Iowa Vegetable Garden Harvest 2020

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve been gardening for 4 years now in this house! Before we moved here, I knew absolutely NOTHING about gardening and have learned a lot along the way (lots of mistakes!). Luckily my husband grew up gardening with his family so he’s taught me a lot, and I obsessively watch YouTube gardeners (Garden Answer, MI Gardener, Epic Gardening) in my free time.

I love documenting our garden journey on Instagram, but I thought it’d be fun to share our garden harvest with you all to be able to look back on each year.

It’s also easy to get down on yourself when things like droughts, storms (derecho 2020!), and life make it hard to have a successful harvest of one crop, so it’s a good reminder that you can’t control everything, but there were so many other wins. I’ll also mention how we used or cooked everything as we go.

Asparagus

Asparagus is typically our first harvest of the year, and honestly the easiest one! The previous owners of this house were avid gardeners, so we lucked out when we got to inherit a well established asparagus plot. I now see why this was the only thing they asked if we were keeping when we moved in, it takes a couple years to grow hearty, delicious asparagus like this!

These grow so fast, it honestly gets tough to keep up with them, we gave some bundles away to the neighbors as well.

What we made with them:
  • Steamed asparagus
  • Roasted and seasoned
  • Quick pickling for charcuterie boards
  • Canned them last year, but we felt like they tended to mush up faster that way
Annual burning of the asparagus fern to allow the new shoots to come up!

We (mostly my husband) also get a kick out of burning the asparagus bus/fern in the spring to allow the plant to come up.

Another reason why asparagus is so easy, after it’s done being harvested, you let it grow into a bush and don’t worry about it the rest of the year! The bees love the tiny flowers it blooms, and you can also use the fern parts for flower decor!

Radish, Lettuce, Spinach, Carrot

Radish, spinach and lettuce are some of the quickest and easiest vegetables to grow and are typically recommended for most beginners.

We planted them in a raised bed, but we still have to put some chicken wire around it to deter the neighborhood bunnies from having an all-you-can-eat buffet.

We also plant carrots in here, but those take longer before we can harvest them. We tend to grow them fairly close together, and we have the intentions of thinning them out, but that doesn’t always happen.

What we made with them:
  • Radish – roasted and seasoned radishes, cut up in salads, thinly sliced with cucumber salads
  • Lettuce – salads, salads and more salads
  • Spinach – thrown into salads, fruit smoothies
  • Carrots – salads, diced up into rice bowls

Onions

This year we tested out using onion sets, which are just the little onion bulbs. Last year we got small onion plants, so they already had the green tops growing. We had pretty good success last year, and we use onions in everything so we grew more!

We were better about fertilizing them throughout the year, but we weren’t great about keeping the weeds around them at bay. I think this diminished their growth, but we were still able to grow a fair amount of onions!

We typically store them in the basement or in the kitchen cabinet in a box so they will last a while, but honestly we use them pretty quick.

What we made with them:
  • Grilled vegetable foil packets
  • Cut up into salads
  • Salsas
  • Pasta sauces, other pasta dishes

Potatoes

Our overall plan for our garden was to keep the main bed simple with what we actually like to eat and can store well. So the main plot we made up of onions, potatoes and corn for those reasons.

A good chunk of our garden plot was made up of potatoes, and used a variety of golden/yellow potatoes and red potatoes.

Throughout the season the potatoes grew pretty well, but before we harvested we started to see the red potatoes getting weaker and the leaves turning colors. We think some of this was due to overhead watering with our hose on the plant instead of keeping it closer to the roots.

It gets tough since our backyard is separated by our garage/driveway so we don’t have a great way to set up irrigation from our house. Regardless, by the time we harvested we still had lots of great looking potatoes, and as of early September we have sadly already eaten them all!

Small potato plant
What we made with them:
  • Baked potatoes (I used the America’s Test Kitchen recipe – the best!)
  • Mashed potatoes, and made imitation KFC bowls with it
  • Vegetable foil packets
  • Breakfast potatoes
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Steamed potatoes

Corn

We live in Iowa, how can we not have a corn plot?? Last year it was SO rainy that they didn’t too very well, and we didn’t fertilize them properly. This year we’ve had a lack of rain, but were able to supplemental that and fertilize them a lot early on. This year we used the Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Plant Food on just about everything.

Early on we were really good about fertilizing everything on a weekly basis, and it did wonders on our corn crop! I was able to stock up on a lot of it at Earl May with my left over Fun Money from last year.

A lot of times their best promotions for the Fun Money are towards the end of the growing season, so I recommend stocking up on fertilizer or other tools at that time!

Half of our corn plot we planted sweet corn for eating, and the other half we planted ornamental corn for decorating.

Two things we encountered with our corn this year was corn smut, which is a type of fungus that grows on the corn. It’s definitely freaky looking, but harmless enough, and some people even cook with it! I’m not sure I’m brave enough for that yet. We may need to look into reducing the fungus for next year.

Secondly, if you haven’t read my previous blog post about the Iowa Derecho we had last month, the high winds flattened a lot of our crop.

What we made with them:
  • Added to our KFC imitation mashed potato bowls
  • Vegetable foil packets
  • Corn on the cob
  • Side dish of steamed corn
  • Chili
  • Decor – using the ornamental corn

Even though a lot of our corn plot was flattened, we walked back through it a little while later when everything was dried and saved a lot of the ornamental corn and brought it in! I couldn’t believe the wide range of colors and quirks each one had.

I realized I still could decorate with the ornamental corn, and I’m still trying to see if I can make some sort of wreath, but the vase idea I posted above is such a cute way to display the colors and isn’t permanent so I can always change it up later.

Herbs

We have one raised bed dedicated to our herbs. In there we have mint, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and lemon balm. We also had a separate pot with basil and our adorable thrifted white pitcher with lavender.

The mint and the oregano always tend to take over, and we need to be better about cutting it back, but nothing bad has happened…yet! We mainly use our herbs for cooking, tea, garnish and drying with our dehydrator for year-round use.

What we made with them:
  • Lavender – hot tea, garnish for drinks
  • Mint – moscow mule drinks, mojitos, fresh and dried for hot tea
  • Lemon balm – hot tea, garnishes
  • Oregano – pasta dishes, red sauces, taco seasoning
  • Basil – pasta dishes, red sauces, pizza topping, charcuterie boards
  • Rosemary – steaks, drink garnishes, seasoning

Blueberry

This year I decided to plant a small blueberry bush between our two raised beds, I’ve been wanting some sort of fruit in our garden for some time. I know it’s a little risky to plant blueberries since they are a zone 4 and we live in a zone 5, and I’m hoping it winters over okay, but I’ll let you know about that next year!

Sadly the picture with the handful of blueberries was about the only berries we got to eat. Some sort of critter, bird, bunny, squirrel also enjoyed the blueberries. We even tried putting a net over the bush, but I couldn’t get it completely sealed so something was getting to them anyway. I need to figure out a more custom and better netting configuration for next year.

Overall we had a lot of fun with our vegetable garden, even when things didn’t always work out as planned. Let me know what you’re growing and any other cooking ideas for the vegetables we got!

3 thoughts on “Iowa Vegetable Garden Harvest 2020

  1. I have gardening envy over here! We just planted garlic for our spring harvest and we have plans for onions and potatoes (If we can find seed potatoes in the spring). Where do you usually buy your onions/potatoes?!

    1. I randomly found seed potatoes in our small town hardware store called Kempker’s True Value. For onions I think we also got them there, although in the past we found the green onion starts at either Lowe’s or Earl May. I think our Earl May usually has potatoes too!

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