Monday, September 28, 2009

Complete Garden Failure

I'm exaggerating a little, but not too much. It finally sunk in this weekend when I went to visit my parents in Vermont and saw their garden. Mine really bombed, and I'm not sure why. It took me this long to realize it because I'm a novice gardener and don't have experience to fall back on, I'm lazy and hardly ever picked up my gardening book to see where things should be, and I have a fabulous farmers' market a five minute walk away so didn't think too much about why my beets were only small greens and no beet underneath.

My parents' brussels sprouts are huge - at least 3 feet tall. My biggest one is 10 inches, with no sprouts. My potatoes never grew beyond an inch in diameter, I had maybe a dozen peas, a few dozen beans, small kale, no peppers, lettuce and rainbow chard that barely grew, watermelons that didn't sprout, and eggplant that is clearly not eggplant, but some sort of zucchini or summer squash.

My tomatoes did pretty well, despite my earlier worries, and the thing that did the best, the sunberries, are the one thing we all agreed were not worth doing again because they just aren't very tasty.

So why the failure? I got all of my seeds from an heirloom seed organization in the midwest and perhaps they aren't as good as they advertise. We had so much rain in June and maybe that is the one month plants need to establish themselves and do a huge percentage of growth. Maybe the sunniest spot in my yard is not sunny enough for a garden. I just don't know. I'm not giving up. Next year, I will buy seeds locally and maybe do fewer varieties. Hopefully the weather will be a bit more cooperative.

Okay, enough griping; here's a recipe. It's one that has been handed down via stories through my Dad's side of the family. My Dad and his siblings all reminisce about how their mother made it and swear it will never be replicated, despite their best efforts, but I think they've come up with something pretty delicious.

Sheldon Potato Salad

makes a large bowl, enough for 12 to 15 side servings.

3 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teas. salt
1 teas. pepper
1 large or two medium tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 green pepper, seeds removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup mayonnaise, depending on personal preference

Boil potatoes until just cooked; pour into a colander. Put back into empty cooking pot or a large bowl and add vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, stirring gently until mixed. Let cool completely in the refrigerator.

Add vegetables. Add mayonnaise, starting with 1/2 cup and mixing well. Add more mayo as needed.


maamypatom said...

did you ask your dad what he thinks the problem was? I don't think it was the seeds. The rain definitely had a hand, but I'm betting it is soil fertility, or perhaps some element that is out of balance. Did you ever test your soil? Whether you test or not, I think the most important thing you can do for next year is to amend with lots of good composted soil. I can just see you coming back from Vermont with the back of the car filled with boxes of manure!

Renée said...

I should have mentioned that! I did ask him, and he suggested the same thing: that the soil was not rich enough. I used the Square Foot Gardening formula of 1/3 peet moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 composted soil. I ended up buying 3/4 of the compost b/c we just didn't have enough from our one container. He was wondering if the packaged compost was not all it was sold as. He wants me to bring a truck up and fill the back with their lovely, aged, composted manure.

Chris said...

Ooooh we'll have lots to talk about this Saturday! Our garden was derailed for other reasons that can explain in person, but I have to say that we've had some problems with heirloom varieties unless they're from MA (and coastal MA at that) - the plants just are too climate-dependent.

Our brussels are 3 feet tall but don't seem too excited about growing actual sprouts. Doh.

We do square foot gardening too, and are going to replace all our soil this fall/winter . . .

maamypatom said...

Wonder if Blanca would let the back of her truck get filled with manure--maybe if you put tarps down first..I'm always telling Keja to locate a source of manure. Your dad and I must have gone to the same school!