In my last post, I gave a general overview of the 2016 season. Now it's time for the nitty gritty - the numbers. If you're not into the numbers, skip down to the paragraph after the "Pounds" table where I give the low-down on which veg did well and which did poorly.
A record breaking year – when it comes to overall harvest, anyhow. Big harvest increases for several crops, specifically carrots, cucumbers, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, peppers, shelling peas, squash (both summer and winter) and tomatoes. But there were a number of losers as well, all of which experienced significant decreases: Chinese greens, onions, snap peas, potatoes, shallots and turnips.
One other number that I like to review is the yield per square foot. After all, an increase in productivity isn’t very impressive if there is a corresponding increase in bed space.
* Total # of beds include 3 asparagus beds that are not yet producing
Each straw bale = 3 sq. ft.
My goal is to achieve the best yield from a given amount of space and, in pursuing this goal, I’m always experimenting. Some factors, such as the weather, are out of my control but many others are well within my ability to change. I enjoy experimenting with different methods, varieties, soil amendments, etc. Quite often, the results are not as good as I hope for but, every once in a while, I hit upon a winner – such as the spring brassica bed or the pepper bed spacing I spoke about in my previous post.
It's important to keep in mind, however, that a high yield per sq. foot isn’t necessarily an indication that you are maximizing your garden space. I grew a huge (for us) quantity of winter squash last season, for example. 28 kg/63 lbs of winter squash is definitely more than we would normally use, especially as my family isn't in love with it (yet!). Thankfully it's a good keeper and I can also cook it up and freeze it. It's highly likely, however, that I'll still have quite a bit in the freezer by the time the next harvest rolls around.
Cutting back on a heavy-weight like winter squash and using the extra space for another crop may result in a lower yield for the space used, but it would bring me closer to optimal use of the space, which is the ultimate goal. As Michelle often says, just because you can grow it, doesn't mean you should grow it. Wise words that all vegetable gardeners would do well to heed.
Each year, I do a bit more tweaking in the hopes of achieving a better balance. One of the tweaks this year will be when it comes to the tomatoes – I’ll be cutting back on the number of plants that I grow (gasp!). I think I’ve found the bed layout that works best in my garden, which I used in both 2014 and 2016 - notice the bumper crop in both those years in the tables. I still have a huge quantity of tomato puree/sauce in the freezer as well as the cold cellar and have a feeling that we won’t get through it all before the next ripe tomatoes start rolling off the vines.
2016 was a bumper tomato year
So I’m reducing the number of tomato plants this year from 28 to 24. This should give me more than enough fresh tomatoes/sauce in a good tomato year and an adequate supply in a not-so-good year. Best of all, it frees up some bed space for crops that I want to grow more of…dried beans comes to mind.
All in all, I’m very happy with the results of the 2016 growing season. I’ll give some of the credit to our weather, but I believe that factors that were within my control (the drip installation, varieties chosen, soil amendments, planting methods, etc.) were just as influential, if not more so.
I'm very excited for the upcoming growing season - 'cause it's going to be the BEST year ever, right? :)