Greetings from Lisbon!

Once again I had to travel for work, but thankfully it's nice and sunny and warm in Portugal so I'm not complaining. Having left cold and snowy NJ for a week, I thought I'd entertain people with some nice pictures of the local stuff like fabulous sunrise, beach, incredibly tasty food and of course flower arrangements that I've seen in the hotel.
It's really beautiful place to be and I highly recommend everyone to visit at least once to experience it.

Garden Plan 2016

It's time to start planning out what I'll be growing in the main garden this year, and of course I'm using my web planner as I've done for past 3 years to line up all my planning. It lets me see what I had last year to avoid planting the same family and make sure it won't cause "health" issues for plants. This way I can keep "rotating" plants as much as my limited space allows. And try to plant a bit of different things all over the place. I'll have few tomatoes, potatoes and peppers as my main staple; then some greens, beans and melons and this year will dedicate entire bed to just flowers. I want to keep my local bees happy.

The Good, the Bad, and Ugly...

Now that it's winter, we finally get a chance to sit back and reflect on previous year and how everything performed in the garden and at the farm. So let's start with the good performers first and go down to losers.

Tomatoes - definitely was a wonderful year for tomatoes overall for me and I've brought carloads back from farm, but not all varieties performed well. Not going to bore everyone with a laundry list, but will say that I will not plant some in the future - peach, yellow roma and yellow cherry, grape and constoluto genovese were absolute failures. But the slicers were really fantastic, loved a new hybrid "big mama" that I grew as experiment and was absolutely overwhelmed by Red and Green Zebra that were producing well into October until hard freeze.

Peppers - holly cow what a year for peppers! They didn't really pick up until August, but then heat-wave kicked in and they produced like crazy well into the fall. I had peppers coming out of my ears! The old reliable Purple, Chocolate and Chervena did very good, but the winner was a hybrid that I grew for donation - Carmen. Hands down it was the best producer. Huge  and very sweet peppers with a dozen peppers per plant. Definitely planting it next year.

Beans - they did pretty good, especially the pole varieties. Loved my purple pole beans and my Gold Marie - delightfully buttery and very productive. From bush varieties I'll stick to my wax variety and might do some regular green just for kicks but they were not as productive as pole.

Summer Squash - it was a slow start with them and it didn't help that I didn't do proper weeding so they were lost in grass, but once they really took off I was swimming in squash and was delivering them to the pantry twice a week like clockwork. Sadly my hubby really does not like squash so if I will plant I will keep it to 1-2 plants next year.

Potatoes - they did "average" but not great. I forgot to hill them, and didn't do proper weeding and it clearly showed. We had enough to eat and have some for winter but not mind-blowing.

Eggplants - I planted only 6 plants and got about 5-6 large "eggs" out of them. Maybe it wasn't really hot enough for them until late in a year. So I mark them as "average".

Kohlrabi - it took a LONG time to get them properly sized up, maybe because the plants didn't arrive until June when it was too dry.  But at the end they all were very tasty. Too bad that my hubby didn't like them so I won't be planting them this year.

Cabbages - complete loss this year. Between the cabbage caterpillars and groundhogs I didn't get them off the ground.

Onions, Carrots, Melons - none worked out this year. Fully my fault as I didn't keep it weeded and was a write-off.

and to finish on the positive note, the sunflowers were huge and fantastic with multi layered branches and lots of activity from bees. Definitely will plant a lot more flowers next time around.

So for now I need to do a plan for new year, go over my seeds and start planting cold-tolerant greens for March under the grow-lights. Was hoping to get a greenhouse in place but it's not in the cards and will have to wait.

Happy Holidays and New Year!

It's finally quiet time for us to take a break and actually enjoy relaxing at home by the fireplace, watching light play off the Christmas tree and reflect on the past year. It's been a busy one at that, but a good at the same time. Lots of things got accomplished, and some that had to be postponed for next year. Decorating our tree at first weekend of December is a tradition in our home, where we put ornaments that have been picked on our travels to places in Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, Amsterdam, London, Madrid, Lisbon and Germany, and some showcasing some of the local living surroundings via animals and of course garden decor - can't skip those carrots!
This year it was just a tad of too many things going at the same time and I really hope to take a step back next spring and slow down a bit. It was a bit overwhelming at times and I had hard time keeping up with gardens and the farm, and community garden, and the Master Gardener school - all at the same time. So first resolution - SLOW DOWN! Home gardens will be first priority followed by MG work (after full time work that pays the bills of course), and then will see if I can squeeze time for the farm. I really hope to do some seedlings in the greenhouse in the spring and maybe plant a row of tomatoes and peppers again as these are our main staples for winter sauces. But I won't be taking on as much space as I did this year. For the community garden I'll take a small plot and use it for squashes that the kids from local groups can harvest for the pantry. One step at the time. But for now....
from yours truly, my wonderful hubby and our 3 fur-babies - We wish YOU a very
 Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year Everyone! I really hope to see you all visiting next spring!

