Saturday, May 22, 2010

New Year, New Garden

It's a new year and a new garden. I've just finished getting everything planted. We've added 8 large beds, which includes one along the fenceline for raspberries, blackberries, currants, and honeyberries. Other new items this year: tomatillos, ground cherries, anaheim peppers, mizuna, arugula, beets, parsnips, rhubarb, stevia, gourds (luffa), kohlrabi. I was more careful to choose varieties of corn & tomatoes that will mature at different times, for increased length of harvest. I'm also being more careful to plant a few things at a time in successive intervals for the same reason.

My peppers and tomatoes did very well in potting blocks, first the 2" then up-potted to the 4". Broccoli and kale did very poorly in the soil blocks and died, until I changed the block recipe to include vermiculite and ground eggshells. Those succeeded much better.

We started a few things in a cold frame, and most of those did very well. We've eaten our first spinach and lettuce from that batch. We plan to do much more cold frame items for fall, as long into winter as things will grow, then start some other things much earlier the following spring (late winter). I have an idea we'll have the grow lights in the house most of the time, successively starting more and more things all the time.

I don't know if or how often I'll keep up this blog. I am keeping much better records of my efforts on a program Tim created for me, where I can log dates planted, transplanted, how much yield, where planted, and more than anyone (including myself) may ever want to know, but it will be there if next year I wonder what I did this year that did or didn't work.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Eating Local

Along with all of our garden produce, we've been trying to "Eat Local" as much as possible. So far we've made the following changes:
  • Milk: from a local organic dairy, delivered in glass returnable bottles
  • Honey: from beehives just about a mile away, as the crow flies, purchased in my own reusable mason jars
  • Vegetables: from our own garden - fresh, frozen, dried, canned
  • Eggs: from a neighbor's chickens
  • Beef: we just ordered a quarter of beef from a neighbor
  • Bread: although I'm purchasing the flour, I'm making sourdough bread on a regular basis
Even though we typically haven't been eating a lot of beef, we watched "Food, Inc." and "King Corn" recently, and have been thinking about changing our eating habits from commercially raised meats to grass-fed meats with no hormones, antibiotics, steroids, etc. I think that eating better beef is better than eating commercial chicken, so until I find a good, local, affordable source for better chickens, it'll be nice to have the beef and help out a neighbor who needed to sell another share of their beef. We've tossed around the idea of raising our own chickens, for eggs and/or meat, we just aren't there yet.

I think we're making great progress toward eating more sustainably and leaving the "formal economy". Next, I'd like to consider getting a grain mill, to grind my own flours. I'd still have to buy the grain, however.

Berries & Seedlings

The seedlings I've planted are coming along nicely, for the most part, and I'm busy making more plans and reading more tips to ensure better and more consistent harvest...fewer things at a time, planted in succession as much as possible.

I'm a little concerned that the tomatoes have not all emerged, but they seem to be coming up at different times for each variety, so perhaps some varieties are just slower than others. I hope that's the only issue, and that there isn't some other problem. I'm also a little concerned that I may have started the things for the cold frame a bit too soon, and they may get too big to put them outside before the cold frame is ready. I was planning not to re-pot them before transplanting outside.

Tim ordered some berry & grape plants, and planted most of them this week in a new bed along the western fence. The blackberries came as plants (not bare root like the others) so they won't go out until May. In the meantime, I put them into the large size soil blocks to continue growing before transplanting. I was delighted that I made 6 successful large blocks with none of them falling apart! I recall that last year the big ones were a bit difficult. The grapes will grow up an arbor (yet to be built) by the porch, so we can have a shaded area for relaxing in summers.

I'm still frustrated by reading different information from different sources, and don't know which suggestions are best. I'll just have to figure it out for myself! Some things say "don't start indoors" others say it's ok; some say to plant at one time, and others suggest another, etc. I guess to some extent it really doesn't matter, or depends on other variables such as climate, methods used, etc.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bring On 2010!

Well, I obviously was too busy to post at the end of the 2009 season. Now it's 2010 and we're getting ready for the next planting season. We will be expanding the garden to include the west side, the slope along the east side, and some fruit trees outside, to the west.

Yesterday I started my first batch of seedlings in the soil blocks: kale, spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce, mesclun varieties, onions & scallions, and four varieties of peppers.
Tim will be putting up a cold frame, so the lettuce, kale, etc. that I started now will go into that as early as possible.

I'll be starting tomatoes and a few other things in the next couple of weeks. I'm much smarter this year as far as quantities, and being careful not to plant too many. I will be adding a few new things for the new beds, such as tomatillos, ground cherries, melons, and maybe potatoes. Tim is doing research and ordering some fruits & berries! We plan to put the berries by the fence so they can climb.

Before the winter began, Tim sheet mulched the west area in preparation. I sprinkled manure on all the beds previously used, covered them with hay and bedded them down for winter. Unfortunately, a lot of the hay has blown off, and I haven't kept up with replacing it.

In the fall I planted some garlic and onion sets, and mulched them well. There are a few beginning to shoot through the mulch, and I'm sure they'll begin growing soon. The 2009 garlic never really got big enough, so I left them in the ground and I'll see if they continue to grow this spring. I'll be planting more garlic & onions as well, for fall harvest.

I don't know how well I'll keep up the blog...I'll just have to see how it goes.