK.

Later I processed about 5' of the sugar beet row. That time it made a much sweeter, tastier product. It made 1 quart of really sweet syrup.

Based on this yield, a 30' row would produce 6 quarts of syrup. 
It's a huge time and labor commitment but it's really cool that you can actually grow your own sweet syrup.

Sunflowers (Two 30' rows)
The two 30' rows of Sunflowers produced about 40 lbs of seeds.
Here's a video showing a quick way to remove the seeds from the flower head.

Here is a video showing how to cold-press your own sunflower oil from whole, homegrown sunflower seeds. 
It's quite labor intensive to cold press your own oil but still, way cool. Eventually I'm going to make this process more automated. 

Wheat (Two 30' rows)
Wheat was a flop.  I got it into the ground way too late and it never grew very tall or formed heads. Our cat loved lying in it and eating the tender young grass. I definitely want to try this again next year.
I replanted one of the rows with a late season crop of corn. 

Decorative Gourds (10' row)
The large gourd plant tried to take over the garden. It produced one very large bottle gourd with about $100 worth of the seeds inside.

That was fun. I'll have to try that one again next year. 

While I am glad to be done with the growing season, I look forward to next spring when I can improve on what I have learned and grow more fun stuff.