Asphalt Garden: Mid-season Report Card

It’s the middle of July, and time to grade my garden’s performance. Overall, I’ve been pleased with how things have grown.

The best performances definitely came from the root vegetables I planted in my wine barrels. At the start of this season I modified their soil, adding perlite and potting mix to make the dirt less dense. That made a huge improvement. Compared to last winter, the carrots and radishes I planted grew much bigger.

The main frustration has been the tomatoes. Despite my best efforts, I will have to scrap at least two of the plants.

Let’s get to the grading.

Beets: A+

I had never planted beets before, and they were a joy to grow. The tops stayed tender for a long time, meaning I could harvest a fresh beet green salad whenever I wished. My homegrown beets were tender and sweet, so I could serve them grated and raw in addition to roasted.

Radishes: A

Radishes grow so quickly, I’ve planted and harvested two crops already. I won’t be planting a third. I grew so many radishes I got tired of them; I have a full mason jar of pickled radishes I haven’t really touched yet. They grew like gangbusters, though.

Italian basil: A

I’m growing two plants of Italian basil; that’s more than enough. Basil takes a little while to get going. A month a go I was happy to have two plants. Now, of course, I’ve got way too much basil, and I have to do a serious trim job/pesto production. Caterpillars have been munching some on my basil, but the plants are growing fast enough to feed a couple additional mouths.

Carrots: A-

I’m docking the carrots slightly because they do grow pretty slowly. I planted two wine barrels at the same time. That was a mistake. Now, of course, I have pounds and pounds of carrots ready for harvesting. I’m going to have to get creative with my carrots recipes. Roast carrots, chilled carrot soup … I might even make carrot cake – and I hate carrot cake!

Thai basil: B 

I love the flavor of Thai basil, and will definitely plant it again. It doesn’t grow nearly as fast as my other three basil plants, however, so it is constantly fighting for space. Next year, I might plant it on its own.

Diva cucumber: B-
Japanese cucumber: C+

Remember how my cukes were growing like crazy? That’s stopped. This could be an “operator error” problem. I’ve been watering them faithfully, but both plants have died back considerably. Next year I will only plant one cucumber in one large self-watering container. Both cucumbers have great flavor, and are very crispy. The japanese cuke produces fruit more slowly,  so it gets docked half a letter grade.

Tomatoes: C

Up until a month ago, I would have given my tomatoes stellar marks. They were growing well and setting tons of fruit. Of course, that’s all changed now. It’s a little hard to decide how to grade the tomatoes. The fruit they have produced has been fantastic, like all homegrown tomatoes are - incomparably sweet. All four plants contracted various fungi and are slowly withering away.

I may have also made a mistake in planting indeterminate tomatoes. I was really afraid they were going to outgrow their stakes and cages. The sungold cherry tomato in particular was scary.

Mint basil: D

You know how you’re always warned to plant mint by itself, so it doesn’t crowd out other herbs? The same goes for mint basil, a 50/50 hybrid. I planted mint basil in the same container as my other basil plants. It constantly sends out above-ground roots and shoots that I am digging up to keep it from crowding out the other plants. On top of that, I’ve decided its taste is somewhere in no-man’s land. It is too minty for typical savory dishes, and not sweet enough for desserts. It has an off-putting bitter taste. I hardly ever harvest it. I won’t be planting it again.

  • Lauren

    I hate carrot cake too, but last year I harvested so many carrots from our garden that I had to do something. I found a fantastic carrot cake recipe. If you want I could send it to you, or if you have the New Best Recipe Cookbook (by the guys at Cooks Illustrated) (which I highly recommend, by the way), it’s the one in there.

  • Mac2949

    Try roasting your radishes; you’ll find recipes on line…you can eat the leaves and all.  Surprisingly good.

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