Note to the future

2015 End of Season Notes

2015 was our 6th year of gardening, growing and learning at Robbins Farm Park. After the record-breaking snow of the winter, we enjoyed our largest membership to date, had our most successful seedlings and participated in several local events.

We have also begun planning for the transition of our tired snow fence and salvaged gate to a more accessible and less temporary structure. Look for more information as we coordinate with the Town's efforts to upgrade Arlington's parks.


2015 Alliums (end of season notes)

Garlic: mostly produced small heads, planted too early in 2014, new varieties planted 10/31 this year

Leeks: another excellent year!

Onions: our best year yet
From Sets: did well, yellow more productive and popular than red and white varieties
From seeds: awesome! grow same varieties next year

Scallions: broadcasting worked, a bit difficult to harvest, try creating shallow trough and distribute seed @ every ½ inch then cover and tamp bed – or – plant @ ¼ inch apart in short drills @ 1-2 inches apart

Shallots: did well in both locations

2015 Brassicas (end of season notes)

All late season seedlings stressed by hot weather after transplanting & needed more shade cloth than we had

Broccoli: early crop: yield okay but discolored again; late crop: wonderful, produced some side shoots by end of season

Brussels Sprouts: grew well, spacing good, sprouts smaller than usual, plant on shady side of bed next year, keep up with the aphids!

Cabbage: early season: green did great, red good, though inconsistent & slower. Late season: did well though some in shade of Brussels sprouts, savoy variety – perfect

Cauliflower: white heads were smaller than we would like, purple heads were tiny and many never matured – try a specialty variety with fewer days to harvest

2015 Carrot Family (end of season notes)

Bulb Fennel: grew well, tasty though not very large, find a bigger variety for next year

Carrots: nice carrots from both plantings, good varieties (try settling on just 2 orange varieties?), good schedule, should have been thinned better

Celery: good overall, about the right amount, lost one seedling early and a few more plants later, blanch earlier next year?

Parsnips: added (maybe too much) sand to the soil, another bad year for germination – even second seeding, some leaf damage (by beetles?), overrun by sweet potatoes, a few were split or stubby, try to improve for next year

2015 Flowers, Grains, Herbs, etc. (end of season notes)

Basil: awesome, again!

Borage: self-seeded plants transplanted into tomato bed failed – those not transplanted were fine

Cilantro: basically did well, not the best germination, try planting half in April & half in June

Nasturtiums: did great, needed some aphid treatment

Okra: good variety, planted all 13 seedlings & lost several, try using black plastic to warm soil before planting then remove, try planting 6 in front & 5 in back for spacing

Rhubarb: doing better in new location, producing well

Sunflowers: move next year, use Serenade

Three Sisters bed: move to another location next year
Corn: germination problems, lovely ears, not very productive, need better support
Beans: nice variety, reasonably productive
Squash: compact habit good, but produced very few, very small squashes – new variety next year

2015 Greens (end of season notes)

Arugula: awesome planted w/zucchini, plant using on a 6-week schedule, dividing the bed into 3 sections planted every 2 weeks (alternate with lettuce)

Bok Choi: 4/25 planting produced good heads in 7-8 weeks, try seeding more heavily to take some plants and only leaves from others or replant in July

Cress & Mustard: tasty varieties, produced more than enough, plant in April, June & August

Kales & Collards: did well, try to find a larger-leafed dinosaur kale, go back to old curly kale?

Lettuce: mostly perfect, varieties & schedule good, one planting developed some type of rot in the heat, start planting Nevada earlier, leave more space for planting board, last planting was a bit late

Spinach: spring crop: bad leaf miner on plants seeded in garden – not on transplants from indoors, Shelby germinated better indoors – same as Verdil outdoors. Fall crop: Verdil germinated well though many plants died off, those that survived did great

Swiss Chard: bad leaf miner early in season, broadcasting worked better than planting in rows, find a bigger variety for next year, try not picking one plant to see how big it gets, try row cover

2015 Legumes (end of season notes)

Bush Beans: grid planting okay, leaves affected by some disease (rust?), shorter harvest season

Fava Beans: best crop & best looking plants to date, yet still not very productive

Peas: all did well (both early & late), check source of Sugar Snap (better in 2014)

Pole Beans: purples did better on trellis – those at gate were diseased (rust?), Romano type smaller & less bountiful – check source for seed, greens didn’t do as well as in previous years

Soybeans: good crop over reasonable harvest window, some damage to leaves (beetles?)

2015 Nightshades (end of season notes)

Eggplant: seedlings slow to get started in garden, Italian variety (Galine) perfect, white type did well, Ping Tung Long plants stayed small – try more productive variety?

