Mary's Veggie Garden

December 31, 2012

Garden Goals: 2013

Filed under: Gardening,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 5:00 pm

What are your goals in growing a vegetable garden? Feeding your family from spring to fall? Having tasty, super fresh produce available every day? Storing food for the winter? Feeding friends?

If you receive seed catalogs by mail, you may be tempted to curl up in a comfy chair with the stack of catalogs to plan an enormous garden. But is an enormous garden what you really want in mid-summer, when the weeds are overtaking the veggies and the kids complain they don’t like peppers?

My goal is to grow flavorful, organic vegetables for my family. I also want to supply our household vegetables during most of the year. This means I grow what we eat, growing small quantities and sometimes making two plantings several weeks apart. I plant from April through mid-August and harvest from mid-May through December. We eat from the garden, freezer or root cellar year round.

Although I greatly enjoy gardening, especially harvest, I also enjoy other activities so I don’t want my garden to consume my life. I look for varieties that are very productive and easy to grow. These requirements often translate to disease resistant .

I enjoy trying new things so I often try a new variety along with dependable old favorites. Trialing a new, disease resistant variety lets me evaluate taste, yield, and ease of growing. Maybe it won’t pass the taste test, but maybe I’ll discover a new favorite.

How do I translate these goals into a garden plan?  For  2013 I’m planning to garden at home and in my 20’x40′ plot in the community gardens. I’ll make small changes to the amounts I plant, add some new varieties and eliminate some old varieties.

In 2013 I’ll plant fewer tomatoes because we are still using tomatoes canned in 2011. I’m also planning to plant the tomatoes in a single row in a 3′ wide bed so I can reach all sides of every plant making them easier to harvest and maintain. I thought I could plant two rows in a 4′ wide bed in a full sun garden but that close spacing didn’t work so well when it came to harvesting cherry tomatoes from the center of the bed or when dealing with fungal diseases.

I may stop trying to grow melons. Some years I’ve had good cantaloupe crops but they all ripen in a short two-week period and I’ve never found a variety whose flavor we really like that also does well. I can use the freed up space to widen my paths, making the garden easier to negotiate.

For new varieties I’m trying Jasper, a new small red cherry tomato and a 2013 All America Selection. Jasper is resistant to late blight and several other fungal diseases and sounds delicious – though tiny. The catalog says it is chewy so I’m hoping the skin is not too tough. I’m thinking I’ll use Jasper like Sungold – fresh or oven roasted.

I’m also buying seed for a butternut squash resistant to powdery mildew. I hate to spray, even though I use an organic spray so a PM resistant variety will reduce that work and with healthy plants the yield should be higher. By the way, all butternuts are resistant to squash vine borers. For the curious – in 2012 I sprayed with a 10% milk in water solution.  It works OK but, as with any spray, you must treat  often to cover new growth. The squash plants totally fill an area 10’x10′ making it very difficult to get in for good spray coverage.

I’m also ordering pepper seed that is resistant to both bacterial spot (bad at the community gardens) and phytophthera, which may be the disease that killed all my plants at home. I have my fingers crossed that the varieties will also taste good.

The assortment of Asian greens available in the seed catalogs is getting bigger every year. This year I’m trying a Michili cabbage, which is described as very mild and tender – good for salads. Plus it stores a long time in the refrigerator, making it good for winter use. I’m also considering a couple of others – but must remember not to go overboard.

These changes should make my garden easier to maintain, and provide more variety for late spring and late fall harvests.

Now is the time to consider your gardening goals and make changes. With a well thought out plan you can plant with confidence come spring.

Did I meet my garden goals in 2012? I harvested 820 pounds of produce over the year. I still have lots of fresh (stored in the root cellar), frozen or canned vegetables so we are eating from the garden every day.  I may have too much stored.  I’ll see what is left in March and adjust what I plant if I have a lot left. The only vegetables we are buying are garlic, mushrooms and broccoli. I’m still working out the timing for a fall broccoli crop.

December 16, 2012

Corn Compared: Sugar Buns vs. Incredible

Filed under: Corn,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 2:23 pm

This year I grew two varieties of sweet corn, with the goal of eating fresh corn on the cob for a full month. My strategy was to plant two varieties with different times to harvest, and to separate the planting dates enough that one variety would be harvested before the second matured. Things didn’t quite work out as planned.

Click on any picture to enlarge. These descriptions are from the Pinetree Seeds catalog, where I got the seeds.

Corn Sugar Buns

Corn Sugar Buns

Sugar Buns – 72 days.  “A superb, early sugar enhanced hybrid with 7 inch ears and 14 rows of luscious kernels that pop in your mouth. With a great eating quality and long harvest, this corn is a top choice variety for your garden. Stalks are 5 to 6 feet tall.” The seed packet said soil temperature should be at least 68 ° F. at planting.

Incredible Corn! the big harvest!

Incredible Corn, the big  8/20 harvest!

Incredible Corn – 84 days. “This is our choice as the best main crop yellow corn for the home gardener. Ear length is a full 9.5″ with a diameter of 2″. Stalks are 8′ tall. Eating quality is definitely first rate due to the presence of the sugary enhancer gene. Color is an attractive bright yellow with a very tender kernel … This wonderful corn does not germinate well in even slightly cold or wet soil.”

