A personal record of what's going on in my Northern Michigan zone 4 gardens. I use raised beds and grow organically. Nothing fancy--just trying to garden with nature in mind.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 Year in Review---Winners, Losers, and Misc. Notes

Mid-Winter Greetings to all.
My Year in Review is terribly late but finally ready.
I've started on seed orders and will have that list posted when I'm done. So--on to the Review!

2014 will go down as a strange and yet bountiful year.  Despite record cold temps over winter , super late last frost (June 13!), and cool summer temps,  the garden produced abundantly.

Best Surprise--the BLUEBERRIES.  I think the bushes have finally hit their stride.
  We gave away 2 quarts almost daily  for 3 weeks of the Patriots.The branches were dragging on the
    ground from the weight of the berries.  I've never seen so many. The taste was intense--my                        favorite.
      Chandler berries--while not as abundant as last year , were still plentiful and HUGE.
  The BlueRays also kept on providing--though I did not cover that row.  Birds took a lot, but I still   got  lot from them.

Despite early problems with my CARROTS--I got great harvests.  The problem was solved by sprinkling ground up eggshells between the rows.  It must have been slugs--which in a normal year wouldn't be a problem-- but we had lots rain this year.
And while I'm on the subject of carrots---Loved the Danvers again (2nd year for them) Tried Dragon and St Valery carrots and did not like either of them.

Copra onions this year were the biggest I've ever grown. Huge!  Softball size. Thank you rain!!

I tried YUKON GEM potatoes this year and they delivered on their promise of higher yields, less hollow interiors, and great taste.  I will be using them from now on instead of Yukon Gold.   I had         NO SCAB at all.  They were beautiful and productive.

It was my first year of growing shallots. I like them and will be doing those again.

I grew the Afina cutting celery for the first time. Great flavor for soups and stews. I do miss having "stalks" for salads, etc. Not sure what I'll do for next year. Maybe a combo of both.
Curly Blue Kale and Afina Cutting Celery
And my first year of growing Kale was a nice surprise. It was bountiful and delicious. I didn't think I'd like Kale at first, but neighbor Carol showed me Kale Chips and I was hooked. Despite making it almost daily, I never came close to running out of Kale.  A dozen plants was a good amount to grow.

Spinach and lettuce yields were excellent---once I got the slug problem resolved with eggshells.
Oh, they hate slithering over those sharp edges. Good!

And now on to the BAD this year.

Once again, it was the battle with the deer. Despite trying cayenne, soap, deer repellents, you name it, they continued to ravage the flower borders around the house. Like it or not, I'm going to have to fence off these areas or just remove the plants they find so delectable.
The newest area I planted this year ( lilies, hostas, astilbe and tulips) seems to have been a combo of their favorites.  They pulled up EVERYTHING!
These stalks are lilies. Yea.  Thanks, deer.

This was the Phlox this year. It never got taller than 18 inches....and it certainly never got to have blooms!

And my flower beds battling it out with the deer was not my only problems this year.

Brandywines on the loser list?  Yup.  This year was especially bad for "cracking".  I only got 3 usable tomatoes from that plant.  Don's Jetstars performed admirably, but I hate them--so 'watery" and seedy.  I will try "Jetsetter" next year. I was given some of them by friend Miriam and they were delicious and meaty.
All the cherry types I grew were productive and good. The Yellow Pear variety this year really surprised me-they usually split like crazy , but not this year. I was better at watering them--more consistent.

Cauliflower-disaster.  Of the dozen I planted, only 3 survived the onslaught of slugs.  The three that did produce were beautiful. They are  in the freezer for mid-winter soups.

Broccoli--another bust.  I didn't grow Packman this year and I regret that. I missed those huge heads. I will be going back to that variety next year.  I don't like "shoots"--no matter how plentiful!

Melons--all a bust.  Late frost on June 13 , a cold summer, and frost September 13 left me with not enough time or heat to produce a crop.  Total loss.

Pumpkins (and squash)  ---Same story--what didn't freeze in June didn't have time enough to produce.

It's definately been the year for cold-weather crops and a terrible year for the heat lovers.  Overall, I'm pleased.  I'd actually rather have it cool.  And there is always the Farmer's Market for melons, etc.