Peppers: all varieties (including many new ones) did great, stake plants earlier next year, check seed source for poblano – not quite right, try Hot Lemon & Thai Dragon in pots next year?

Tomatoes: Heirlooms / disease-resistant Hybrids ratio good, Serenade experiment worth repeating – get a new sprayer
Cherry types: Sun Gold good, Matt’s Wild Cherry too small - go back to Super Sweet 100s next year
Sauce types: Juliet good, Tiren odd – try a different variety or just grow Juliet
Standard types: Most did well, Bolseno & Ramapo best, Cherokee Purple was bad, Green Zebra was lackluster

Tomatillos: crop survived and produced lots of small fruit, seedlings savagely attacked by 3-Lined Potato Beetles – move next year & use row cover on newly-planted seedlings

2015 Root Crops (end of season notes)

Beets: uneven timing, though all eventually produced nice beets, but bad leaf miner early in the season & some diseased leaves (rust?), plant radishes afterward next year

Jerusalem Artichokes: good harvest, though hit with aphids & mildew, move next year

Potatoes: all varieties did fine, Purple Vikings rule

Radishes: early crops did fine - might be better in main beds, late crops did poorly due to lack of sun, try planting earlier or in main beds

Sweet Potatoes: black plastic technique not great, all 3 varieties produced good vines, lost 2 Georgia Jet plants – replaced with Beauregard slips, yields of 3/plant not great, try using black plastic to warm soil – then remove

Salad Turnips: early seeding in perimeter beds had lots of root damage, plant in main beds only. Late seedings should have been planted a little earlier and thinned better

Turnips: did well, needed to be thinned better

2015 Squashes (end of season notes)

Not a great year for squashes, lots of squash vine borers, kaolin clay somewhat effective, possible damage from potassium bicarb treatment, try starting in pots 2 weeks before planting

Cucumbers: slow to get started, generally poor showing for both varieties, mildew problems, several small misshapen fruits

Pumpkins: sad showing, possibly due to borers and potassium bicarb treatment, possibly due to variety

Summer Squashes: zucchini wonderful, yellow squash bombed – find disease resistant variety

Winter Squashes: slow getting started, better yet not perfect, still had mildew and vine borer problems, label varieties next year

Watermelons: poor germination, replanted

2014 Alliums (end of season notes)

Garlic: harvest & varieties good, planted slightly less & closer together in fall
Leeks: excellent variety, spacing and hilling good – start all seed @ March 7
Onions: sets were excellent, seeds better than plants, red better than yellow – start seed @ March 7, try new yellow variety?
Scallions: broadcast early in onion bed (not with tomatoes)
Shallots: did fine with sets around tomatoes

2014 Brassicas (end of season notes)

Broccoli: early crop good (though oddly colored), late crop did well (especially in Potato bed) though seedlings weakened in hot weather – spray seedlings daily in heat, transplant @ July 19th for best yield
Brussels Sprouts: start extra seedlings, spray @ first signs of aphids, plant farther apart (3 rows: 3,4,3 plants per row)
Cabbage: generally excellent – replace Red Express with Mammoth Red Rock in spring, repeat fall varieties, transplant @ July 19th for best yield
Cauliflower: best yet, grew fall crop only, orange variety smaller & prone to aphids – transplant @ July 19th for best yield

2014 Flowers, Grains, etc. (end of season notes)

Borage: self-seeded plants did well between tomatoes – grow with tomatoes
Herb Beds: generally a good season, uprooted plants survived replanting – tweak plan & crops
Nasturtium: early aphids did a lot of damage – give less space & treat aphids asap
Okra: great variety: good yield, flavor & length of season, black plastic good – top plants for branching?
Sunflowers: good crop, hit by rust or fungus (but less than last year) – remove affected leaves asap
Three Sisters bed: better plan than last year, more room for squash – add structure, plant corn in grid (9”)
Rhubarb: transplanted to sunnier location in spring, more productive than last year

2014 Greens (end of season notes)

Arugula: sad 1st planting, later plantings (including zucchini bed) better – more sun next year, grow as mesclun?
Basil: awesome on all counts, seedlings & placement perfect
Celery: overall success, worked well with Beets, blanching was helpful – focus on improving flavor & texture
Chard & Bok Choi: harvested from same plants all season – broadcast on ends of bed
Cilantro: 3 sections well-timed – give less space & replant first section for 4th planting
Kales & Collards: great again, but hit with aphids late in season – spray @ first sign of aphids
Lettuce: mostly perfect (Little Gem, Black Seeded Simpson, Red Salad Bowl, Pirat & New Red Fire good) – try a green salad bowl variety, leave space for planting board, transplant into Bush Bean bed again, seed more evenly & thin better
Mesclun: not working for us again – just say no or replace with arugula, mizuna & mustard
Mustard: great variety & amount – grow as part of a mesclun mix?
Spinach: Emu not available, varieties grown were less reliable, fewer productive plants – try to get Emu

