Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dealing With Bumper Crops

With a drought in full swing through a great deal of the country I read a great deal from small farmers, gardeners and homesteaders bemoaning crop failures. I grew up on a farm and have gardened most of my life and there is one thing I have learned. No matter how great your soil or how great a gardener you are, there are going to be crop failures. This goes along with hail storms, droughts and bugs. 

The one thing that I will try to impress on you though. When it seems that God has taken away one blessing many times he replaces it with another. Here is a perfect example. This spring my fruit trees were loaded with blossoms. 

Early in the spring the young fruit just hung from the branches and a bumper crop seemed imminent. We dreamed of crisp red apples, juicy plums and sweet peaches. Then about the end of April the rain just seemed to stop. The late spring weather heated up and before spring was even over we were enduring 100+ degree days. Usually we have a few of these days in late July and August. Those beautiful fruit, no matter how much we watered seemed to just wither and fall right before our eyes. The trees already being stressed were easy picking for the numerous insects that seemed to be everywhere. Eventually we faced the facts that there would be very few fresh peach pies. That those beautiful red apples would be rare this year. And with the drought so widespread we knew that fresh organic fruit would be at a premium in the marketplace. 

But we take heart that this is a cycle and next year may be the year of bumper crop fruit. It seems that we have those every few years. 

So mother nature in her wisdom sent different blessings. We struggle to grow grapes many years because of humidity and rainfall. The fungal diseases seem to love all that moisture. But in a hot dry year those grapes just hung in beautiful clusters. Indeed we had a bumper crop. So instead of apple juice in the Hickery Holler pantry we have an abundance of sweet grape juice.   

Instead of crisp apple pies adorning our holiday tables this Thanksgiving and Christmas it is more like to be laden with butternut squash and sweet potato pies. Sweet potatoes struggle in our cooler climate and shorter growing season many years. But this drought year we look to have a bumper crop of those heat loving tubers. 

Our corn this year was plagued with not only drought but also several wind storms that blew through to lay it down several times. We managed to get a large portion on the first planting and a marginal harvest on the second. The third planting was a complete bust. But in it's wake we had bumper early crops of cabbage, green beans and tomatoes. I have already canned over 60 jars of tomato sauce alone and continue to can till frost. This will help to rebuild my tomato stock because for the two years prior to that we had very cool and wet growing seasons and the tomatoes were very slow to set fruit and ripen without the summer heat. My stock of tomato products was drastically down.  

Instead of peach and plum jam this year we will be enjoying strawberry rhubarb, blackberry and grape jam on our hot biscuits and peanut butter sandwiches. 

And in the 15 years that I have lived on this farm very rarely have we been able to grow large juicy melons. It seems that with a lack of heat and a short growing season we truly struggle to get them ripe before frost. This year I will be making watermelon rind preserves and enjoying those fresh juicy watermelons and cantaloupe in the place of peaches and plums. What a refreshing change.  

So you see despite our drought we continue to produce fresh and healthy produce. Diversity is the key and this is the one piece of advice I will pass on to all you gardeners out there. 

By the way I always can as much as possible of my bumper crops because it may be a few years before that blessing rolls around again.

But the most important thing is that our freezers, pantry and table will continue to be full of homegrown, organic and tasty food..

And if food prices increase as much as they are predicted to, this will indeed be a blessing. 

So I would love to hear what your bumper crop this year has been and also your biggest bust !   Until next time....

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter  



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Everything look delicious. I've got greenhouses in my garden (i live in city) i've got and I've got potatoes, but they don't look like your (your potatoes look very healtly and taste).
    When you have got time for you?
    I'm greet Ilona
    P.s sorry for bad English, but i don't know very good this language

  3. You're right, it is cyclical. This year I have enjoyed an abundance of cucumbers, eggplant and tomatoes, but the beans are doing eh, and the zucchini has been a bust. Next year, I'm sure it'll be a different story.

  4. We didn't plant much this year, but I can see the difference on our fruit trees. The last few years, our cherry trees haven't produced much but the pear tree has been loaded. This year we had an amazing cherry crop and we only have a few pears - the last snow must have come at the wrong time. But it's a blessing because I was getting really burned out on doing up so many pears, and we have so many jars to use up.

