That being said, we have made some fairly significant changes in what we will be growing, not only for ourselves, but for our animals as well. We will not be growing potatoes, sweet potatoes or corn this year. They are very starchy and full of carbohydrates that we really do not need. There are other vegetable choices that will provide us with the energy we need, along with many other nutrients, that don't have the significant carbohydrate load. There are some vegetables that we haven't been very successful at growing, that we are going to get very serious about. Things such as cabbage, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, onions and winter squash. I have looked into buying some green lace wings and lady bugs to try and increase the predatory insect population while at the same time decreasing the cabbage worms and aphids. Since we are both home full-time now, the garden will also get more attention than it did with only few minutes during the evenings on weekdays and weekends. I'm hoping that will make a big difference.
Each year as I start to think about rotating crops in our small garden, I pull out last year's map to make sure I remember what was growing where then. Last year's map is one of the messiest ones yet, but it still contains the data I need for this year.
After Frank and I made the list of vegetables we want to grow, I went back and separated this list into early cool weather plants, and warm weather plants that won't go outside until after the last frost. Most of these will be grown as seedlings, but a few will still be directly seeded into the ground. We have found that growing seedlings, even with beets and carrots, gives them a much better survival rate than direct seeding, which is the traditional way to plant. If we give them a good start as seedlings, they survive the early spring weeds much better and we get more harvest for our efforts.
After we made our list, and lists of lists, I got out last year's map along with this document that contains companion plant data for the vegetables we grow. I have several garden books that cover this information that I was referring to over and over. So, I kept looking up the same information time and again. After a few years I put everything on this document and printed it out for my notebook, which is much quicker to reference.
I use it every year when choosing locations of vegetables. Companion planting really is effective. Before I knew beets were inhibited by pole beans, I planted two rows of beets on either side of my pole bean trellis. They all died and I didn't know why until I started incorporating companion planting into our garden design. This is another example of layers of knowledge. The more I learn, the higher our vegetable yield becomes, and the more I realize I don't know.
Armed with our list of vegetables, last year's map and my companion plant list, I am ready to map out this year's garden. Initially I do it in pencil, because I always have to move something. Either I put it too close to last year's planting, or next door to something it doesn't get along with too well. But after a little jockeying around, everything usually falls into place. I thought I had everything on this map and was satisfied with the results until I realized I had left out the tomatoes, which means I had left out some of the carrots. I have the companion planting book Carrots Love Tomatoes, and they really do. Some of the best carrots we have grown have been on either side of the tomato trellis.
|Taking down trellis, end of summer 2013|
Since we haven't had any luck with fall planted winter squash for the past two years, I will be planting my winter squash in the spring when I plant the yellow summer squash. We would like to get as many winter squash as possible to store for both us and the animals. The same goes for the mangel beets, which are an old time traditional animal feed.
This year I will plant the spinach, lettuce, celery, celeriac, leeks, collards and swiss chard in the herb bed. There is room there to do small successive plantings, and that will leave more space in the main garden for the larger vegetables. I will also work at getting more herbs established in the herb bed again this year. There are many things that are started, and some of the annuals are reseeding themselves, which is the goal. The weeds and grass had a hayday last summer during Frank's recovery as well. But there are many things still growing in amongst the weeds that we hope to give more attention to this summer.
There is much to learn, study and do to provide a good, balanced adequate diet. I continue to try to determine the nutritional content of the vegetables we are growing, to make sure we are getting what we need to be healthy, active people. Because when the time comes that we must depend upon our little patch of dirt for our sustenance, I want to be ready. I want to know how to coax that nutrition out of the ground. I want to be able to put a healthy, satisfying, life sustaining meal on the table in front of my husband. I want to live.
Until next time - Fern