Planting Bulbs

It's been another busy weekend in our home, with winter fast approaching I raided local stores for sales on bulbs for spring flowers and planted them all around the ponds and along the walls of the patio. Tried to pick out bulbs that would give me waves of flowers and not all at once so that first early snow drops would be followed by crocuses, daffodils, tulips, bluebells, alliums, irises and lastly lilies.
Still have to plant about 80 or so dutch iris bulbs, at the edge of the stream, but in the ground we have:
Easy Dance - 5
AnneMarie's Dream - 5
Navona - 10
Orange County - 10
Spanish Bluebells - 20
Allium - 10
Bearded Iris - 5
Dutch Master - 40
Gigantic Star - 8
Ice Follies - 8
Pink Charm - 15
Trumpet Mix - 60
Naturalizing Mix - 40
Paperwhites (Narcissus) - 8
Tulip Parrot Blend - 15
Crocus Blue Mix - 30
Crocus Ruby Giant - 20
Snow Drops aka Leucojum Aestivum - 30

Also were planted, albeit VERY late for the season, was my garlic  - this year I'm planting it outside the garden and hope that animals won't touch it. What I want to do is create a "natural" garlic patch where it will grow year to year and I'll just pluck what I need for cooking and thin some out for winter but leave enough to replenish each fall and won't have to plant it again. Let's see if the experiment works.
I have a mix of varieties, including German Porcelain, Kettle River, Spanish Rojas, Vietnamese Red, Turkish Red and some of the Russian varieties. Let's see what grows next year :)

How is your garden doing these days? 

Forgotten Potatoes and Harvest from CSA

Another week flew by and the clean up continues. Part of the clean up was tilling the farm plot and after the tractor run through disking the leftover plants and roots, I realized that my potato row never got picked out fully. Because there was a whole lot of chopped potatoes unearthed. So I picked some that were more or less whole or with minimal damage and brought them home. Not much, but will provide us with some basic meals for few weeks.
There isn't much left on the field other than a row of cauliflower and Romanesca - green peaky cauliflower. some are just starting to form but with temps being in 20s at night I don't know if we'll get much out of it.
While I was browsing leftovers, I found a very large kricket/grass hoper on one of the kale plants.. It's more than 2 inches long and clearly enjoyed his lunch on one of my kale heads.
And this Sunday I visited the U-Pick field from Hesperides Organica CSA - it was time to pick popcorn. And Lisa was also cleaning up field. She had tilled under all unpicked potatoes as well so I ended up picking 3 more bags of fingerlings from her field, chopped or not. They'll be delivered to the kitchen so it won't go to waste. But while I was there, she also picked some Kalettes - a hybrid between Kale and Brussels Sprouts. The stalks are HUGE! Can't wait to try roasting it to see the taste.
And of course there was regular brussels sprouts and huge leeks - one leek is enough to make a good soup for large family.
At home late fall is in full swing and nothing shows it more than dropped leaves - Oak dropped all in one night so the back yard looked like it was covered in chocolate. That also prompted me to plant whole lot of spring bulbs around new patio and ponds and hope next spring it will all be covered in beautiful flowers.
So how is your gardening season wrapping up? Stop by Dave's page to see other harvests.

Goji Berry

Clean up continues all around the house, and this weekend I found a very nice surprise waiting for me - a Goji Berry bush that I thought died off and was lost in weeds actually survived, and we found it with some of the berries after we started clearing up weeds in that section of the yard. Honestly I didn't think it had any chance of surviving because deer have ravaged all plants down to nothing when we planted them, so I gave up on that section as it's not fenced in. I guess not weeding it out helped the bush to rebound and actually produce! Very happy with that plant and hope it will continue to produce in years to come.
On another note, we finally got a new gazebo for the new patio. We've been looking for one for a long time and just as we find one it would be either sold out or discontinued and our order canceled, so yet another surprise when a company emailed that one such choice was returned and is available to us. We even got a $300 discount on it because it wasn't brand new packaging. Of course my honey and I had to set it up on Saturday to see it and I love it!
Overall, it was a good weekend. How is your garden fairing this time around?