"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Harvest Season Is Upon Us

All in all the garden has been good to us this year, recent harvests have yielded fairly decent amounts of food for winter storage. My little helper and I were blessed with over 400 lbs of potatoes from five rows totalling 160' in length, this is about a hundred pounds less than I had hoped for but more than enough to see us through the cold months...I just won't be sharing any with the chickens as had originally been planned. Next year we will plant more potatoes.

We track the weight of our tomatoes, potatoes, and onions to help us evaluate production, that coupled with the fact that since these crops are gathered in five gallon buckets it is just too easy not to.

Numerous different potato varieties were planted this season and all but one, Butterfinger , did well. Most of our spuds were small to medium in size...not a lot of big ones this time around. Pictured below are Russian Banana and Red Thumb. Russian Banana normally produces more potatoes per plant than any other variety we grow.

This year's potatoes were planted fairly intensively and yielded around 6-8 tubers per plant. They were planted 12" deep and I did not "hill them up" at all this summer. Because we have chosen to keep our aisle ways so very narrow, practically disappearing by mid-summer, it is difficult for me to hill up potatoes so I have found that deep planting makes up for this in our garden.

In 2012 I hope to experiment with more of a dryland farming technique with some of our potato crop that involves depending upon using only natural occurring rain water, wide spacing, and dirt/dust mulch to help with water retention. This will be done in an area separate from our main garden, we have a 3 acre field that is not cost effective to irrigate and need to start putting it to good use with something besides knapweed. For quite some time now one of my concerns has been that we are far too dependent upon irrigation and I would like to learn more about growing crops with less water and potatoes would seem to be a great dryland crop to experiment with. A fellow blogger , in a somewhat similar climate, has had great success with this type of farming and it would seem to be a much more sustainable manner in which to grow crops allowing us to shed some of our dependence on water pumped to us via electric power.

Our spring planted garlic experiment turned out all right, the cloves are a little on the small side but so is/was most everything else this year. We planted our garlic in the early spring because in previous winters too much snow cover has allowed voles unhindered access to a smorgasbord of fall planted bulbs and too little snow, coupled with lots of rain, has sometimes led to rotten garlic. I think I'll give the spring planting a try again next season and then decide which period of planting works best for us.

2011 was our best harvest ever with a couple hundred pounds of nice sized onions. We grew Stuttgarter, Yellow of Parma, Varsity, Jaune Paille Des Vertus, Utah, and a few Candy onions. I tried growing Walla Walla Sweets from starts again but they all shriveled up and died... probably due to our cold rainy spring weather. This will be the last time I will bother with that particular variety as they have rarely turned out for me.

The tomatoes did better than I had originally expected and should allow for a good amount of canned sauce which we will continue working on as they slowly finish ripening on our porch. Our 2011 tomato crop weighed in at close to 300 lbs, which is almost half of what we produced last year.

Our goal is to get an average yield of 5-10 lbs per plant, some will provide many more fruits some less. We grow a variety called De Tiganesti that provided nearly 20 lbs per plant whereas our Black Krim and Coastal Pride varieties only shared 4-5 tomatoes per plant with us...but their flavor more than made up for the lack of productivity.

We were very pleased with our peppers, especially considering the long cold spring we experienced, and have been freezing and eating them fresh since mid July. I picked the last few of them yesterday and will store them in the below bins until we use them up, if the weather remains cool they should keep just fine for a month or so.

The Grandson was more than happy to help pick apples, some of our trees are finally starting to produce decent amounts of fruit. The tree the boy is picking from is a Cortland. We are using these for storage and picked many pounds of mixed wild apples that were canned up as sauce.

These Spitzenberg apples have become one of my favorites for fresh eating. We were delighted to get around 40 lbs off this 6-7 year old tree.

Next up we will be harvesting beets, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, endive, celery, and so on.

48 comments:

Jane said...

Those apples look so good! Love the shots of all the produce laying out on the porch. Every available space gets used this time of year.