I've got plenty of good food stored and am already making plans for next year.

Enjoy the quiet beauty of winter.  I'm still waiting for consistent snows for skiing and snowmobiling, but have spent many wonderful days painting, reading, and in the kitchen cooking and baking.



  1. I always look forward to you list at the end of your season. Looks like your a new kale addict! Thank you for the advice about the eggshells! I use them on tomato plants this time of year for the calcium, not realizing that they could protect them from bugs! Sounds like your winter is going well. Enjoy the nesting.

    1. Hi Daisy---You have to put a pretty good line around each plant (or row in the case of spinach/lettuce) but eggshells are a great deterent. Just don't grind em up too fine.

  2. Sue - Guess the excess rain assisted in causing your tomatoes to burst - what a shame.

    Broken egg shells are wonderful for slugs and snails - AND they give calcium to the soil Double win :)

    I also have luck with onions (they're on our porouspipe irrigation so they plump up beautifully, but potatoes... I keep trying though.

    I've never grown / tasted kale. I think I must try it this year. Apart from chips, do you know how else can one prepare it?

    All the best for 2015, Sue.

    P.S. Thanks for turning on your comments again :)

    1. Dani--There must be a thousand ways to use kale---unfortunately, I don't really care for it "mixed in" to things. I do have a ton of recipes that use spinach in them, including soups and stews , and I'm sure you can just substitute in Kale. NEVER did I ever dream there'd be a day I'd eat Kale. Wow--times change!

  3. Great recap. If I had had the deer problems you had this past year, I'd still be crying. We live in prime deer territory (and, yes, they definitely were here before us!) where many, many folks feed the deer. We simply couldn't garden, veggies or flowers, if it were not for our 7' high fencing.

    Our blueberries outdid themselves this year, too. Most we've ever harvested. Even though I've always grown it, we ate more kale this year than ever before. For me, the secret in avoiding that "bitter" taste is always harvesting the leaves small and often. There was a period when we had it with our breakfast eggs nearly every morning . . . sauteed in coconut oil and/or butter, sometimes with some chopped onions thrown in. I dried some and have been adding it to soups this winter.

    Not nearly enough snow here yet either. Just ice. Ice is nice? No, ice is NOT nice.

    1. That's a great idea with the Kale--I'm really "open" to trying anything that gets more of it into my diet. I was waiting to harvest until the leaves were good sized for baking. I'll definately try some baby leaves in soups. Not eggs. Soup. LOL!
      Just got in from a long walk and we got a "dusting" of snow--but there is solid ice underneath and I didn't realize it was there so I didn't have my cleats on. That made for one interesting workout. But THEY are calling for snow---hooray!!


  4. Sue, you pretty much know that we here in Nebraska we had a lousy garden year. I'm planning for such contingencies in 2015. Weather patterns are too erratic not to plan for them. Late frosts, too much rain, bugs, disease are all things that will have to be addressed with more aggressive methods in the future seasons. I'm doing an all out battle against them this next season. I will not use chemicals to combat them even if it takes grossly over planting to get a harvest. I am indeed hopeful for the 2015 garden season.

    I agree that it's good to see you back open to comments. Have a great garden journal day.

    1. Thanks for the visit David.
      I'll be watching your blog for updates on the upcoming garden season. I'm sure there isn't a gardener in the world that doesn't remain hopeful that "THIS YEAR" will be the best ever. We're all optimists (or crazy-haha)
      Happy Gardening!

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  6. Sue,
    Hello! Happy New Year. You do such a great job of keeping track of how everything did in your garden. Your reviews are very helpful for future gardening.
    I wish I had space for fruit. We always joke that we'll buy one of our neighbors' places one day and fill it with trees and bushes (it has nothing planted. He simply mows what grows around his house.)
    However, we do not have a deer problem like you. I hurt for you on everything they ate.
    Our melons produced two small melons. They were delicious, but small. Spring took its time warming up for us so I had to replant some things and it was dry still. Summer lovers did better for us this year as we finally got some rain too. But, not enough to have slugs like you. I think in all the years we've lived here I've found two slugs total.
    My pumpkins had to come off the vine before they were totally orange because we had a freaky freeze early, but they did continue to turn in the house and I got a ton of pumpkin and seeds just the same.
    I have not planned this year's garden yet. I'm considering dropping a few things that just elude me on productivity. As for the flowers, I'm going to put in some of my favorite annuals again. I skipped the most thirsty ones with our water restrictions and so missed them once we got rain and I saw everyone else's. Sigh. I will plant, water conservatively and be rewarded if it rains on them for extra water. On the flip side, my drought tolerant plants that I started last year settled in well so this summer should look better for those areas.
    Nice to see you on the blog. Be well and here's to this year's garden!