I planted Sugar buns 6/1 expecting to start harvest around 8/12 and I planted Incredible 6/5 expecting to start harvest around 8/28 and end mid-September. Although I allowed a two-week harvest period for each variety,  these varieties ripen almost uniformly:  to get two weeks of corn I start harvest when the corn is on the immature side and pick through perfection.

Variety Planting Date First Harvest Last Harvest Number Ears Number Plants
Sugar Buns June 1 Aug. 2 Aug. 13 31 around 35
Incredible June 6 Aug. 13 Aug. 26 35 39

To be honest, I started harvesting Sugar Buns too early. It was much better colored at the end of its harvest – which means the 72 days to maturity in the catalog was accurate. However I prefer to harvest early, rather than late and over-mature.

Because I was already harvesting corn, I didn’t rush to harvest Incredible and it was more mature at the start of harvest. On 8/20, 76 days after planting I harvested about half the crop because it was in danger of becoming over-mature.  So Incredible matured in 70-76 days,  much faster in my garden than the 84 days predicted by the catalog.

Although I managed to get a full month of corn, the best and the heaviest harvest was in the two middle weeks of August. That is when Sugar Buns reached maturity and was quickly followed by the Incredible corn; I picked most of the Incredible corn between 8/13 and the big 8/20 harvest.

Planting Incredible a week later, around 6/15, might result in later harvest, so I wouldn’t need to rush the harvest of the first planting.


Sugar Buns Corn on July 1.

Sugar Buns Corn on July 1.

Incredible corn on July 1.

Incredible corn on July 1.

Sugar enhanced corn has a reputation of germinating poorly in cold, wet soil so I waited until June to plant.  The corn was planted in 3 rows running the length of a 4’x13′ bed with 25 seeds spaced 6″ apart in the rows. My plan was to thin out weak plants leaving 14-18 plants in each row.

Planted on June 1, Sugar Buns germination was unimpressive; there weren’t more than 18 sprouts in any row and there were several long gaps. I did some thinning, removing particularly weak plants. I should have removed every plant that looked weak, because some never produced any ears. I planted some of the gaps with edamame soy beans. The soy did not do well, probably because of the shade and competition from the corn.

Incredible germinated better than Sugar Buns; there were no big gaps in the rows and the seedlings were stronger. With more plants I felt free to thin out all the weak ones, and ended up with better spacing – plants 12″ apart with no big gaps in the rows. I squeezed two watermelon plants into small gaps – again this was a wasted effort.


The Sugar Buns planting on August 8, after most of the harvest was finished.

The Sugar Buns planting on August 8, after most of the harvest was finished.

The Incredible corn planting on Aug. 8, a few days before start of harvest.

The Incredible corn planting on Aug. 8, a few days before start of harvest.

The catalog descriptions are accurate; Sugar Buns produced a shorter stalk than Incredible. Incredible stalks were tall and stout. Several of the Sugar Buns stalks tipped over during a July thunderstorm while Incredible remained upright.

Sugar Buns kernels are sweet, juicy, and tender. They did not have a ‘corny’ taste. We preferred Incredible which was sweet, though slightly less sweet than Sugar Buns and had a definite light ‘corny’ flavor.

Sugar Buns produces smaller, more slender ears, to match its small plant while Incredible ears are heftier, matching its bigger plant.

Ears husked: top - the last Sugar Buns ear and the first Incredible ears, bottom.

Ears husked: top – the last Sugar Buns ear and the first Incredible ears, bottom.

L - Incredible, R - Sugar Buns

L – Incredible, R – Sugar Buns

These two pictures show the same ears before and after husking. It was the last ear of Sugar Buns and the first two ears of Incredible – enough for a meal for the three of us.


Several ears of Sugar Buns had damaged kernels but there was no obvious damage to the husk.  Here is a close-up of the ear pictured above.

Damaged Sugar Buns corn ear - possibly caused by stink bug feeding.

Damaged Sugar Buns corn ear – possibly caused by stink bug feeding.

To me, the undamaged husk says Stink Bugs. The soybean pods were not damaged while the stink bugs fed on the beans inside. It’s not woodpecker damage: they will peck a row of kernels, but they tear the husk while pecking.

I did not find any damaged kernels in the Incredible ears. Maybe it’s because they were further away from the soy beans where stink bugs were feeding or maybe they have thicker husks.

Sugar Buns produced several (3-5) of ears with an open husk. I don’t know the cause. The corn was fine for eating.

Strange Sugar Buns corn ear.

Strange Sugar Buns corn ear.

Corn earworms: I sprayed the young corn ears with Bt, bacillus thuringiensis, while the silk was still yellow-green.  The corn had only a few earworms; I probably missed those ears while spraying. Without earworms to attract them, the woodpeckers stayed away.

Slow maturation: several (5-7) of my Incredible plants grew more slowly than the rest and tasselled later. Because the late plants were scattered around the planting, the ears got little or no pollination and the plants did not produce edible ears. Luckily other plants produced two good ears.

Next Year

My plan is to grow  three smaller plantings of Incredible corn, planted June 1, 10, and 22.

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