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We have an exciting growing season ahead of us. We started sowing seeds at the end of January (the alpine strawberries were first) and we are now sowing something almost every day. We have quite an extensive list, including several new things that we’ve never grown before. We’ve decided that if any of our crops fail, we’ll put summer squash in its place just so the ground doesn’t sit idle… we never seem to have a problem growing an abundance of summer squash.
Here’s a list of the crops we’re growing:
Ajipa (Ahipa, Yam Bean, Andean Jicama)
Amaranth (both for the grains & the greens… the greens are also known as callaloo, tampala, & chinese spinach)
Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
Wild Rocket Arugula
Cardoon (already established)
Chia (a type of salvia; two different kinds)
Chinese Artichokes (tubers)
Chives (garlic & onion/common)
Cow pea (purple-eye)
Cress (a couple of different kinds)
Dandelions (yes… dandelions)
Ground Cherries (a type of husk tomato)
Horseradish (possibly – the mustards & wasabi arugula may be enough)
Hot Peppers (several)
Huacatay (Tagetes minuta)
Jerusalem artichoke (we’ll be planting them in late summer)
Johnny Jump Ups
Large Leaf Tong Ho (oriental green)
Melons (Canteloupe & others)
Mints (several kinds)
Monk Fruit (if we can get it to germinate…)
Onions (bulbs & scallions)
Pak Choi (Bok Choy)
Passion Flower (several varieties)
Peanuts (Virginian &/or Spanish)
Peas (English Peas – Shelling, Snap, & Snow)
Potatoes (fingerlings & others)
Sesame (a couple of different kinds)
Typical Leaf Spinaches
New Zealand Spinach
Strawberry Spinach (grown for its edible greens & berries)
Strawberries (Alpine, from seed)
Summer Squash (several types)
Sunflowers (some oil seed types for sprouting; & mammoth seed types for eating out of hand)
Sweet Peppers (several)
Tall Fernleaf Fiddleneck (specifically for the pollinators)
Oh my. Now that I’ve got it listed out like that, that is a lot. Well, biodiversity is a good thing, right?
Now a bit about the gardens.
We have two gardens this year:
The kitchen garden is open to the public, so it has to look particularly nice during the summer months. Since a lot of the cool-season crops we want to grow won’t be ‘finished’ until after some warm-season things would need to be planted, the kitchen garden will contain only warm-season crops. The kitchen garden has been cultivated as a public garden for at least a couple of decades and has quite a lot of organic matter built up in the soil, so we’re reserving it as a no-till garden. We want to leave the living soil system intact. The kitchen garden also has the benefit of fences and a trellis already installed.
The east garden is somewhat bigger than the kitchen garden. It is much less cultivated and is almost straight clay soil. It also lacks fencing. So we knew, when we took on that plot of ground, that it would require more work.
We’ve been watching the weather since the beginning of January, waiting for the rain/sleet/snow to stop and the sun to come out long enough to dry out the east garden so that we could get a tiller on it. A couple of weeks ago we finally got a break in the weather for about 48 hours, and we tilled 4 cubic yards of good compost into the kitchen garden… right before an untimely sprinkling of snow. At least we got it done and it’s sitting in the soil, working its magic.
We don’t like the practice of tilling in general (it just makes us both cringe to think of the living soil system being broken up like that and we always wonder how many worms get killed in the process) but the east garden always becomes a swampy mess when it rains, and hard as a rock when it dries. So we knew it needed as much organic matter added to the soil as possible to build up the soil fertility and help it to drain better.
Now we’re waiting for the weather to clear out, warm up a few degrees, and dry out so we can direct sow about 20 pounds peas across the whole garden.
We were going to do it 10 days ago, but the weather hasn’t cooperated yet. That’s part of gardening. We always make up a schedule and we always have to adjust according to our observations and the weather.
We’re planting such a large amount of peas because the pea plants will add nitrogen to the soil, it will produce a large crop of peas and pea pods that we can freeze for eating over the next few months, and when the pea plants are done producing we can work them into the soil for an additional dose of organic matter. The easiest way to get all that pea plant organic matter into the soil would’ve been to plant the whole garden at once, harvest all the peas, and till the whole garden again, right before putting in other crops. But plans have had to change and it looks like we’re going to have to do it kind of piecemeal.
Another thing we’re in the process of is building fences (or at least a partial fence) around the east garden. It may not be a ‘necessary’ thing to do (it’s not going to keep out raccoons and rabbits). I just really like fences and trellises. It gives definition to the garden space.
To build the fence, we’re repurposing old pallets. We’ve got a growing collection of them behind our house. We want the fence to look neat and tidy, though, so we’re using pallets that are the same height and with the same type of structure. It’ll be a “re-purposed pallet picket fence” when we’re done. I’m even going to paint it white.
On one good afternoon/evening, when the weather warmed up tolerably, we prepared 6 pallets (pulling off the back boards so that it looked neater) and managed to install two of them before nightfall. And now we’re waiting on weather again. It got really windy last night, but the two fence panels were still standing this morning. I think that’s a good sign.
It takes work. Of course it does. But it’s worth it.