    1. Hi GonSS-
      After so many years of gardening, I guess there really is no planning my garden anymore--we have whittled things down to the basics that we truly love. Just a matter of rotating yearly now.
      I never had the slug problem before this year. Sometimes I think our naturally droughty summers are better---they ate so many seedlings--lettuce/spinach/broccoli. At least now I know what to do about them but slugs are really a nightmare!
      Happy New Year to you and hubby AND your garden--looking forward to "seeing" your garden come to fruitation on your blog

  7. I have to confess - I thought those lilies were asparagus. ;-)

  8. So, how finely crushed were those egg shells and how densely strewn? Slug (and voles) are a huge problem for me, too. Along with chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits. I am not a fan of the rodent population. I have never tried cutting celery - what a great idea!

    1. Hi Susan!
      I leave the eggshells big enough to keep their jagged edges and spread them thick around each plant. If you crush em too fine, they get through it.
      As for the rodents, if you find the answer to that one, you may retire RICH and admired by millions! Let us know!!!

  9. My reader has been all messed up lately and I've been missing posts left right and center. I was so happy to see your post pop up today!

    Those potatoes are beauties! I'll be growing them for the first time next year and am putting "Yukon Gem" on my list. I'll definitely have to do the eggshell trick next year - I have been using diatomaceous earth, but, like you said it was a SUPER rainy year and the stuff just doesn't work after it gets wet. Hopefully next season will be a bit more normal, rain wise, and the slugs won't be as big of a problem to begin with. Regardless, I've been stockpiling those eggshells, just in case!

    So sad about the deer - I can't believe they saunter up that close to your house. Do the deer normally snack on your plants at night? If so, have you thought about those motion detector sprinklers? I was considering those for the rabbit issue at one point, but since they often do their damage during the day, I knew that chances were high that I would forget to turn them off before heading to the beds - I'm not one for unexpected showers!

    I can see you are enjoying your winter rest - it's lovely, isn't it? Don't know if you will be getting the storm we are expecting tonight but if you do, you'll probably be skiing and snowmobiling very soon! And I am so looking forward to hearing about your plans for this coming season. Have a great weekend!

    1. Hi Margaret
      I've been having that problem with the reader as well. I check mine frequently--and even scroll back in time, and it's maddening to see posts from folks that are 2 or 3 days old--and I didn't see them until now.

      The deer are indeed there at night---HERDS of them. We've had groups of 10 to 20, depending on time of year. I think the only thing that would really work is tall fencing--which isn't going to happen. The sprinklers sound like a good idea, but not sure if I wouldn't end up wet--I'm constantly "tinkering" in the flower beds. Will check it out, though. Thanks for the idea!!

  10. Interesting account - I also had mixed results - there doesn't seem to be a pattern- some things do well and some don't- changes year to year.

    1. Hi John--I guess that yearly change keeps it interesting.
      Thanks for stopping by

  11. Nice recap! 2014 was definitely a good year growing wise. Let's hope it continues this year. We have tons of deer in our part of the world as well. So far, they've only bothered my apple and pear trees, occasionally munching on the kale. I don't know what I'd do if they got more attached to the garden. I huge dryer sheets to my fruit trees and that seems to have helped.

    1. Hi Thomas- I'm always grateful for my fence around the vegetable garden and wish I could fence the whole property against the deer. Oh, to win the lottery.......

  12. OMG! What a big rock I live under! I just now found that you are accepting comments again! Oh, be still my over beating heart, dear friend!!!! Welcome back - I am ecstatic to see you here! (And you didn't even tell me.... )

    1. Hi 2 Tramps!
      I thought I'd "surprise" you!!
      Aren't surprises nice??!!!
      Hope you're having a wonderful week