Friday, March 10, 2017

2016 Year In Review - The Numbers


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.


Grams/Kg





Pounds



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.

Not bad - but as you can see, I am well below my 2014 sq. ft. yield.  I would say that the dismal 2016 onion harvest was the largest contributing factor - there was a 59 lb drop in the total harvest even though the bed space used was more or less the same.

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? :)

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

26 comments:

  1. I'll read the rest later....but, 7kg of chilli peppers!!!! Impressive.

    We'll have to call you Margaret the iron lady, because you must have a metal mouth and stomach :)

    I take it you supply the local kebab house? or do you simply eat a lot of peppers?

    I grew about 500g of chilli and have most of it dried. It will last me a few years. The last lot I grew lasted 5 to 10 years before I finished eating them :)

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    1. Ha, ha...we do like our spice - well, my husband and I do, anyhow - we're still working on the kids! Some of the hot peppers we grew were only mildly spicy, such as the Anaheims, so I can include them in dishes that even the kids will eat. Others, like Lemon Drop (Aji Limon) - whoa...I found that one SPICY, so only a pinch will do and ONLY for the grownups. It's not on my grow list this year for the very reason you indicated - it will likely take me a couple of years to get through the small jar of powder I have :)

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  2. There are always winners and losers aren't there? Can't you hide the squashes in curries etc. We had one of our best onion years last year, some brassicas were our disappointment.

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    1. My kids can usually sniff out stuff they don't like, so I've stopped trying to hide things. But they DO like a squash rissoto I make, which was quite the surprise...so I guess there will be a lot more of that on the menu ;)

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  3. I always enjoy reading your reviews! I am truly impressed with the productivity of your garden, even if it wasn't as productive as 2014 on a per sqft. basis. You must be seeing red with all those tomatoes! And that's a nice haul of garlic too, surely enough to keep the vampires away. ;-)

    I do much like you are doing with tomatoes, cutting back on a crop if we wind up with extras in storage. I skipped spinach this winter since we had plenty in the freezer, and since it takes up valuable greenhouse space I can devote to other greens. It's been a while since I had too many tomatoes though, since I've had trouble with them for a couple of years.

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    1. Thanks Dave - no vampires at our house, that's for sure :)

      It's so easy to get a bit carried away with the amount that we grow - especially when those seed catalogues beckon in the dead of winter and all those little seedlings are just that...little!

      I remember planting up an entire 8'x4' bed of lettuce and thinking that this likely wouldn't be enough...boy was I wrong! We were drowning in lettuce before too long and the 8x4 went to 4x4 which was cut back even further to 4x3 - the perfect amount for us (and even then we often have too much!).

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  4. Yep!! Gonna be the best year ever in my little courtyard! LOL Nancy

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    1. Can't what to see what you do with it!

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  5. Very impressive yields! Do you start all of your edibles from seeds? I always think that's so amazing to start food crops (and cut flowers) from seeds--such an economical way to produce food! I don't have much sun for edibles, but I do grow a few from seed. Happy growing season!

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    1. Thanks Beth :) I do start everything from seed - which means that the grow lights have been on since early February! Growing from seed is not only economical but it also provides an incredible amount of choice compared to the often limited selections at the garden centre. I've added quite a few ornamentals this year, which I'm quite excited about - some of the seeds are no bigger than grains of sand!

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  6. As far as productivity goes weight per area is a good easy comparison to make. I do the same. But I've enjoyed also getting the calories per kg of each type of produce and comparing how much of our daily energy we grow. On top of that I also look at the price of each food I would have to pay if I bought it. Also taken into account are the amount of hours I've spent getting exercise and enjoyment. Lastly the amount of money I've made selling the excess produce on the market.

    Because I enjoy it, the more hours I spend the better, the more money I make the better and the more money I save by not buying food the better.

    Weight is important for me because my main items of growing tend to be the same each year so it's a fairly good indication of progress (and failures).

    Because I'm selling plants as well as food, weight alone can't be used but the money earn't is.

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    1. Wow - that is a LOT to take into account! I've considered doing the cost/benefit analysis (i.e. cost to purchase vs. cost incurred with seed, soil amendments, etc) - just to see - but time is not on my side.

      I also think that the enjoyment we get from our gardens is immeasurable - how it helps us, inside and out...can't really put a price tag on that! I often think how lucky we are to have such an amazing hobby. And the best part is that anyone can garden and get those benefits, no matter if you have an acreage or balcony or sunny window - growing, big or small, ornamental or edible - it's all food for body and soul :)

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  7. 190 lb. of tomatoes! The mind boggles Sounds like you must be feeding the whole neighborhood.

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    1. We do like our 'maters and sauce :)

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  8. Absolutely outstanding Margaret! The 'maters and sauce must be a regular at the dinner table ... 190 pounds!??!

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    1. Ha, ha - not as regular as they should be 'cause we still have tons to go through and tomato season starts in less than 4 months!

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  9. There'll always be things which don't do as well as others, that's the nature of gardening and what works one year might not the following year, it's never an exact science. I'd be very happy if I got a harvest of winter squash like yours, that's something I could happily eat as much of as I had.

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    1. I hope my kids feel like that about squash one of these days! And yes, you are very right - even if all we look at is the weather. Some things like it cool, others like it hot - can't keep everyone happy!

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  10. Just like Dave, we've had troubles with tomatoes the last couple years as well. So it's really wonderful seeing your gorgeous haul of tomatoes and peppers last year. And your potato and squash did really well too. I do miss living in a cooler climate and being able to grow peas and potatoes.

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    1. Each climate is suited for some veg, but unfortunately not all - we gotta take the good with the bad. I'm willing to give most things a try, though, as you just never know, especially with all the varieties available these days.

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  11. That looks like a very good year to me. I wish I was getting a pound per square foot. Two things jump out, 63 pounds of carrots and the impressive yield of peppers, because even a large pepper doesn't weigh much. And the tomatoes! I got 12 pounds last year because of fungal diseases. If you are looking for another use for butternuts, I've found they make a terrific 'pumpkin' pie.

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    1. Oh, thanks! I've had my share of tomato diseases (notice that's plural) so I can empathize with your fungus issue last year. Even though I had a great tomato year, that didn't stop blight from rearing its ugly head - luckily it didn't strike until almost the end of the season this time and, unlike in 2015, the tomatoes themselves were not affected.

      Pumpkin pie is a great idea. I normally reserve that for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the excess squash may be reason enough to indulge a couple of extra times this year :)

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  12. While the harvest is truly amazing, I think I'm most impressed with your meticulous record-keeping. One year I tried to keep track, but kept forgetting to weigh things. Last year, I didn't even pretend I was going to try. Maybe this is my year.

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    1. I gotta tell you, it did take some getting used to - in the end, it more or less becomes a habit. I weigh & photograph as soon as I harvest. Keeping a plain, lined notebook in the kitchen makes things easy as I simply jot down the harvest whenever it happens then, about once per week, I input the info into the computer.

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