Finally enjoying fruits of my labor

By Karl Terry: CNJ columnist

I had threatened to put in a garden for the last three summers.

The last several weeks we’re finally enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Back in the spring I tilled up a spot in the southwest corner of our yard and planted a variety of vegetables. Overall the new garden turned out pretty well, but like most backyard gardeners a lot of lessons were learned. Question is, will I remember those lessons next year?

Can you say zucchini and lots of it?

I planted two hills of zucchini and three hills of yellow squash and the dark green gourds are out-producing the crooknecks two-to-one right now. I was pretty sure the squash would produce. I’ve never planted squash anywhere where I didn’t get enough to give away.

I thought I was being pretty careful but I still managed to shade out several plants with the huge squash plants. The unusual thing this year is that squash bugs have been very little problem. Usually by now the little gray bugs are chowing down.

I think I got a little carried away with cucumbers. I have cucumber vine running all over the plot. I’ve harvested cukes hanging from the cages around my tomatoes and even one hanging off a pepper cage. The cucumbers have been plentiful and tasty. We like fresh cucumbers so well I’m not sure we’ll ever get any pickles made.

My four different varieties of tomatoes have given us a pretty good variety and are now keeping up with our desire to eat them and even give a few away. The cherry tomatoes have been the most flavorful. A lemon tomato has given us something a little different with bright yellow on the plate though the flavor isn’t as hearty.

My tomatoes seemed to take forever to set fruit this year but not as long as the “tomato trees” we planted last year on the patio. I think more sun is possibly needed.

I planted giant sunflowers along the south fence on a whim and wasn’t disappointed. It was fun to watch them shoot up above the 6-foot fence in no time at all. The huge heads, tracking the sun, brightened up things. They’ll provide a treat for the birds this fall.

Our pole beans have only been fair this year. I went to the extra trouble of putting up some old trellis for them to climb only to find they don’t seem to like climbing the lattice nearly as well as they do the neighboring sunflower stalks. I think bugs and lack of sun were the biggest culprit for the lackluster bean harvest.

The pepper plants grew well but didn’t set many peppers. The radishes grew well until the bugs got in the tops. The handful of radishes we got were about the hottest things I’ve ever eaten. According to one expert I talked with, weed control would keep the insects that eat radish tops down. Netting over the plants will also work, she told me.

Onions, cantaloupe and watermelon appear to be a complete failure in the Terry garden this season. The jury is still out on the carrots, which stalled during the hotter months but are growing pretty good now. I have 2-inch carrots beneath the soil now.

When I planted the garden I pushed stakes into the ground with the seed packet planted in that area attached so my wife could tell what was growing. An empty Reese’s Pieces candy wrapper had blown into the yard and so I put it on a stake out of silliness. I figure at harvest time I’ll yield about 60 bushels to the acre of the chocolatey treat.