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Winter at the New Hampshire Trial Garden

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Close up of Pepper of all colors
This past season was a generous – and colorful! — one at the Canterbury, New Hampshire trial garden.

While the garden slumbers, Bonnie Plants Field Representative and New Hampshire Trial Garden Manager Deke Jackson reflects on the past growing season. 

Now that a foot of snow rests on the garden and night temperatures are in the single digits, the idea of fresh picked tomatoes is so distant. Still, it seems like only last month we were delivering multiple crates of vegetables to the food bank and soup kitchens every week.

The garden is all cleaned up and ready for next spring. The kids took the last few watermelons and carved them up for “Redneck Jack-O-Lanterns”. Not only did they turn out great, but you can eat the insides!

The total garden yield was almost double this year versus last year. We picked 5000 pounds of tomatoes! That averages to be about 25 pounds of fruit per plant. My helper for most of the summer was my daughter, Chloe, who picked about 900 pounds of cherry tomatoes.

Our first cherry tomato to ripen was Tami-G, a very sweet cherry. Not a week went by that we didn’t pick at least 100 tomatoes off of that plant — it was the “Energizer bunny” of the tomato kingdom. The determinate-type tomatoes were the first slicers to be picked. Better Bush was first and continued to produce most of the season, and both Bush Goliath and Patio were also very early with the harvest.

There are a lot of choices when it comes to tomatoes: large plants or small plants; large fruit, slicers or cherries; red, orange, yellow, or black. I am a firm believer that you should plant a mix for your patio or garden that includes a determinate for early fruit, an indeterminate for continuous fruit production, an heirloom for their very different flavors, and, finally, a cherry type for eating right in the garden. (Use Bonnie’s Tomato Chooser to help you find varieties that fit these different categories.)

Peppers of all types flowing out of a basket.
Despite the short Northeast growing season, Deke and his family picked loads of peppers, including a wide variety of hot ones that packed quite a punch.

But this year wasn’t just about tomatoes, as we also had a great pepper garden this year. Although some of my trials were planted too late (mid July) and did not yield heavily, we picked bushels of bells, bananas and various hot peppers each week all summer long. I love all the colors and shapes of the peppers — they are so fun to work with. We delivered hot peppers to a local chef to use in his cooking, and it was fun to watch his eyes water up as he sampled them. Even with our mild Northeast summers the peppers pack a lot of heat!

My big surprise of the summer was our sweet potatoes. I had always thought they were for southern gardens, but I planted some anyway. When it came time to dig them up, we kept finding more and more potatoes. It is a crop definitely worth trying.

During our long winter, my family enjoys our home-made tomato sauce on our spaghetti every Monday night. It keeps us dreaming of seasons to come.