Monday, November 26, 2012

And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose / My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The regular growing season for 2012 has ended. We have pulled up and composted our spent tomato bushes and mulched our raised beds with straw. We have sharpened the blades of our clippers and filed nicks out of the edges of our shovels. We have buried our fig trees and moved our collection of seed packets to a warm and dry place.

We plan to extend this year’s growing season into winter by means of hoophouses. Before we embark on that new endeavor, we should consider what transpired this regular growing season (pun intended). So, fortified with a dram or two of Lagavulin and a tweaked Excel spreadsheet, let us take the measure of the last year.

First, we should celebrate that we can now again describe ourselves unequivocally as a half-ton garden. Ginkgo’s yield for 2012 was 1082 pounds.

The following table summarizes garden yields by crop for each year from 2008 to 2012. Pertinent information for the 2012 harvest includes:
  • We planted okra for the first time this year. Unfortunately, we harvested less than 5 pounds from a full bed. We suspect that the plant was attacked by fusarium wilt. 
  • We had a bumper crop of tomatoes this year. With a yield of 539 pounds, tomatoes composed half of the produce that we delivered to the pantry in 2012. 
  • At the request of Vital Bridges, we grew a lot of radishes this year—nearly 50 pounds worth.
  • Our apple trees did well this year (59 pounds), and our larger fig tree matured enough to produce almost 24 pounds of fruit. Our Stanley plum tree, on the other hand, produced almost no fruit for the second year in a row. The tree gave 63 pounds of plums in 2009. Our pear trees also yielded less than their normal amount. 

Next is a chart of yield curves that show weekly and cumulative harvest amounts for the years from 2008-2012. Each year has both a bar chart for weekly yield and a line chart that shows the cumulative yield per week. The third chart shows the same data, but just with the weekly yields.

Weekly and Cumulative Yields

Weekly Yields

The next chart focuses on the weekly yields for tomatoes, our largest crop by volume. Although it is true that we planted a lot of tomato plants this year, we also benefited from a season that both started earlier and ended later. Because tomatoes are warm-weather crops, the fact that we were able to harvest tomatoes earlier this year could have been a result of climate change. Or it could be because of the particular varieties of tomatoes that we planted, short-term climate changes related to El Niño, timing of rainfall, etc. 

Tomato Yields

The final set of charts describes how our harvests vary by crop per year. The first chart shows the actual harvest composition; the second shows crop composition by percentage of the total. Note how the tomatoes jumped from being around 30% of the total harvest to 50%. The last chart compares fruit harvests.

Vegetable Crop Composition

Vegetable Crop Composition as Percentage of Total

Fruit Crop Composition

Friday, September 21, 2012


BABY! OH BABY!  Look at all the changes in the garden.  It's easy to see the tomatoes winding down as the temperature drops, but it's hard to be discouraged by that when the raspberries are coming back.  When the raspberries ended their first run of the season there was predictability.  We knew from years past that they would have a second fruiting towards the fall and the prophecy has been fulfilled.  There are comebacks that we count on, but there are also plenty of inspiring surprises.
One of the biggest surprises for me is how effective the marigolds have been in the dodecahedron.  As you'll recall flea beetles turned our collard leaves into green doilies, but with careful management, a little soapy water and the warding properties of strategically placed marigolds they are as robust as I have ever seen them.  Why is Ginkgo an organic garden?  Because marigolds don't have warning labels and they look a heck of a lot better than squirt bottles of insecticide.
Another amazing comeback is that of our sweet potatoes.  A couple of months ago our sweet potato bed had been ravaged by a greedy critter.  The leaves remaining on the plant could be counted on one hand and it looked like the whole crop would be lost.  But the plant has rebounded and the five-fingered leaves are reaching out across the bed like a crowd of screaming fans trying to push past concert security.
And while you're at it, consider the fact that this fig tree was underground last winter and we had no idea if it would even come back to life.  Now it reaches high above the tallest gardeners and offers up the plumpest, sweetest figs I have ever had.  You're obviously thinking, "But isn't the produce for donation?"  Of course it is.  But you cannot begrudge us for doing a little quality control testing by offering up some delicious fruit to our dedicated volunteers.
While we are on the subject.  I give you, nasturtium. This is absolutely without a doubt one of my favorite things on earth.  Earlier this season most of the nasturtium seedlings died and the one or two that remained past infancy looked like the less fortunate gruel gobblers in Oliver Twist.  But Boy-Howdy look at these peppery flavored lilypad impersonating leaves!
It's hard to watch the once vibrant tomato plants turn brown and drag their stakes down.  They came back after an early bout with blossom end rot.  The flavor in Ginkgo's tomatoes are known to stir people to religious fever.  I'm as happy as I ever am when I get to explain to a volunteer or a recipient at the pantry that, "Yes, that is a tomato and it will change your life."  So it's not unreasonable to want the season to stretch on.  But each one is full of seeds and we will save the seeds and plant them next year and the tomatoes will come back.  Until then I've got my eye on those sweet potatoes.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Holey Cow!

