Friday, December 19, 2008

Plan for Food Garden 2009

Fish boxes with lettuce and spinach last May.

What do you do when there is sleet pelting the windows and cars skidding down the street? Stay home! I did some garden planning for next year.

Once again, I am not sure I will be at my current address all of next summer's growing season. Depends on many things: Will DH get into grad school? Will we be able to prepare my mother's house for habitation? Will we move to another city altogether? Will the collapsing economy have us all sharing a cardboard box under a bridge? The future is murky.

I am going to plan for a combination of my yard and my mother's. I will put most things in containers here at my house, so I can take them to Mom's if I need to move. My yard has the advantage of soil built up for a few years. Mom's soil is awful and thin in the sunny places, so I will have to build beds and use containers there, too. She also has groundhogs that will need trapping.

Another option is to get a community garden plot. I am still thinking about that. But then I would be tending three gardens. Maybe I could get a plot for just a few crops, like sweet potatoes, corn, onions, and cabbage. We'll see.

Lessons learned in this past year's garden:
  • I don't have the patience for the many challenges of tomatoes, so no tomatoes next year. We always know people with excess tomatoes that we can have or buy cheaply, so I will put my energy into other crops.

  • Consistent watering is not my strong suit. There always comes a time in the summer when something takes me away from the garden and things get too dry. I need to automate watering, using Self-Watering Containers (SWCs) and/or driplines.

  • The potatoes were a limited success. I can buy them cheaper. I will just grow sweet potatoes, which did very well with little care in 2007.

  • I liked the winter-sowing of herbs and annual flowers. I will do that in milk jugs again in late winter. Lots more basil.
Various herb sprouts in milk jug greenhouses in May.

I plan to use several growing methods. I like my fish boxes for for lettuce and other greens, raised high off the ground to avoid pests that munch and cats that spray urine. They are easy to cover with nets. I will sow the fishboxes around St Patrick's Day, when I plant onions at Mom's house.

I planted some big containers last year, and will do it again but make them SWCs. I got some recommendations from my container-gardening list, and I think I will plant peppers, eggplant, chard, zucchini, and celery in big SWCs.

I want to try Straw Bales at my mother's house. They will be good for a year or two, and will break down into her soil. I thought I would try the vining veggies there, cucumber and squashes.

What to plant in the ground when I might move? I was thinking lots of peas the mature early, and then beans if it looks like we will be here through the summer. Several rounds of basil can go in at my house and Mom's. Onions and other roots go in at her house, if I can get a decent raised bed prepared. I liked the carrots and beets this year. I am very tempted to buy "seed tape" for carrots and beets, which I spent a lot of time thinning.

I enjoyed growing my first onions this summer.

The herbs can go into portable clay pots again. Basil and parsley will come from seeds, but I think I will get another thyme, some sage, and some rosemary from starts at Glick's greenhouse.

I experimented with basil in pots and in the ground. Both worked,
but I need more of it. What looked like a lot of pesto in July,
is almost gone in December.

I want to grow larger amounts of fewer veggies, sticking more closely to what I know we will eat. I already have some seeds, from seed-saving, and from catalog orders this fall:
Corn, Ornamental Indian
Cabbage, Copenhagen (heirloom)
Pea, Mississippi Silver field pea
Pea, Tall Telephone - needs trellis
Pea, Black-eyed (saved)
Lentil, French Green
Basil, sweet Italian (saved)
Bean, Commodore Bush Bean (red)
Bean, Taylor Dwarf Horticultural Bush bean (saved)
Bean, Pole bean, Romano (Italian Flat)
Lettuce, Romaine, Parris Island Cos
Spinach, Bloomsdale Long Standing
Cucumber, Lemon Apple
Squash, Burgess Buttercup
Squash, Waltham Butternut
There is a Seed Round Robin coming in the mail from one of my lists, eventually. It might have things I am still missing. Otherwise, I will put in another catalog order. I still need:
sunflowers for seeds
pickling cukes
pie pumpkins
Some things, I like as starts from Glick's where I can buy just one plant for less than 50-cents, for my small yard or container. Things I will get from starts at Glick's:
onions sets
sweet potato sets
one zucchini
one eggplant
My cabbage and broccoli starts this past year were savaged in flats that were given to me when they were half-dead. I got a lot of veg from those free flats. I know that they originally came from the Kutztown Produce Auction. I am going to check that out in the spring. If I can get starts very cheaply, it will be a more efficient use of my time than nursing and thinning seeds. And, I can share extras with neighbors.

So, that's my plan, so far. I wish I could grow some fruit, but everything takes time to get established, so I will probably keep buying at markets and visiting u-pick places until we are settled someplace more permanently.


livinginalocalzone said...

Thank you so so much for this post. And I know what you mean about being "unsettled": I moved into my new house this past June of 2008, and it meant that I couldn't really start anything at my old place OR my new. You have such a good plan though - can I steal some of your ideas? hee hee :-)
One of the things that struck me was growing larger amounts of fewer veg - that is something I was thinking about. In the past, I've gone for more variety, which, given space constraints, meant that everything was just a bit of each, rather than having a feeling of some abundance with any given veg. I think I'll do the ones that are the most prolific, can have successive seedings, and the "cut and come again" things like greens, potted hanging tomatoes, beans, zucchini, cucumber, etc. I've found herbs grow better for me in the pots than in the soil for some reason - did you find the same?
Great idea about sowing in milk jugs - I'd never thought of that. What dates do you start seeding various crops?

Krista said...

Unsettled describes us, too! At the end of September we moved from Michigan to Mississippi - leaving behind our very productive garden. We are in an apartment now and I want to start container gardening on my balcony but there is a 75+% chance that we will be moving in July-September.

I have two homemade earth boxes that I am going to use, but other than that everything is still up in the air!

eatclosetohome said...

You can make your own seed tape from paper towel. Just cut it into 1-inch-wide strips, moisten, lay seeds out at the right spacing, and cover with a second strip of towel. They'll dry together into a tape that can be planted in the garden.

Matriarchy said...

Living, feel free to use ANY idea that you can - that's what we all read each others' blogs for! I have not done enough comparing to see which herbs do well in pots, and which are better int he ground. I think my basil, parsley, and dill get bigger in the ground - I think there is less drying out between waterings. But I want to be able to move them, and try to overwinter some. The rosemary overwintered last year, but died within weeks of bringing it inside this year.

I like my plan, but it remains to be seen if the DOING will match the planning. I intended to get straw bales this fall, and did not.

I've only done milk jugs once, and sowed in late March - still too cold, but the jugs are moist when they are taped shut, and they are a few degrees warmer, and get a faster start than just sowing in the ground. You can read a lot more in the GardenWeb Winter Sowing forum. When to sow will vary with when your last frost occurs. Ask your local Agricultural Extension or Master Gardener group.

Krista, I am already frustrated by my small yard - an apartment would make me nutty. I like my urban setting, but I want to find more space. I may also "farm" some of my neighbors' unused front yard planter boxes. See if you can find a friend near you and help garden their yard!

Eatclosetohome, thanks for that idea! I didn't want to spend extra on seed tape, but I hated all that thinning. My kids can make seed strips for us to plant. Oooo, I love how blogging introduces you to so many people full of good ideas.