Dani said...

Mr H - don't you find that there's nothing like little helpers to make the garden work fly by :)

The info on potatoes is brilliant - thanks :) It won't be easy to hill them on the farm, but if planting deep works - what a treat. Never heard of Russian red - are they white, red or yellow fleshed?

Lynda said...

One of my favorite crops to grow are potatoes. I really appreciate this post for the growing information. I hope you continue your experiments with the spuds and keep us all updated...

Kumi said...

Mr. H., your harvest is just amazing! I just bought a few apples (probably from last year) at a store the other day and was wishing we had a tree to pick from. We have no place for a tree in our yard, so I'm very envious!
I also wish we didn't have to irrigate so much, but Oregon's dry Summer doesn't allow us that luxury.. I have thought about greywater irrigation or saving roof-runoff during the rainy months. We have six months of it after all!

GrafixMuse said...

Wonderful potato harvest. I too was inspired by Laura's success with John Jeavon's Potato Planting Method. I will be digging the crop up in the next week or so to see how they did.

Kim said...

Everything looks amazing. We found all our yields were lower this year because of the cold wet spring also. I too had Walla Walla onions shrivel and die.

Have you had a chance to use the tattler canning lids? What is your overall opinion of them?

Anne said...

Beautiful!! You do amazing things Mr. H.. always inspiring!!

We pulled the same amount of tomatoes, and that was just dumb luck for this year. That garden got watered twice.. then we saw the water bill.. yikes.

We're as well loving the apples around here. Our trees seem to have faltered at the farm, but the neighbors are more than thrilled to get rid of their bumper crop.

The crop swap really helped most of us.. I hope we keep it going.

6512 and growing said...

You are modest. I am blown away by your gorgeous harvest. You guys are for reals feeding yourself. I am wishing you many cozy winter meals of potatoes.

1st Man said...

Just discovered your blog by blog hopping from someone who visited ours (isn't that the best way to find great blogs? ha). Anyway, just love all your wealth of information. I'm jealous of your harvest! I hope we can someday get something 1/2 that good! Thanks for sharing!

Mark Willis said...

Those really are impressive harvests! Makes my little veg plot look very pathetic... :(

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

Is that your house or somebody's store you took pictures in ? :o) You have three years or more worth of harvest in one..beautiful ..I'm hoping my potato yield is better this fall than it was in the Spring :o( I find they are quite convenient canned up in the jars..Beautiful harvest.

becky3086 said...

Wonderful! Love all that you have produced with your garden this year. Very inspiring!

michelle said...

Your harvests are truly impressive, even when they are off. It seems that the entire west coast suffered through a protracted nasty spring this year. Let's hope for better conditions next year.

I can't believe how beautiful your soil looks, I've got soil envy.

Whirliegig said...

What an amazing harvest! I'm envious.

Mac said...

Amazing harvest!

Mr. H. said...

Jane - Yes indeed, when the harvest time is upon us every nook and cranny gets filled doesn't it.:)

Dani - I think th eboy likes ladders and worms more than the apples and potatoes but whatever it takes to keep him interested.:) The Russian banana is white inside and the Red thum potato is pink inside...two of my favorite varieties.

Lynda - Thanks, we are always experimenting with something, still trying to figure out what works best for us. Potatoes are one of my favorites as well.

Kumi - Yes, 6 months and it is upon us already...rain , rain, rain and then some snow. I don't know about you but I'm never ready for winter.

Grafixmuse - I look forward to hearing about your potatoes, this is the second year we deep planted with no hilling and in a garden with little space and enough water I think it is an excellent way to grow potatoes. I really must pick up that Jeavon's book one of these days.

Kim - A cold spring really slows stuff in the garden down, even with the hot weather we had later on and an extended fall things are still looking much smaller than normal. I have been in such a rush lately that I decided to wait on the tattler lids until I could really take the time to focus on what I was doing but do plan to try them with my next batch of tomato sauce.

