Thursday, November 28, 2013

1138 pounds

In the daily tasks that occur over a six month growing season, one may not be able to discern larger trends. It may be possible to develop theories that are based on hunches or anxieties, but not information.

For example, I worried through much of the 2013 season that the garden's yield had diminished--our tomatoes in particular. We knew that the season had started slowly, and some of our crops did not produce as we expected. It is only now, after I entered the data from our log into the rickety spreadsheet that I use for harvest analysis, that I understand that the garden's performance is in line with the annual averages. I also discovered some pleasant surprises.

Ginkgo grew and donated 1,138 pounds of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers in 2013. The season's peak occurred on September 14, when we harvested 154 pounds, 70 of which was fruit.

This year's yield was well within a standard deviation (233 lb) of the six-year average of 1202 lb. The yield is slightly better than that of 2012 (1083 lb), but far short of 2009's bumper crop (1617 lb), which was an obvious outlier.
Weekly and YTD yield comparisons, 2008-2013

This year's harvest was shorter this year--only around 20 weeks, instead of the usual 25 or 26 weeks. This was partly by design: instead of trying to eke out a few more weeks of 10-20 pound harvests, we decided to use the last few weeks of available City water to irrigate our cover crops.

Weekly comparisons, 2008-2013
We did notice that our tomato crops died back earlier this year; however, it was only after comparing the annual yields did it become apparent that the peak for this season was later than usual. Our tomato harvest was compressed this year. The 2013 yield of 314 pounds was near the six-year average of 326 (excluding the outlier year of 2012, which had 539 pounds).

The following table shows comparisons by crop. Crops are highlighted in green if new for that year; in blue if the yield was significantly larger than normal; and in red if significantly smaller than normal.
Yields by crop, 2008-2013
Vegetable crops of note for 2013 include:
  • artichokes, which we finally succeeded in growing (even if only 2.5 lb)
  • cabbage (26 lb)
  • kale--a whopping 117 lb. (I did predict early on that 2013 would be an annus borecolus; but I had no idea.)
  • peas (17.5 lb)
Disappointments included:
  • lettuce (5.5 lb)
  • peppers (7.9 lb)
  • radish (7.3 lb)
  • spinach (0.3 lb)

Vegetable Crop Composition Comparison, 2008-2013
After a long run of small harvests, 2013 was a banner year for tree fruit, with 174 lb of apples and 152 lb of pears. Although we only obtained 12.5 lb of plums, we were heartened to see that our trees appear to be recovering from the aphid ailments that have plagued them.

Fruit Crop Comparison, 2008-2013
It was a good year for chives (12.1 lb); as we have been maintaining the herb beds indifferently, though, the yield from our other herb plants was relatively low.

Herb Crop Comparison, 2008-2013

Friday, November 1, 2013

We Like-us a Ficus

If you've been to Ginkgo or have followed the blog, you know how excited we are about our fig trees.  Folks constantly tell us, "I've never seen a fresh fig" or ask, "How do they survive the Chicago winter?" Of all the fruits and vegetables that we grow, the figs are undoubtedly the most bizarre (sorry gooseberries).  I'm careful in picking the superlative because all of our produce is interesting–carrots have a deep (pun intended) history; the cruciferous plants (kale, broccoli, cabbage, radish, turnips, etc.), all relatives of the same original plant, can call to each other from bed to bed to catch up on family news; the Mammoth Sunflowers produce extraordinary growth; the tomatoes... THE TOMATOES! But the figs are just bizarre.

Each year we dig a large trench in the ground, swaddle the trees, and tip them into the holes. We cover the holes with plywood, then mound soil and straw on top to insulate the trees for the winter.  In the spring we resurrect them and stand in astonishment by how much they grow.

This year one of our trees, is already underground, but the other, dubbed Persephone, is too large to bury.  We have been looking for solutions and have considered wrapping the tree above ground. The other plan, and our likely choice, is to divide the tree.

Our trees are from divisions. A gentleman, Mario, gave us these divisions and they have rooted and grown tremendously at Ginkgo. Essentially, we would cut Persephone in half, giving each half plenty of root structure. One half would go into a pot of soil and eventually be given to a friend.  The other half would be buried for the winter.

This surgery is common, but we would be taking a chance and we don't have much experience with the procedure. I had come to believe that these trees really enjoy growing and that they will forgive us for errant cuts.