2014 Nightshades (end of season notes)

Slow, shaky start for seedlings due to cold conditions – start seedlings in warmer place

Eggplant: slow with low yield – find early prolific varieties (Mangan, Galine), fertilize more, black plastic?
Peppers: most did well, despite vandal damage – grow greater variety of types
Tomatoes: best yield to date, good mix of types, resistant varieties did best, red plastic and CDs worked well – consider taller, better support structure next year, don’t plant sickly seedlings
Cherry types: grow Sun Gold & Super Sweet 100 again, possibly grow Green Grape again
Sauce types: probably grow Amish Paste & Verona again, grew well, but some had a hard interior
Standard types: grow Ramapo, Red October & Bolseno again (2 plants each), maybe grow Pink Beauty (sweet & productive, but crapped out early) & Druzba (productive, but one plant hit by disease)
Specialty types: Green Zebra & Red Zebra did badly, again – find a resistant variety
Tomatillos: purple and green varieties did well, slightly smaller fruit – grow just green?

2014 Root Crops (end of season notes)

Beets: did better this year, but still not big enough, some leaf minor problems, second harvest a bust
Carrots: excellent early crop (rows were farther apart), late crop didn’t have time to mature – consider replacing second planting with a faster-growing crop?
Jerusalem Artichokes: very attractive and productive – reduce space allotment
Parsnips: most did well, some uneven germination, transplanted seedlings grew but split, overwintered small plants – overseed and thin successively
Potatoes: green sprouting worked great, Purple Viking was worth the wait, Yukon Gold underperformed, lost a few red & gold plants to rot
Sweet Potatoes: received ½ order (supplier shortage), slow start due to cold, disappointing yield (both varieties) – try new vendor and/or varieties?
Salad Turnips: did well, wormier than last year – try not growing near fence in late season
Turnips: did well after garlic, less grub damage – thin more aggressively

2014 Squashes (end of season notes)

Squash Vine Borers and Mildew still problematic – frequent surgical intervention and overplanting (to compensate for plant loss from borers) and focus on productive, mildew-resistant varieties

Cucumbers: pickling type did better – try different standard type
Delicata Squash: Sugar Dumpling more productive, standard variety squashes small
Kabocha Squash: serious mildew issues, disappointing yield – try resistant variety
Melons: uneven germination, transplanted, major mildew, difficult to tell when ripe – failed experiment?
Pumpkins: unimpressive germination and yield, produced wide range of sizes
Yellow Squash: shorter season & more mildew than zucchini – try Success PM (mildew resistant)
Watermelons: uneven germination, transplanted, low yield
Zucchini: excellent variety: mildew resistant, early, productive and very hardy
Zucchino Squash: poor germination, 7 seeds = 1 plant w/1 huge squash, mildew killed plant before ripe

2014 Legumes (end of season notes)

Bush Beans: Dragon Tongue & Rocdor great – try new green variety
Fava Beans: poor yield, hit hard by aphids (spray at first sign) & rust or fungus – try different variety?
Peas: all 3 early varieties triumphed, poor germination for late variety – position snap peas in middle next spring, try Sugar Sprint in fall
Pole Beans: perfect planting time, excellent harvest – plant purples & make structure all reachable
Purple Pole Beans: excellent on archway – plant some between other types of pole beans
Soybeans: short harvest window this year – try another variety?

Mason's Line

We've liked using cotton mason's line to outline the borders of the beds in the garden, because it's nice white and visible, and it doesn't stretch. Unfortunately, after a few months in the weather, it just comes apart, and we've been spending a lot of time replacing it. I think next year we'll be using sisal binder twine or something else that will last the whole season. We can still use the mason's line for row markers, which don't have to last more than a few weeks. Garden and learn!


Pea-picking confusion

Picking peas last night, I found it difficult to distinguish the mature flat-podded snow peas from immature shell peas, because they are right next to each other and are roughly the same height - the line between them is fuzzy. The sugar snaps are reliably taller than the other two, so next year I suggest that we plant the snap peas in the middle, and simply note on the garden plan if the snow peas are on the left or right of the snaps.


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