The centerpiece of my transition plan is food. If our economic debacle gets even worse, if gas prices rise tremendously, food will be our biggest concern. Everything we can do to produce food locally will be crucial. So, for me the garden is where I’m putting my energy.
A Blank Canvas
I can’t decide which phase of the garden I like best. In early spring the garden beds are like a blank canvas. The gardener gets to decide how to paint the picture. I’m fortunate that my garden is big enough that I can rotate plants. So, I try not to plant the same stuff two years in a row in the same place.
Garlic, onions and shallots do better if you move them around. (So do potatoes). I’ve tried to eliminate the types of garlic that are rust prone. Once you get rust I’ve read that you need to keep garlic out of that bed for three years.
My planting plan is haphazard. It’s not necessarily logical. Again, the advantage of having plenty of room. There are aesthetic considerations as well. I like to see the three dimensionality of the garden develop. This year I’m putting all my pole beans in one bed instead of spreading them
out. There are four trellises: an old TV antenna, a sloppily built tower of scrap wood, an old ladder, and a tripod my grandsons and I lashed together a few weeks ago. So, four poles of beans (two Blue Lake that we can eat fresh and freeze and two dry beans from the Krista Rome collection). One advantage to putting them side by side is that I can wrap row cover material around the outside to keep the rabbits out until the plants start to climb and aren’t so tasty. I think this will look pretty cool if everything grows to the top.
This year we dedicated a bed to asparagus. The SE corner of the garden has become a perennial area with raspberries, blueberries, Jerusalem artichokes and a big bed of Bee’s friend.
Bee’s friend is a very showy flower that really does attract pollinators as advertised by Uprising Seed. This patch self-seeded in a very thick mess of two foot high stalks that is just about ready to burst open. When in full bloom you can hear the buzzing from some distance away. It’s fairly delicate and I have to watch out how I water as it gets knocked down easily. As for the asparagus, I didn’t really know what to expect. The planting instructions vary from source to source. So I carved out some trenches with nice spacing and laid in the crowns. Was surprised a week or so later to come out and find spears a foot tall. It’s all coming up. But with asparagus one has to be patient and wait a couple years to enjoy it. Then, you can expect many years worth of spring spears.
I love to grow potatoes. They grow like weeds. Once you plant them in a bed you will deal with them for a couple of years because you can never get all the tubers out of the ground and in the spring they will pop up everywhere they’ve lived before.
I like the showiness of potato vines. They really are quite spectacular in their own way with a beautiful flower. Prepping for potatoes is fun as well. I dig a trench and pile as much soil as I can on each side, plant the seed potato in the trench then use that piled up soil to hill the plant as it grows. If all goes right the trench, over the course of the gardening season, turns into a mound with big spreading potato vines on top. Once they bloom out I quit watering. I plant one variety of crescent potatoes which we eat up during the summer and another row of storage potatoes to extend the eating season.
The spectacular yellow bloom to the right
is a turnip blossom. This particular turnip was the size of a bowling ball and I left it overwinter to see the result. A very healthy bloom that the bees of all types love. Will collect the seed and try to grow more bowling ball turnips. I also left kale and chard to bolt to flower which one can use in salad or leave for bees and seed.
I keep strawberries in pots in a mixture of potting soil and bokashi. This way I don’t have to dedicate a bed to them and it’s easier to keep them under control. This year I separated the plants and have twice as many pots as last year. The strawberries are the gardener’s snack. Probably don’t get as many as I would were they planted in rows and I have to fight the birds for them. But they make a tasty reward for hanging out in the garden.
On the right is my Pea House, another brilliant piece of garden carpentry. Last year the cutworms and rabbits got everyone of our little pea plants. This year I was determined to beat them. Instead of starting from seed I started the peas indoors. When I put them out I put a plastic cup around each one (I am becoming a big advocate of plastic cup gardening). Then, I wrapped the Pea House Christo-like with row cover to keep the rabbits at bay. It’s working. It appears we will have peas although my contraption is so cramped that I will have to send in a small child to do the picking.
Garlic and shallots were planted in the fall and are doing famously. Planted a section of onion sets this spring and they are catching up. The last couple of years I’ve learned that shallots are a lot easier to grow and have fewer problems than onions. They don’t seem to rot or get rusty and they store a lot longer. We still have a mess of shallots left over from last summer. I like onions but am dedicating less space to them and much more to shallots.
The garden is a magical place in spring. The variety of green shades, the many interesting leaf shapes, pink apple and pear blossoms, the bright yellows of the flowering kale and turnip, the tiny strawberry blossoms are a cause for wonder. I caught myself staring at the raspberry leaves the other morning. Beautiful symmetry. I think I over pruned my raspberries last fall and I can’t quite get them to bend over like the big boys in Lynden do. They were all tied up to the various cross wires in the raspberry patch and looking a big skimpy just a couple weeks ago. But now there is a profusion of leaf growth and many tiny buds appearing and the new canes are fighting their way towards the top. There will be raspberries.
Plants want to grow.