Analyzing our 2021 garden: carrots, beets and potatoes

Since we ordered SO many things for this year, and expanded how much space we were gardening in, I decided to go over groups of things in separate posts, in no particular order and spread over the next few days.

Here we have some things we all grew last year, if not the same varieties.

First, the beets.

Last year, we ordered a beet collection from Veseys, with three different types. This year, we ordered one type only; Merlin.

We knew the deer would be after the solo bed by the spruce grove, and tried various ways to cover it. then we discovered the groundhogs were after them, too, and eventually found a way to protect them, and in the end, they did the best of all the beets.

We planted those in a bed by themselves, but had seeds left over. We also still had seeds left over from the previous year. My daughter planted them by variety, in a bed along the retaining wall of the old kitchen garden, but there were so many seeds left over, I mixed them all together and planted them in another bed.

The ones along the retaining wall ended up being eaten by groundhogs and never did recover. Drought conditions aside, that area is mostly shaded, too. The L shaped bed of mixed varieties fared better, and got much less critter damage. While we were able to get as many greens as we wanted for salads, the roots never did get very big here. There could have been many reasons for that to happen, and it was most likely a combination of them.

The carrots were a real battle for us this year. They started out well enough, but in the bed pictured above, they had their greens repeatedly eaten by groundhogs. Unable to cover the bed, we finally gave up and abandoned it. Much to my shock, we still managed to get carrots! This bed was half Napoli carrot, from Veseys, and half Kyoto Red, from Baker Creek. Considering how well they did under the circumstances, I imagine they would have been fabulous, if they hadn’t had their greens eaten repeatedly, then choked out by weeds!

We were able to cover the carrot bed in the old kitchen garden, though not until after they’d had their greens eaten by groundhogs first. Then, the kittens kept knocking the cover flat and playing on top of them.

This bed had Purple Haze Deep Purple (from Veseys), which we’d grown the year before, Longue Rouge Sang (from Baker Creek) and some Kyoto Red in it, which mostly went to seed as it grew back from being eaten by groundhogs. As we were able to tend and protect this bed, we did eventually have carrots to pick for meals. This was a small bed and there wasn’t a lot, but we at least got something.

Last year, we grew only one variety of potato – Yukon Gem – using the Ruth Stout method of growing them under a heavy mulch instead of hilling them. This year, we ordered 4 varieties; Yukon Gem, Norland, Purple Peruvian and Purple Chief. The Yukon Gem and Norland were chosen for storage-ability, while the fingerlings were chosen for quick eating. We also decided to convert deer and bird feed bags into grow bags, to avoid the slug problem we had last year, and so that we could “hill” them by adding soil into the bags over time. Only after they were planted did we learn that potatoes come in determinate and indeterminate types, that indeterminate varieties are the kind that work in grow bags and potato towers, and that the varieties we had were all determinate!

In the end, I feel growing them this way did work, if not particularly as well as I’d hoped. It was difficult to water them well, but we still got a decent amount of potatoes. All the varieties were delicious.

They also didn’t last long. We would need to plant a LOT more potatoes to last us through the winter. We won’t be able to do that for a while, but we are working out what varieties we like, and which are the most successful. The Purple Peruvian won that particular title this year. I was quite impressed. The down side of the fingerlings is their uneven shapes, making them hard to clean for cooking.


Final Analysis

Beets: The beets that didn’t get eaten by critters didn’t do too badly under drought conditions, though I’m sure they would have done better if we’d have been able to water them more thoroughly. Next year, we won’t be growing as many. I’ve already got a variety from Veseys called Bresko, which is noted as a good storage beet. I don’t think we’ll get any other varieties this time. They’re a good, dual purpose crop, since the greens can also be eaten, but after trying so many different varieties, I think we’re good with just the one, this time. Plus, it’s easier to protect one bed from critters!

Carrots: We still have pelleted Napoli carrot seeds, and I’m sure we still have the pelleted Kyoto red seeds left, too. I was quite happy with both varieties, as much as we were able to taste them. While I liked the other two varieties as well, they had far fewer seeds per packet. Plus, there is a super deep, dark purple variety I plan to try for next year.

The real challenge will be to protect them from groundhogs. They REALLY loved those carrot greens! I, however, want to have enough carrots for winter storage, as well as for canning and freezing.

Potatoes: while we were very happy with the potatoes we got from Veseys, I found a source that specializes in only seed potatoes, and there are some very interesting varieties I want to try. Again, long term storage is a primary goal. Next year, I think we will go back to doing the Ruth Stout method, as I want to use the growing of potatoes to help amend certain garden areas. We just have to look into how to protect them from slugs. Doing potato towers, with indeterminate types of potatoes, is something we will go back to in the future. I hope to plant more of potatoes, overall, too. We all really like potatoes, so the more we can grow ourselves, the better. I don’t expect that we’ll ever reach the levels my parents did, with dozens of 30 foot rows, but if we can do even half that, we will have enough to last us through the winter, and have seed potatoes for the following year.

I also plan to get some sunchokes, aka: Jerusalem Artichokes, for next year’s garden. They are in the sunflower family, but can be eaten like potatoes. I want to give them a try to see if they are something we like.

The Re-Farmer

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