Anne - Glad to hear you had a nice crop of tomatoes and have plenty of apples. We found an old pear tree on one of our hikes and have been picking and hauling the fruits back...they are not too bad but I need to get busy and sauce them up as some are starting to ripen.

6512 and growing - We are looking forward to winter meals, I figure that if all else fails we always seem to have plenty of potatoes and kale...what more does a person need.:)

1st Man - Thanks for stopping in for a visit, I will have to come on over and check out your blog.

Mark - I have seen your garden and vegetables through those incredible pictures you take and it is anything but pathetic. You have an amazingly diverse amount of vegetables and other interesting plants and I often find myself writing down the names of some of the things you grow (like those impressive Conference pears) so I can look them up later and see if they would compliment our own garden environment.

Ginny - Yes, our garden, porch, pantry, and root cellar is definitely like having our own grocery store and we love it. You get two potato harvests? Now I'm really jealous...

Becky - Thanks a bunch:)

Michelle - With any luck next year will be the best year ever for both of our gardens. This year's weather certainly did remind me how dramatically spring weather can effect ones garden crops. Some of my carrots and beets could use another month of sunshine and I am waiting as long as possible to harvest them.

Whirliegig and Mac - Thanks!

villager said...

Glad to hear the tomatoes came along for you, even if it wasn't as good a year as 2010. Gardening is always a crap shoot in that we never really know what to expect in the way of growth and harvest, despite our best efforts. This year our tomatoes out performed last years, but beans struggled with the heat. We'll have plenty to eat but it will be a slightly different mix of things.

The old apple varieties are sure worth growing. So many of them fell out of favor because they weren't commercially viable, which is a shame as many as so tasty and useful for the home gardener. Spitzenburg was one I always wanted to try.

Geno said...

What a wonderful looking harvest! We have been hitting the apples pretty hard this year, with two trees on our property and knowing where a lot of wild ones are. we were down your way last week to buy an apple press for real cheap, but it was just bought right before we got there! So if you here of any good deals...

Mr. H. said...

Dave - If you ever get a chance to plant a Spitzenburg I highly recomend them...what a fantastic apple. I would like to get another tree one of these days. My wife and I have been "collecting" apple trees for a number of years now and it is really neat to see some of them becoming productive.

Geno - I think I saw the same press for sale on Craigs List and we almost called on it.:) I will keep an eye out for you though and if I come across any others will let you know. Check this out.:) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj9z7NbO9mk

Dani said...

A pink potato - brilliant LOL Now, how am I going to obtain runners ...? Time to search our local heirloom suppliers and see what they have :)

Heiko said...

I'm sooooooo envious! For us low potato yield due to low rain fall, really low apple and other fruit yield due to devastating hailstorm just at the wrong time... and everything else... well we hadn't built up the topsoil lost after last year's landslides. Well, there's always next season and some fresh new hope on the horizon for new ventures and opportunities. And now we occasionally have even bigger little helpers than you

contadina said...

Glad to hear the harvest is bountiful, although like Heiko, I too am envious...what a potato paradise!!

It feels great getting everything stored before the cold sets in though doesn't it?

kitsapFG said...

Every nook and cranny filled with the harvest bounty! You did very well with both the potatoes and tomatoes given our unusually cool summer. We need to brace ourselves because all long term weather forecasts are saying we should expect a repeat of 2011 in 2012. (bummer!)

Alot of our items were also mid to smallish sized this year too, but overall we pulled in enough to keep us fed this year as supplemented with fresh harvests through the winter. Luckily most of my fall/winter crops are coming along well - the cool season crops are definitely king this year.

Buttons said...

Congratulations on a great harvest. All that hard work is paying off. I think I said this before I sure would like to spend the winter at your house. Lots of food and knowledge in every corner.
You are very lucky to have such wonderful helpers.
Cant wait to see more of your harvest. B

Mr. H. said...

