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