Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Vegetable garden recap

Maria posted a comment to my entry yesterday expressing surprise that I planted vegetables in November. I thought I'd follow up on that. I'm hoping the vegetables grow! I think they will because the winters here aren't that cold and we never have a hard freeze. According to my garden books, our frost "season" is January. That's it. January. However, last year we did get pretty cold. According to our outdoor thermometer we got down to 22 degrees F one or two nights. Usually we only have a few nights where the temperature gets below freezing and I think we had more below-freezing nights than usual last year. The jade plants got nipped and our Bougainvillea froze and died. Or so we thought. It sure looked dead but we left the stumps just in case and planted Wisteria, which is a bit hardier. Now we have both Wisteria and Bougainvillea growing on our pergola. So you never know.

This is the first time I've tried to grow winter vegetables but they should be ok. The temperature hit 80 degrees on Sunday and it's been in the mid 70's this week. Not very fall-like. Usually at this time of year we should be getting rain and it should be cooler, maybe in the 60's. The main reason I've not grown winter crops before is because we hadn't done much vegetable gardening in the summer either. This year we decided that the weedy half of the backyard was never going to be a grassy yard and instead we cleared it, leveled it, and put in four 4x4 foot raised beds. We also put in irrigation to each bed because it doesn't rain here from May until October, the prime growing season.

The garden was a success overall. Some things didn't work too well but others did and we had lots of veggies all summer. One of the most prolific producers were the tomatoes. My husband put up 9 quarts of tomato sauce. Yes, my husband. He participated in my jam making enough to know how to do it and while I was traveling for work he got busy in the kitchen. The picture below is from the summer but the heirloom tomato plants are still producing and I made two batches of tomato sauce last week and had tomatoes for chili.

More tomatoes!

The yellow crook neck squash and zucchini kept us in squash for many weeks. Too much, in fact. Next year I don't think we should plant quite so many. Although we found we did have to share the squash with the squirrels (or rats, although I hope not) so having more than we could eat was not a bad thing. We also had lots of pumpkins. They started ripening in August and at that rate I feared not having any for Halloween. But I did and there are still two out on the vine. We also have pumpkin soup in the freezer.

The cucumbers grew successfully and we enjoyed many cucumber-tomato salads this summer. Some of the last harvested cukes are soaking in brine right now...our first attempt at making pickles.

We had both bush and pole bean plants but the bush beans did better, mostly because they were started from nursery plants and given sufficient space to grow. The pole beans were started from seed, planted in a little area next to the cucumbers, and I have to admit that I neglected them. Bad gardener! I harvested the beans too late and will save the seeds for next year.

We had six corn plants that produced a few ears of corn. The first ears were good but the latter ones were misshapen and not so great. We'll try corn again next year but probably in a better location.

The jalapeƱo, serrano, and green pepper plants did pretty well. We harvested a number of jalapeƱos and lots and lots of serranos (which are super mega hot once they turn red!). The green pepper plants ended up being crowded out by the large heirloom tomato plant but we did manage to harvest some of those as well.

I tried growing six cantaloupe plants and was semi-successful. I think we harvested the first cantaloupe too soon but it was still delicious. After the first one we only managed to harvest one more and it was smaller. The remaining cantaloupes were also very small and unfortunately not really edible.

Cantaloupe from our garden

The strawberry is also from our garden. Those and the blueberries and raspberries were wonderful treats to enjoy all summer.


We also grew lettuce and had a successful first crop but then it got too hot and our attempts at subsequent crops never really took. I'm looking forward to more lettuce with cooler weather.

The onions did well. There are still onions growing and they should continue to do well into the winter. We really should grow some garlic. Gilroy, a huge producer of garlic and home of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, is just to our south. Some mornings it smells like the whole neighborhood is cooking breakfast!

One crop that didn't do well was watermelon. My husband was really hopeful for the watermelon and one small one finally started to grow, but it wasn't very edible. The beets didn't do well either, nor did the radishes, I think because of where we planted them. The eggplant is holding on and seems to be doing better. We harvested a little broccoli but no cabbage. These should do better with cooler temperatures. The carrots didn't take but they were planted in a pot and I think we had more sand in it than dirt. Live and learn.

We did learn a lot from our attempts this summer and hope to improve next year. This last year really was a trial garden. We attempted to grow a lot of things, partly because we wanted to be able to harvest a lot, but also just to see how things did.


  1. Thanks Lori, I loved reading that explanation and story!
    Gardening is just so satisfying, havesting like you did (and still do).
    Tell us more when you see how the plants are doing!

  2. I'm so jealous. I want all that produce (but without having to do any actual work myself). Those tomatoes, mmmm. And wheee having fun with the chili peppers. yummy.