So we arrived at the garden Wednesday night to find a giant hole on the north side of the lot. We need to figure out how to resolve this. Hopefully it's temporary, but in the meantime it's interesting to see what's below the garden.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


A morning fair, a blue sky clear of cloud;
A riot of tomatoes, multihued.
The appled branches full of promise bowed;
The garden beds with heady scents imbued.
The collard plants put forth new tender leaves—
Survivors of the doily-making pest
And trumpet vines meander through the eaves
While we with scale the bounty manifest.
         The day’s work done, yet still we lingered late:
         For summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Garden Since Last Time

 A lot has happened in the garden since the last blog post!  Because I've let the photos pile up there is too much to talk about and all I can give you are a mess of pictures and the broad strokes of what we've been up to.  I'm lumping the pictures by theme, not by week, so don't be jarred by continuity errors. 

Look at all those delicious peppers!
Holy Smokes! Eggplants too!
And I thought I heard you say something about the best looking carrots ever picked.
While we're talking about carrots let's not forget that a couple of our volunteers helped to sift compost and top off the bath tub for our up and coming crop of squeaky clean organic claw-foot carrots.
In other under-earth news, we pulled half of the potato bed.  The plants were not doing so hot on the end of the bed, so we pulled them to make room for radishes and broccoli.
Look at those potatoes!  And one cannot ask for a better excuse to kick off a series of photos where people are holding vegetables out in front of themselves!
Oooooh, Tomatoes.  You're breaking my heart!
We know that you're thinking, "Your volunteers need to start flossing before biting into apples." Well, regardless of the validity of that statement, it's off topic.  Remember those russeted mystery apples growing between the dodecahedron and the raspberry bed?  Well, they are pink. On the inside. Yup.  Wrap your mind around that.
We also had some adventures with weeding.  For one thing, we found a weed that was turning into an established tree ensnared in a plastic 6-pack holder.  So remember to clip those rings folks!  It's not just Seagulls anymore.
This happened.
We also found this.  So far we have only seen one in the garden and the picture isn't clear enough to give it a confident ID, but after a brief e-mail exchange with a beetle expert at UIC, we think there is a good chance that it's a Red-Headed Cardinal Beetle. 
Also found during weeding, a Lilliputian albino pig farm with county fair sized tomatoes. (relatively)
And as you know from following the blog, we had a potluck cookout.  It was amazing.  
And look at all those amazing volunteers!  Thanks to everyone of them.  Keep coming back to Ginkgo and keep coming back to the blog!
Relax Okra... we'll talk about you when you start producing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Roosevelt Volunteers

On Thursay July 12th a group of students from Roosevelt University dropped in for a workday with John and Susan.  The hard working volunteers helped with an expansive community trash/recycling pick up that spanned all of Kenmore, down along the cemetery wall south of Irving Park Rd. and north to the park at the intersection of Buena and Kenmore.
During the trash pick up the volunteers found many items that add a little intrigue and possibly horror to the the neighborhood.  Many many cigarette butts are too be expected, but what about a hammer, mangled lingerie and a baby stroller?  What happens here at night is your business Buena Park.  BTW, we kept the hammer.
 Other volunteer tasks included turning compost, sifting compost, collecting dried coriander from our spent cilantro plants, planting some warm weather plants like New Zealand Spinach, mulching between the beds, weeding, tying tomatoes up, and much more.

Special thanks to Freedom Nguyen for coordinating the event and to the volunteers for their hard work.  Ginkgo is open to anyone who wants to drop in and lend a hand on our workdays.  We hope to see some of these faces return.
A closing note:  I have fallen behind on updating the blog lately and I appreciate the patience of the Roosevelt volunteers as well as any avid fans of the blog.  I promised these students that I would make them famous on the blog and now I've kept my word.