As the warm days continue and the ground thaws, we’ve finally begun putting seeds in the ground. Over the last 3 years I’ve been taking notes on the growing seasons, how much we’ve grown and harvested, and how much we eat. This year the gardening goals are:
- 100 sq ft or 100lbs of carrots
- 200 sq ft of beets or 200lbs of beets
- 100 tomato plants
- 30 pepper plants
- 500-1000 sq ft of early 45 day sorghum
- 100+ sq ft of fava beans
- 500 onions
- 100+ string bean plants
- 100+ yam plants
- 30 cabbages
- 30 broccoli plants
- 10 cauliflower plants
- 20+ squash plants
- 50 cucumber plants
- 10 zucchini plants
- 1,000 sq ft of potatoes
- + peas, radishes, kale, chard, lettuce, spinach, orach, and other leafy greens in and around everything.
If at least half of our crops succeed we should be able to provide for 90% of our vegetable needs until next season. This week we planted the last of our onion seed, which was not enough, as well as our walking onion and regular onion sets, several broccoli varieties in sprouting beds, 2 rows of peas, a bed of beets and leafy greens, a bed of carrots, radishes, and leafy greens, and a bed of parsnips and leafy greens. Within another 10 days hopefully we’ll have not only twice that planted, but we’ll also have potatoes in the ground.
This spring is also exciting, as the new greenhouse extension has given me enough space to start planting some of my potted plants. Thisweek some of the potted currants, raspberries, and strawberries finally got a home in real, unobstructed soil. I have over 20 baby apple and sugar maple trees I started from seed last year that need to go in the ground this year as well; a few apples will be planted in the greenhouses and trellised, but most of these trees will be strategically planted around the property, especially in areas we’ve logged and opened up. Wild apple trees will eventually help to provide for the wildlife in this region, as well as us and our livestock. If you’ve ever had a mature apple tree, you know that 1 or 2 small trees can provide more apples than most folks can use in a year. So having 50+ apple trees on the mountainside will provide valuable abundance for rodents, birds, bears, deer, elk, and moose.
This year, instead of undertaking the usual chore of starting tomatoes and peppers indoors, I’m going to rely on direct seeding. Last year was a valuable learning experience; even into July our nights were still in the 30’s, near freezing. I transplanted hundreds of tomatoes and peppers, but they would shock and die the first night that dipped into the 30’s. My saving grace by the end of the year was the abundance of volunteer tomato sprouts. They cropped up throughout the season and were easy to transplant to wherever I needed them (scoop up a giant ball of dirt around each one and ferry it somewhere else for very little shock to the baby plant).
My volunteer tomatoes do just as well as my pre-started ones each year anyway, but last year I wasted a lot of time and energy only to be out preformed by nature. So this year I am going to direct-seed tomato seeds wherever I want them. I have thousands of tomato seeds to spare, so I’ll seed thick. If I lose a few it won’t matter. If I have too many I can transplant them all over the place and see which ones do well in which areas.
Every year is a glorious gardening experiment up here. I’m always trying new plants in new places, and new ways of growing to see what the the easiest and most reliable methods of gardening are in this climate.
Another experiment I’m excited for are my potato experiments. Last year my potato experiment was “can I grow potatoes from literal peelings”. Every time we cooked potatoes I peeled the skin with eyes and saved it. I was a bit generous, leaving about 1/16-1/8th inch of meat on the peel. The results of the experiment were marred by the fact that many of the outdoor grow beds I planted them in were poorly nutrified and endured drought because I had no convenient way of
delivering water to them. However, even in the poorest of growing conditions, my peels grew and produced potatoes. They produced better than the whole
“seed potatoes” that I planted which were under 3/4 inch in size (all the tinies from the previous season). Did either the peels or the seed spuds produce as well as nice fat potato chunks? No. But the value is in the fact that you can eat your potato and grow it, too.
My second potato experiment was taking those same peels from last fall, mercilessly piling them in a small bucket, and leaving them on the front porch over winter. They’re still there at this moment, and they genuinely look like most of them will grow if I plant them. I wanted to put this to the test to see if I could save peels long-term and plant them later. If we could begin saving peels in the fall then plant them the following spring, we could eat virtually 100% of our harvest and still have enough peels to plant and grow all of our potato needs one again. This is what I want to confirm; can we do this or not. This year may be the final year of experimentation before I can draw a reasonable conclusion!