Somehow, without any respect, it seems, for the normal continuity of space-time, it is the last week of January (!) so I should probably hurry up with the things I’d like to focus on in 2014! In part one I covered my desire to Make More Stuff (specifically Clothing), today, Part Two: Growing Stuff, or, as it relates to me…
Abandon ye not your garden
Last year was pretty disastrous for my poor veggies. This is in large part due to the hefty amount of travel we crammed into the summer… but it’s also in large part due to my own neglect. Not sure if it was just laziness or lack of interest: none of my starts happened, and I didn’t plant the garlic till the spring. The horribly wet, rainy, cold, rainy, sunshine-less spring. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best year for gardening. I ended up planting beans, peas, carrots and garlic, and pretty much left it all to fend for itself. Shockingly, I did get to eat a few peas, and a huge crop of beans. Although I did harvest a number of the nasturtium pods… I never got around to pickling them. So, uh, at least I have seed for this year? As you can probably tell, there’s a reason for this particular “focus”.
This year, it seems, I’m doing better already, in that my garlic was planted in November. Rather than the “dividers” of garlic plants, I went back to my original planting of alternate squares, with tomatoes to fill in the gaps. My hope is to start said tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in early March (fingers crossed!), co-planting flowers (which always take longer to get going than I think they will) in late March, herbs and carrots in April, and hope for the best for everything else that I just plant out once the ground thaws. (And then replant when the squirrels raze it all to the ground. Sigh.) With far less travel planned, this summer should let me hang out more regularly in the garden*, so I just need to stay encouraged to help it along.
* Does this mean I’ll be around to scare off the vermin? Let’s hope so!
Another part of my plan for this year is to put pots of plants on my (east-facing) front deck so I’ll be reminded that, Hey! I have a garden! pretty much every time I walk in or out the front door. At this point, I’m thinking the best candidate would be my pea plants (who hate heat anyway) and maybe some nasturtiums for extra colour and potentially Capers What Aren’t Actually Capers (assuming I actually pickle the pods this year). The peas are super pretty when they’re in bloom, and I’m pretty sure I can Macgyver a sort of “teepee” out of the stakes I normally use for them to fit in round pots. Better still, if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll have free pots around the late June timeframe to plant either zucchini** or sunflowers.
** Don’t I hate squash? Yup. However, I can’t deny that having grated up zucchini on hand to add moisture to baked goods would be very handy, especially given how everyone says you can’t kill zucchini, and once they start, those things are prolific. Again: not holding myself to this, just an idea.
I’ve always had a couple pots on the back deck — including my beloved “salad bowl” of lettuce greens. Generally, it’s a better spot, since it gets all the late afternoon sun, but there are plenty of plants (ahem, like my lettuce greens, probably) which would do fine with early-morning sunshine instead. My biggest worry is actually our dog knocking stuff over with his bolt-out-the-door antics. Otherwise that bowl on its teetery stand would be out near the mailbox for sure. This year, my back deck focus is going to be on herbs. I’ve tried for several years to use a stretch of ground on the west side of the house… but I think it’s time for me to admit that as romantic as a permanent herb garden is, given our climate, any “permanent” herb garden is going to involve pots that I bring in over winter. What are my candidates for this year? I would like a solid rosemary plant (or 3), healthy plantings of basil, parsley and cilantro, with sage, chives and thyme as “nice to have”s. Although I had been covered on the mint front… that might have changed since The Boy cut down the pines and piled two winters’ worth of firewood in that corner of the yard***. If I can find any survivors, I’ll transplant a sprig or two into a pot as well.
*** That’s right. I was a gardening slacker last summer, but don’t think for an instant that The Boy followed my example. The amount of work he got done (literally) around the house last year is nothing short of amazing.
Because this year seems to be my Year Of Plants In Pots!, I’m also planning on using pots against the south wall of the house (most likely for peppers and cukes, which will doubtless appreciate the extra heat reflected off the brick), along with the already-potted (and hopefully not dead) rhubarb, of course. I’ve been hanging onto the large woven plastic rice bags as potential potato planters… but I do really like planting potatoes into the mediocre soil spots and letting them improve those “future gardens”, although I do inevitably spear those potatoes when digging them up. I’ve got a couple months to make up my mind on that front, though.
In terms of food production, my hopes are pretty modest. I never really think of the garden as a major food source: I view anything that the squirrels/rabbits/other vermin don’t eat as bonus to whatever we’re getting from the CSA. That might one day change (*wistful*) but it’s the most realistic perspective for now. My goal for this year is to grow enough tomatoes to can enough salsa, pasta sauce and ketchup to get me through next winter. We’re not a huge tomato household, so I think this is reasonable, but I guess time will tell. I am planning on one cherry tomato plant as well, as I like those for drying.
In terms of cucumbers, our CSA keeps us, frankly, overflowing with cucumbers over an average summer. I have, however, finally worked my way down to my very last jar of bread and butter pickles, so for this year, the plan is to plant a couple lemon cucumber plants (good for snacking!) and a couple pickling cuke plants. Frankly any peppers that produce anything I will consider sheer bonus. I’m also going to try overwintering the pepper pot(s) indoors again.
Despite the fact that every year I end up overwhelmed with the crop of beans the garden produces, I’m still planting them this year. Last year I had blanched and frozen some excess, which we ate our way through by November. This year, I will gladly process more of them, if it means I’ll have crunchy bean segments to throw into stir-fry dinners into the darker winter months!
As a last “bonus” note, ideally, I would also like to (finally!) pull up the rest of the creeper on our south wall, and get some hops planted there…but I don’t know if that’s a realistic goal for this year. Well, just in case… it’s noted!