Dani - They are a lovely potato, not super productive every year but still a great little potato.

Heiko - This year's potato crop was an interesting experiment. Pretty much all I did was throw them into a hole and walk away. We barely even weeded the potato rows this year, it was great.:) Fresh new hope on the horizon sounds good, may next year be your best year ever.

Contandina - It does feel good, we have a lot of veggies that still need to be put away but I am grateful that I did not have to dig potatoes in the rain this year...it always rains when I start digging potatoes.:)

Laura - Yes, I have been reading AccuWeather and other sites weather predictions and it does indeed look as though this year might be another wet and snowy one...which is fine as long as it goes away in early spring.:)

Thanks for all the great advice on how you plant potatoes, this is year two using this method and it works great.

Buttons - I have a lot of great books on quotes that you would love to read while eating a big bowl of our potato and kale soup with fresh bread.:)

Elizabeth said...

Ok, Mr. H, talk to me about growing garlic in the spring...
We had a TERRIBLE experience with voles eating everything in the garden this past summer. I really don't want to lose any of our precious garlic. So as I understand, you experimented with spring planting and got pretty good results? Can you expound? When did you plant? Did you use a dry land system?

Thanks for the info.
You are very inspiring!
Elizabeth

Mr. H. said...

Elizabeth - Our problem with voles is mostly an issue we face in the winter when there has been lots of snow cover as this provides a nice cozy blanket for them to live under and eat everything in sight.

So this spring, as soon as the ground thawed, I planted our garlic out rather than the normal fall planting. The garlic quickly established a decent root system and grew quite well. It is hard for me to judge our 2011 crop, which was a little on the small side...not too small though, as everything was set back due to our long cold spring. Hopefully next years spring planted garlic will give us a better idea of just how large the cloves can be compared to fall planted garlic. We did not try to grow this year's garlic in a dry land situation.

During the summer our chickens are able to free range most of the area surrounding our gardens and after a few years this has worked wonders at keeping the vole population down. All the scratching and squawking seems to frighten them off. We also have a cat that is encouraged to live in the garden area during the summer. She sleeps and is fed in our greenhouse.

We still have the occasional summer vole issue but nothing like it used to be before we had chickens. Of course once winter arrives and the chickens and cat are no longer able to be out there the voles begin to return. The little stinkers ate the bark off my prized peach tree last winter killing it.:(

Elizabeth said...

So how do you prevent the garlic you intend to plant in the spring from becoming too dry during the long winter? I've got several pounds of garlic coming from Territorial this next week which I was initially planning to plant this fall. But I REALLY don't want the voles to have a garlic party under the snow all winter.

Diane@Peaceful Acres Farm said...

As usual....WOW!!! Looks like a prosperous year!

foodgardenkitchen said...

Thanks for sharing your amazing harvest! 400 pounds of potatoes seems like so much and then in the next breath, I'm reading that you expected 100 pounds more than that!

I love those orange tubs you're storing the peppers in :)

kelli said...

wow, what a harvest!

Mr. H. said...

Elizabeth - After drying/curing in a warm area away from direct sunlight for a few weeks we store our garlic in baskets that allow air to circulate. These are kept in a cold, dry, dark back room...maybe 35-45°with around 50% humidity and keep well into late spring this way. What ever you decide about planting I hope your garlic turns out really well for you and those darn voles leave it alone.

Diane - We can'r complain and were very fortunate this year. Pretty soon I will be picking all those wonderful garden huckleberries you shared with us...can't wait.

Foodgardenkitchen - It's amazing how many potatoes 2 and 1/2 people can eat in a year but we do go through them pretty quickly. My wife got those orange tubs on sale just after halloween one year...they work pretty good.:)

Kelli - Thanks, we will be harvesting carrots today and pulled our beets last night...hope it doesn't rain.

Lrong said...

Mr. H... you are on a class of your own... I need to strike off two zeros from your figures to describe my harvests... keep up the excellent job!