  5. I don't grow nearly as much as you do & this summer I pretty much let my garden die. After it was planted we had two family emergencies - my mother-in-law became very sick & we ended up moving her & I had an unplanned surgery that I'm recovering from still. If we could see the future we would know what to plant better! I have a friend who when there's a bumper crop always says she's working hard to put it all up because she knows more than likely it will be a few years before we're blessed with it again.

    I recently discovered your blog & have so enjoyed it.

  6. First time gardener with a 4'x8' raised bed in the backyard. Our cherry tomatoes did excellent, as did cucumbers, as far as we can tell. One tomato plant got a fungus and we now know to add calcium to the soil. Peppers petered out, and I thought the carrots my wife planted were weeds so I harvested them way too early. We're learning and will expand to at least three beds next year.

    We need to know when to pull up the spring crop and plant the fall ones. Any tips?

  7. First time gardener with a 4'x8' raised bed in the backyard. Our cherry tomatoes did excellent, as did cucumbers, as far as we can tell. One tomato plant got a fungus and we now know to add calcium to the soil. Peppers petered out, and I thought the carrots my wife planted were weeds so I harvested them way too early. We're learning and will expand to at least three beds next year.

    We need to know when to pull up the spring crop and plant the fall ones. Any tips?

  8. I believe you need to call yourself O Wise One (O is for Oh not Old:). This year for me the whole garden is a bumper crop. Everything that I planted seems to be doing great. As oppose to last year, the only thing that grew was potatoes. And they didn't grow very well.

    Now for my questions, Do you plant pretty much the same things every year, knowing that depending on what type of weather you get, somethings will do better than others? Or like this year did you hear of a drought prediction and plant more of the things that like that kind of weather?

  9. Our jalapenos, banana peppers, and tomatoes did great this year. Our corn, bell peppers carrots however did not. I'm hoping for another great sweet potato crop.

  10. Bumper = apricots, tomatoes, zucchini, boysenberries.
    Bust = pole beans, peppers

    You just have to roll with what nature gives you.

  11. Your posts always make me smile, CQ. Hope you all have a blessed Sunday!

  12. I always have great tomatoes..... until this year! They just didn't produce as they usually do. But my potatoes are abundant. I guess you never know!!!

  13. Here in upstate NY the apples are a bust due to a late frost. It's an off year for wild raspberries too and wild grapes as usual fell to the fungus that invaded here several years ago. I suppose I should go and pull the vines out and burn them, but it goes on the back burner to other things right now. Tomatoes are doing well and for the first time I have been successful with cantalope (I'll try your dehydration suggestion IF we can stop eating them to save some to put up!) Cukes are plentiful, many qts of pickles are in the cellar. Potatoes and onions did well, and zucs are their usual robust selves. Still waiting for the eggplants and sweet peppers to get serious about producing more than lovely foliage, just a few of each so far but they have set a bunch of blossums. Nights have been down in the 50's already and my fall cauliflower, brussel sprouts (they are started in the spring and take all season), and brocoli look OK, so far anyways. I had a nice bunch of cabbages this year and have sauerkraut started , another first for us. Beets and turnips did well. I only planted a small patch of each as husband has always stated he was not a fan of them so I had no intention of putting any up,however he really enjoyed them this year so next year I will plant more for canning and freezing. (I don't think he had even tried them for the past 50 yrs or so.) For the first time I found small patches of elderberry bushes on our 60 acreas and the berries are in the freezer awaiting jam making time(after tomato season). Next year I will attempt sweet potatoes (any hints?) as my southern husband grew up on having them daily. One thing I have NEVER been successful at is growing carrots. I have tried all manner of planting from raised beds,flat beds, hilled beds, various soil amendments, various seed types even seeds on tapes etc, but no success. As kids we grew (and weeded) tons of carrots. Ah well, my failure keeps me humble and of course next year I will try once again. As you note, gardening is always an adventure for sure, and at age 60 I never cease to be amazed and eternally grateful by all of it. I thank you for your blog, it is my favorite for gardening and canning.


Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry, but I reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever (abusive, profane, rude, or anonymous comments) – so keep it polite, please. Also I am not a free advertisement board if you want to push a product on my comments I will delete you fast !!!

Related Posts with Thumbnails