Saturday, February 25, 2012

Planning, Dreaming and Learning From Eliot

A big part of the fun of growing one's own food is the planning. Gardeners love to studying seed catalogues, plan, modify and change their orders numerous times over the winter season. Then all of a sudden we realize it's almost time to start the seeds indoors and we feel the rush of hurry up and wait! I am not above this condition. In fact, last night at work, I realized my seed planning was far from complete. It hit me suddenly...How many pea plants will I need to fill 48 pint jars? How many tomato plants will we need to fill 64 pint jars? How many tomato plants will fit a 4'X4' bed? How about the peppers? I've had more success in the past  with square foot gardening than with rows, and it's proven you can increase your yields using square foot spacing. So, where I can, that's what I'll be using. I have to try and produce as much food as I can for 7 people, remember. Now, I know that every season my yields will increase as I invest more time, work and TLC into the soil. That first season, we'll be moving part way through the growing season, and thereby lose a big part of growing time. There's not much that can be done about that.

But I have an ever-growing list of projects to keep me busy, and there will be vegetables that will grow in under 60 days. Peas, lettuce, radishes, baby carrots, baby spinach, cucumbers, and beets. Thanks to Eliot Coleman, I've been learning a ton about  season extension. That will make a big difference. I will be planning and implementing a green manure rotation plan as well. There will be new beds to locate and develop, the garden shed to fix up and a spring on the property I'd like to develop as well. I'll need to find a water testing lab for that, as well as cast an eye at potential flow. I'm going to be building on the current water catchment system, and I'd like to improve the current composting system. There are a few basics in place, they really just need some attention to flourish.

But for right now, this is the season of research, education and planning. I've been learning about season extension, organic gardening, market gardens, food preservation and nitrogen. Let's not forget the many facets of companion gardening, crop rotation, organic pest control and increasing one's self sufficiency. I'd like to learn more about ram pumps, water storage and solar power on a small scale.

The hard part is taking it slow.


Jacquelineand.... said...

Have you thought about using your spring to help cool an old-fashioned spring house? It's a great way to 'refrigerate' foods without electricity.

Carolyn said...

I have thought about it. Not sure if it's going to be feasible, but it is definitely something to look at closer and discuss with the folks.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have a lot on the go right now - I especially like the the idea of focusing on plants that grow quickly enough to be of use.

I've been trying to view right now as time for research, too. As much as I want to get out there and do stuff, I'm trying to see the limits on my time and space as a way of holding back a bit, and doing some learning in the meantime that will be helpful down the line. It's a challenge - I really like jumping in feet first - but it's worthwhile, I think.

Urbivalist Dan said...

Waiting is the hard part :-(

This will be my first season doing square foot gardening, and I am amped.

One thing you may want to consider for a "late to the party" crop is squash (that is if you guys like them anyway).

Squash are geared pretty hot, so even if the summer is in full swing when you plant them, they don't scorch. And they drink up the heat.

Last year I planted mine (zone 5) on the last day of July, and I had HUGE squash in 42 days.

I actually should've probably harvested about 5 days sooner so they were a little bit more tender.

Also, for some ideas on alternative energy, you might be interested to check out The Survival Podcast episode 840 (i think). Jack had a dude on there that talks a TON about pros and cons of various alternative energy solutions for average homes and "smallsteads."

Hope things are going well Carolyn and happy growing!

farmgal said...

Hi Carolyn

Normally if folks have lots of land, I recommend looking into steven Solmon's book gardening in hard times and considering dry land spacing in the garden, its has increased my yields year after year, however is space is a issue and water is not, then I really like square foot gardening. I do both, the very touchy plants get raised beds in square foot spacing and I baby them with lots of water etc but they are very few and far between, most of the plants are now dry land planted, I just dont' have the time on the farm to spend on the garden while I am processing, haying and the list goes on.

I second the comment, wow, if you could have a small old fashioned spring house, that would be amazing!