This is what we did last Saturday, and we hope you can come out this Saturday to help with Persephone.

Lids for the compost bins being constructed by an awesome team of volunteers

Saturday, October 26, 2013

less for the flowers, than for what the flowers convey

Chicago Cares, a longtime partner in Ginkgo's mission to grow both food and community, surprised us again with a gift of gardening equipment, including hand tools, tomato stakes, and hoes. The flagship (or perhaps prairie dinghy) of this bounty was a new Ames wheelbarrow, which replaced the barrow that we used until the handles broke. I don't think that anything will break on our new wheelbarrow for a long time.

Ginkgo thanks Chicago Cares for its generous investment in community gardening.

Christmas in September

Some assembly was required. Behind Ivy and Lauren is part of the older wheelbarrow, which we'll find a use for. Few objects leave the garden once they enter it, other than fruits and vegetables.
Five minutes later, this was full of rotting hay for mulching.

Monday, October 21, 2013

i love a parade (September through October)

The parade continues:

September 7 - Cabbage, chard, and surprising lemon cucumbers, though plentiful, are dwarfed by amount of tomatoes and tree fruit that we bring.

September 14 - The peak harvest of this season. For the first time, I have to make two trips to the pantry--one just for apples and pears.

September 21 - A huge day, but we can tell that we're on the other side of the peak. We are happy to bring a small basket of plums. Our trees survived a spring attack of aphids, thanks to the John and Ivy's assiduous applications of Dr. Bronner's soap.

September 28 - Another phenomenal harvest. Thanks to the many volunteers that helped, we managed to pull 63 pounds of pears. I had to go to a backup cart at the pantry.

October 5 - The last hurrah of the sweet peppers. We're starting to pull up plants, seeding their beds with cover crop for the winter.

October 12 -Throughout all of the colorful weeks of late summer, the kale and collards continue to produce.

October 19 - Suddenly, it seems, the end of the season arrives. We harvest the remaining tomatoes and hot peppers before composting the plants. The smaller fig tree's fruit ripens all at once. We're down to our greens, which may not produce enough to justify a delivery next week.

The first freeze of the year is predicted to occur this week. The City is set to shut off our tap water supply at any time.

We'll probably still be out at the garden for a few more weekends, until our knuckles start to bleed from the wind and cold. We still need to bury the fig trees and prepare the garden for winter.

i love a parade (June through August)

One benefit of being remiss with regular blog updates is that I get to post an entire season's pictures at once. Following are photos of the bike cart as it became increasingly laden through the season, as well as the how the garden's produce appeared after I arranged it for the pantry.

The pantry volunteers have started to tease me about the growing fussiness with which I market the fruit and vegetables from the garden. I now do everything except photograph a handful of tomatoes being tossed through a sheet of water.

June 1 - radishes and flowering chives

June 8 - radishes and greens

June 15 - greens, peas, roses, and flowering herbs

June 22: It is not until you grow oregano that you realize how lovely the herb is in flower.

June 29 - The greens begin to arrive in earnest.

July 6 - Our boxes stack three high in the delivery cart.

July 13 - Greens, radishes, raspberries, and peas begin to crowd the market cart.

July 20 - Kale and collards are the quiet folk at the party over whose shoulders everyone peers, wondering when the tomatoes will show. They'll stay around and help rearrange the furniture long after the tomatoes have moved on to the next thing.

July 27 - Heads of lettuce, kale, beets, gooseberries, and the first of (frustratingly) only a half dozen heads of broccoli that we will eventually harvest this season. An hour before these pictures were taken, these vegetables and fruit were still in the ground or on a bush.

August 3 - Nearly 20 pounds of kale and other greens are overshadowed by a small basket's worth of cherry tomatoes.

August 10 - Our harvest has started to diversify, with beans, turnips, and carrots joining the weekly bounty of greens. Sick of the way that the wandering onions were taking over part of the garden, we harvested them all. They taste similar to shallots.

August 17 - Artichokes, beans, tomatoes, purple carrots, chard, kale, collards, and garlic chives

August 24 - Pole and bush beans, tomatoes, cabbages, and the stalwart kale

August 31 -  Tigger melons, the first apples of the year, a few cucumbers, and our kale and collards. Of more interest, of course, are the tomatoes.