So it is time for a little summary of our successes and failures of last year. In a couple weeks I have planned a little "garden chat" tea with a few neighbors to share ideas and look forward to hearing their thoughts for next year.
The greatest success for us has been our winter Chicories which include Pan Di Zucchero, Lusia, Treviso, Treviso Tardivo, and Castelfranco. Our Verona, which are apparently the ones you would buy at the store as Radicchio, are tasty but still quite small. Don't know if I will plant those next year. I think I will try Palla Rossa 3 from Seeds from Italy instead. Another one I want to try to perfect is the Bianco di Bergamo. The one I got last year was good, but I only got the one and this year none of them came up. Looking at the date they were a touch older than the others I ordered so I will give it another go with new seeds this year. The two Endives did well also, but would have done better if I had sown them in a better spot. They were started behind a tomato plant and some of them died back. They were Ricccia Ruffec and Bionda a Cuore Pieno. A great lettuce has been from Seeds from Italy and they continue to reappear in the garden even after 2 seasons. It is called Gentilina. Had an older seed tape from another company that I don't order from anymore and we are currently still getting lettuce from that right now (under the hoop house). The arugula is also growing right now and is the easiest veggie to grow! They are seed that I got from Dad and actually ended up saving seeds from them last year so I don't know what variety they are or where it came from! Onions were also a success story this year. Got some transplants from a neighbor (think they were from Gurney's) and they grew great and with little effort from me. Would like to try leeks this year (inspired by the yummy looking leeks grown by Diary of a Tomato, a blog that I have been following). A semi-success were the peppers. We tried some heirlooms from seed savers, the Bull Nose and the Healthy. Funny enough the Healthy didn't turn out so be as "healthy" as the Bull Nose. Both were tasty, but bugs got most of the Healthy. I also saved some seeds from a long sweet red pepper from Trader Joe's and they actually came up and were pretty tasty and abundant (but a much odder shape). Grew some yellow Heavyweights that did ok as well. The stink bugs seemed to enjoy the peppers best, although they weren't as destructive as last year. This year was the first really great year for Tomatoes (for us anyway!). By far the best tasting and most abundant was the Italian Heirloom from Seed Savers. Other seed savers that we enjoyed were the Federle and Gold Medal. The Gold Medal we huge and very tasty, but not as abundant as the Italian Heirloom. The Brandywines didn't do as well as we would have liked but had a great taste. San Marzanos also did very well. Our basil from SSE did fantastic this year as well. Another great success was the Chioggia beet from Seeds from Italy. They faired much better as a early spring producer vs. fall though. In the fall some bugs had a field day with the greens which took a toll on the fruit. Next year I will also be sure to "hill" dirt over the root so the tops don't get tough. I will also continue to grow carrots next year. We have decent success with the Nantes di Chioggia (SFI) variety. I will also grow Tomatillos again this year. We grew the Purple variety from SSE and they did great, but the plants are huge and you have to have at least two for them to produce, so they are going outside of the main garden next year.
On to the major to slight failures of the year. My favorite summer veggies were the biggest failures. I have been having problems with my Green Beans and Zucchini. My favorite type of bush Green Bean are the fat Roma II's. They gave me a few handfuls and then stopped producing and died. Not sure what it was. The Supermarconi pole beans did better, but it was already later in the season and I really didn't give them a great start. Don't know what is happening to the GB's, some type of mosaic disease maybe? This year I will continue with the Supermarconi and try the Provider and Vanguard. Ugh...the Zucchini. Another favorite that will only give me a short period of produce before the squash vine borer gets it. I have tried all of the natural methods except the row cover, which I may try this new season. The yellow crookneck seemed to hold up the best to the little buggers, but the Black Magic variety went quickly. This year I am looking to try other varieties. Any suggestions out there? I will probably get a few plants that my dad always grows. They are an Italian light green variety but I don't know the name. I may also try some grown for their flowers from Seeds From Italy. Another failure were the eggplants. We tried Listada De Gandia and Rosa Bianca from SSE. I am willing to give the first another try next year. We had a major bug issue in the beginning that destroyed many of the leaves, but this variety recovered better than the Rosa Bianca. But last year we bought a white variety from ACE that was a great producer so we may just get some from the gardening store. Not my favorite veggie anyway. I have also been having a few hard years with the cucumbers and aphids. I tried the Parisian Pickling this year and it did not do well at all. A few years ago I did well with the Burpless so I think I will go back to that one next year (and try to keep a better look out for the pests) The last major failure was the parsley. I planted it in a pot and in the garden and I don't think I have found the proper location for them yet, they just didn't thrive. Luckily my neighbor's is on it's 3rd season and could feed an army!
This upcoming year I look forward to trying a few new veggies. The Tatsoi is an Asian green that looks fabulous (SSE). I'm also going to try the Cavolo Nero variety of Kale. Mine now is just a packet I picked up in a local store years ago and the bugs just destroy it. I'll still try it out in early spring, but I am thinking it will do better in the fall. My Swiss Chard does pretty well too. This year I tried the Five color Silverbeet from SSE, but the red variety in the mix don't seem to get as big. I look forward to adding the Fordhook Giant (SSE) or Chard Verde e Costa Bianca (SFI) for a larger variety with thicker stems. Last year I tried to grow a favorite Chicory of my mom's...Puntarella. Well, I got the wrong variety. I got Catalogna a Foglia Stetta. It was a good green, but this year I am so excited to try the variety that my mom loved. I will be trying Catalogna Brindisina and Chicory Galantina. They are grown for their stems and are peeled, thinly sliced, and soaked in water to curl. Then they are mixed with smashed anchovies and garlic, lemon and olive oil. So excited! Inspired from the book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I was thinking of trying the Marina Di Chioggia squash. I don't really have a bunch of room for these types of veggies so I will grow them outside the main garden. John has been creating boxes outside the garden for veggies we don't thing the critters or dogs will bother too much. I may also put down some Broccoli Rabe or Cima Di Rapa seeds again this year. I grew them in Oklahoma, but just haven't gotten around to it out her. But I need to find the time and space for them this year, since I adore the vegetable. Other new veggies to try this year are Celery (Celery Gigante Dorato-SFI) and Borlotto Beans from Seed From Italy. I don't know which kind my dad got, but he is giving me some of his. I don't know where I'm going to put them though!!!
Would love to hear any suggestions on varieties or pests from all of you wonderful gardeners out there. I really want to stay as organic as possible. We use our own compost for the most part, but sometimes have to supplement with leaf pro because we don't have enough compost (or it's not ready yet). This year we really want to try to do "compost tea" as well.
Here is a link to see how the Puntarelle is prepared. From there if you are interested there are recipes and other youtube videos on what to do with Puntarelle.