What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2013 Garden Thoughts

Putting the garden 'to bed' in November

The hay mulch will be (if all goes well) a great weed barrier and the dirt/worm life underneath should be healthier when not interrupted.
I never blogged these pictures in November.  The garden certainly doesn't look like this now.  It looks quite different under almost 2 feet of snow:

 Perhaps it is because I am sick to death of bright, blaring white.  Perhaps I am longing for the warmth of sunshine.  Maybe it has been too long since I had a fresh tomato... whatever the reason, I've been thinking garden thoughts lately and one of the things I have been thinking about is how the 2013 garden went; what I liked, what I didn't, what I should do better, what I should try, what I should get rid of.

Here's what I am thinking:

* This will be the first year for a truly no-till garden here at Hopestead.  I tried to bed it down the year before in the fall but I didn't have enough hay so when spring came around, it was impossibly weedy. Now, I don't know about you- but when it is finally time to plant, you don't want to have to WEED first.  That's just wrong.  Thankfully, a kind neighbor came and tilled for me in spring allowing me to get off scotch free.  As I planted, I laid out cardboard and hay mulch around the plants to keep the weeds down.  While I've read all the stuff that says that hay mulch is the way to go and how the dirt and organisms will be more healthy without tilling (and agree with it)- and I enjoy not weeding as often (it is helpful for weeding!)- it is A LOT OF WORK to maintain.  It wouldn't be bad if I had just a small garden, but I don't.  I have a large garden.  And then two other garden beds on top of that.  First, we have to seek out free rotten hay. (A lot.) Then, we have to borrow a truck and trailer to haul it. (Usually twice.) Then, I have to break my back for several days spreading it all around in VERY thick layers.  So, we'll see this year if the effort was worth it.  If not, I guess I should start saving now for a plow attachment for Matt's tractor. After all, you can't depend upon the kindness of neighbors forever.  Well, you COULD.  But you SHOULDN'T.  ;-)

* Last year I bought the lights to make grow lights for seedlings but Matt never got around to making the shelving for it.  I am really hoping he does this year so I can start more healthy seedlings.  If not, there is a local Amish woman who has a greenhouse where I can get cheaper plants.  But I really want to use my own seeds.  (Pretty please, Mattie?)

* Carrots:  They don't keep well for me.  And though they are yummy- and a few are truly beautiful- the majority aren't lovely and long and lush in our hard, stony clay soil.  (Try peeling a curly carrot!) I don't think I am going to waste the space to grow them this year.  Carrots are cheap at the store anyway and I ought to be able to utilize that space to grow something more useful.

* Beets: I waited too long to harvest some of the beets last year.  The skin was hard and the flesh was stringy.  I love beets.  Love beet greens.  Love eating them, love canning them.  They will be staying in the garden but I have to be more diligent with them and harvest them when they are still tender.

* Watermelons- what a treat!  And they grew beautifully!  Definitely growing them again. I heard that when deydrated, the watermelons turn into something thin and jolly-rancher-candy-ish so I tried it.  SO NOT TRUE.  (ew.)

* Collards: tried them for the first time last year and loved them.  Will grow them again, and abundantly!  They have made such a great addition to soups this winter!

* Kale: I didn't grow this last year.  But I must.  The end.

* Tomatoes- it was a good year for tomatoes last year. 100 or so plants is a good number for us for now.  I'll stay with that.  BUT I need to work out a better staking system. It was really hard to get into that jungle of tipped over stakes- and many tomatoes fell on the ground and rotted.  Especially cherry tomatoes...they were the worst! 

* Corn- oh boy.  Corn.  Those corn dinners and lunches were to die for.  I can practically taste them now.  I planted the corn in three separate plantings so that it would mature throughout the summer.  Excellent plan.  Worked perfectly.

* Potatoes.  I would like to possibly make a separate potato patch this year.  If that is possible, I will use the space allotted for potatoes last year to grow horticulture beans.

* Cilantro and Basil grew super well.   18 plants of basil and a packet of cilantro seeds were JUST RIGHT.

* Cabbage- I need to research how to protect my beautiful plants from pests. But I love having cabbage in the garden.

* Hot peppers- I grew them too near the bell peppers and some were crazy hot and some turned sweet.  This wouldn't be that big of a deal (they are all edible!) except when you are making salsa and you want to add some heat but the jalapeno's taste like bell peppers. Or you are making soup and add a handful of dehydrated sweet peppers and it turns out they were the spicy ones!  Ack!  Yeah.  Not the best plan.

* Green beans- need to grow more and need to pick them more often at their peak.  We have an ample supply of green beans from last year- but that was mostly due to our neighbor who kept passing bags and buckets along to me.  It was not because of my own garden.

* Want to grow many more healing herbs this year and in larger quantities.