Mr. H. said...

Lrong - Thanks, plenty of space and lots of luck gave me those extra zeros this year.

Angela said...

What a beautiful harvest of potatoes. While we haven't harvested ours yet, I do hope next year to try again. We sheet mulched our tots, growing them above ground and right now they still seem to be growing strong.

Jason Dingley said...

Our garden is far from producing the quanities you are. But I know storage is going to one day be another big learning experience. How do you store a winters worth on potatoes and do they last?

Mr. H. said...

Angela - I hope you have an excellent potato harvest this season, sounds like they are growing well for you.

Jason - Stored in ideal conditions of between 38-40°with 90% humidity potatoes can easily keep all winter in the root cellar. Our cellar averages 35-50°with maybe 75% humidity and we will be eating potatoes well into the month of May...8 months in storage. We simply pile our potatoes on a tarp laid out on the floor and other than removing any sprouts that might develop in the early spring they are pretty much a care free storage crop.

I highly recommend the book "Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables" by Mike and Nancy Bubel as a guide on how best to store fruits and vegetables in the root cellar.

Lorena said...

Nice harvest. Thanks for the tip off on the Sepp Holzer Agro Rebel, I'm enjoying Sepp Holzer's Permaculture book now. Where did you get your fruit tree's? I'm looking to find interesting hardy fruit trees for our area. As always, thanks for the inspiration

Mr. H. said...

Lorena - It's a pretty interesting book isn't it, my only issue with it is that it wasn't long enough.

We buy many of our fruit trees from Greenacre's Nursery. In the fall their bareroot fruit trees go on sale for only $10 each and most are over 5 - 6' tall and already beginning to bare fruit. They just went on sale this week. In cherry trees alone I think they had 9 or 10 different types, same goes for apples, peach, apricot, plum, and even a few nut trees.

Mr. H. said...

Lorena - I should mention that we buy/order our berry bushes and other unusual edibles from Raintree Nursery and Horizon Herbs.

Cher said...

Can you tell me how to ripen green tomatoes off vine. And how can you tell when you should pick green tomatoes be picked to ripen off vine

Mr. H. said...

Cher - If the tomato is approximately the same size it is supposed to be when mature and is a shiny green rather than a dull whitish green color they should be ready. The warmer the temperatures the faster they will ripen up.

We keep some in the house to ripen up quickly and others in a cooler area, our porch or basement, to ripen slower so we can have fresh tomatoes well into December. They do not have as good a flavor when ripened this way but anything beats a store bought tomato right.:)

Leigh said...

I've very interested in what you're saying about being less irrigation dependent, and your plans to experiment with this and next year's potatoes. Our hot summers and too long dry spells are a concern, especially in regards to watering. Looking for ways to conserve garden water is a good thing.

Mr. H. said...

Leigh - The whole concept of dryland farming is a tough one for me to grasp, especially with our sandy soil, but I would really love to learn how to become less dependent upon water. I have a feeling that this will be a multi year trial and am even playing around with things like Hugoculture beds, like you are, to see how it effects soil fertility and water retention. We planted 18 new fruit trees this season and each of them has a pile of rotten wood dug deeply under the root system...we shall see how they do in future years....fingers crossed.:)

Wendy said...

Everything looks gorgeous!! I bet the little guy loved finding the potatoes - like hunting or collecting treasure!

Mr. H. said...

Wendy - He actually did have a great time, I thought he would be bored with it within a few minutes but treasure is treasure I guess.:)

sylvie in Rappahannock said...

The amount and diversity of your harvest is truly amazing Mike. and thanks for all the links you provide - all very informative!

I don't do much watering here and some crops suffer in some years... Have been thinking about rain catchment systems...

Mr. H. said...

Sylvie - We have been talking about a rain catchment system for our barn roof. Around here we get lots of rain in the spring with fairly dry summers so having an extra water supply like that on hand would be wonderful. So many projects so little time.:)

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