* Leeks- these aren't in the garden but I am pretty sure I can find some wild around here.  I don't want to miss that window of opportunity this year like I did last year.

* The pumpkins and winter squashes all grew but were smaller than usual.  That was true for many people around here.  I am hoping it will be a better year for them this year.

* Onions: I grew them from sets last year.  This year I want to grow some as sets and some as seed to compare.


* I absolutely adored having a cutting garden last year.  Oh my word, it has been too long since I have had a bouquet of fresh cut flowers in my house.

I always have to fight laziness and tiredness in the garden and canning season.  There were many times when my laziness cost us dearly and then all the work I did beforehand was worthless (like when I had to throw rotten carrots that I didn't harvest in time in the compost pile because they were slimy) or not as fruitful (like when we had to eat thick-skinned, stringy beets).  I have to be more diligent to take care of things at their PEAK and not put things off until I can wait no longer (like when green beans turned into dried beans when they weren't supposed to!).  This has nothing to do with the garden but everything to do with my own self discipline.

I think the biggest change I need to make is to try (TRY!) not to get in over my head and start more than I can finish.  I would rather do well with a moderate garden than to grow too much and then let it get out of control, resulting in me going insane and food rotting in the rows. 

The seed catalogs don't make this sort of thing very easy though.  ;-)


Julian said...

Here in texas we are planting flowers and bulbs already! Many flowers went in.Dallas, narcissistic, geraniums, bleeding heart, Hollyhocks, gracious and ranaculus.
I will have about four tomato plants. I wish
it was 100! :) I have rosemary, and am trying basil this year.

Julian said...

My phone is nuts. Thats da hlias narcissis and gladiolus . Mercy!

Rozy Lass said...

Christina, I had a good laugh over your funny phone auto-corrections.

Rebecca, your garden haul is gorgeous and impressive! You are doing such a good work in your home, and inspire me to get off my lazy behind and plant a real garden. Thanks so much for sharing.

Bonnie said...

I could talk all day about this (why can't we live closer?!?) , but I've only a moment right now so I'll ask this: How did the square foot approach in a big garden work out? And I'm glad I read this before I hit the order button, I have a few changes to make to my seed order!

Unknown said...

All of this beauty makes me want to squeal with anticipation over the coming year!!! :D

Rebecca said...

Christina~ that is hilarious! Ooooh- can I come over? Your flowers are going to be beautiful! Even if they are narcissistic! ;-)

Rozy Lass- thank you! Remember what I said though- I need to get off MY lazy behind and do BETTER in the garden. Laziness here too, I'm afraid.

Bonnie- LOVED IT. Will never go back. You can fit so much more in your garden- less space for weeds to grow- less wasted space for walking. Totally the way to go (in my humble opinion ;-) )

Quinn- me too. I thought "oh- I'll add a picture of a bright shiny vegetable to brighten up the post. And then I couldn't stop! :-)

stephaniegiese said...

I LOVE your garden posts! You are such an inspiration to me. We have a new home this year and a few acres that we will be starting from scratch with this spring. I have read that eggshells crushed very fine, like powder, are a great way to get rid of pests like beetles.

I have a question for you. Do you preserve your own seeds? If so, could you do a tutorial about how to save them because I am finding it impossibly hard to find that information in any of my garden books or blogs I follow. I bought heirloom plants for the first time this year.

BajaManna said...

David (DH) just started the square foot approach a couple of months ago. We have a 12 month growing season here which is perfect for that. In the past, if it weren't for the kale I would have had nothing from the garden a significant part of the year. And here in Mexico WHERE CORN ORIGINATED we still haven't had success in growing it without the corn worms getting to it before we did. Ah well.

Carlye Jean Rankin said...

Oh my word! I cannot even imagine a day's haul like that! That would be so amazing. I see it in my future but not until we move to a new home with land.

I have a small garden (3) 4x4 beds and 1 made out of dresser drawer fronts I found on the side of the street. I am hoping to expand the garden more so I can grow more green beans, okra and potatoes.

I can't wait to see your garden this year! So amazing! I am so ready for spring!

Rebecca said...

Stephanie~ I am hoping to save some seed this year. The last few years I have placed my orders too late and had to buy random seed at Agway- GMO and hybrid stuff that you can't save.
There are special books about seed saving though- one is so thick is just plain DAUNTING...I don't know how there is THAT much to say about seed saving! ;-)

Anna~ not growing kale has been one of my biggest laments. I'd happily have traded some corn for kale. Not sure it would ship to Mexico too well though! ;-)

Carlye~ it is amazing how much can be grown with even small spaces. Even growing tomatoes and nothing else is well worth the effort as storebought tomatoes are NEVER the same! Clever idea with the dresser drawers!)