Sunday, December 11, 2011

2012 Garden Planning

There's not a speck of snow on the ground, but I'm already well into my 2012 garden planning. I have 384 square feet of raised bed space, and approximately 30 feet of fence line that's perfect for growing pole beans. I definitely didn't maximize my space in 2011, and I'm hoping to do much better next year.

I've done a better job planning the timing of things, and I expect at least two beds to receive two waves of planting this year (and hopefully a cover crop as well).

I received five seed catalogs (Seed Savers Exchange, Johnny's, Pinetree Gardens, Vermont Bean Seed Company, and Totally Tomatoes). Last year I ordered every thing from SSE, but I think I'm going to go with Pinetree Gardens this year. I still have seeds for lots of things, so there will be zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers that don't need to be ordered.

Based on a few hours of planning this evening, I'm likely going to place the following order:

Pole Beans
  • Kentucky Wonder (66 days)
  • Rattlesnake (65 days)
  • Purple Trionfo Violetto (60 days)
Dry Beans
  • Jacob's Cattle (83 days)
  • Vermont Cranberry (85 days)
  • Boltardy (46 days)
  • Early Wonder (50 days)
  • Crosby Egyptian (45 days)
  • White Albino (57 days)
  • Rainbow (57 days)
  • Lunar White (55 days)
  • Adelaide (65 days)
  • Red Cored Chantenay (75 days)
Chard: Prima Rosa (25-50 days)

  • Homemade Pickles (54 days)
  • Spacemaster (59 days)
  • Slim Jim (60 days)
  • Black Beauty (83 days)
  • Pinetree Lettuce Mix (40 days)
  • Freckles (70 days)
  • Banana (80 days)
  • Minnesota Midget (60 days)
  • Yellow Sweet Spanish (107 days)
  • Red Wing (110 days)
  • Knight (56 days)
  • Sugar Lace (65 days)
  • Big Red (75 days)
  • Sweet Banana (72 days)
  • Hot Portugal (65-75 days)
  • Cherry Belle (21 days)
  • French Breakfast (25 days)
  • Easter Egg (28 days)
Spinach: Dash (39 days)

  • Polbig (54 days, determinant)
  • Heinz Classic Processor (75 days, indeterminant)
  • Matt's Wild Cherry (55 days, indeterminant)
  • Toppers (35 days)
  • Tokyo Cross (30 days)
Summer Squash
  • Eight Ball Zucchini (35 days)
  • Papaya Pear (40 days)
  • Borage
  • Chervil
  • Zefa Fino Fennel
Cut & Come Again Zinnias

Once I place the order, I'll need to create my seed starting and planting schedule. Winter's not too bad after all :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Soy Beans

I did not plan to harvest dry soy beans this year. The plan was to have a nice supply of fresh edamame. Well, while we were on our honeymoon the plants got a bit past that point and began to dry on the vine. I pulled them in late July or early August, and just let them sit on the porch under a tent to dry. Then in maybe September my mom was visiting and got sick of looking at them, and pulled the pods off the plants and left them in a bag. I think I brought that bag inside in late October or early November.

Needless to say, I did not really set up ideal conditions for drying and shelling soybeans. During this process, about 30% of the beans rotted. Instead of getting pretty beans like this:

I got a bunch of pods that looked like this:

After over an hour of work, I shelled what was once an 8 foot row of soybeans, and ended up with this:

That's an entire half-sheet baking pan of dried shells and rotted beans, and 1 1/4 cup of beans to the right.

This jar is destined for the freezer to kill anything that might be hiding in it. Then I need to figure out how to use these soybeans. Any ideas?

Next year I might actually grow some shelling beans, but I'll be a bit more intentional.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lessons Learned

Looking back on my garden, I've learned a lot of lessons regarding how and what to grow. I'm documenting them here so I can remember for next year.

Beans: Red swan were the first to harvest, but they were a pain to pick (and somewhat hard to find in the low-to-the-ground bushes). Ideal market were...well, ideal. I grew them up the trellis, so they were very easy to pick. I confounded things a bit by planting vine veggies in front of the trellis, but I'll fix that for next year. Edamame - well....they're harvested but not eaten. We let them to too long, and we need to use them as dry beans. I'm not exactly sure how that's going to work out yet.

Beets: They were delicious, and we didn't have enough. I need to plan to have 3-4 turns of these (and carrots)

Broccoli: Great crop that I didn't eat nearly enough of. I'll probably plant 2 plants next year.

Carrots: Other than the carrots that got eaten by a critter, they were great. We're still eating some of them that are stored in the fridge. However, again, we didn't have enough. We'd like to plant 2-3 turns of these, and maybe focus on some easy-to-grow varieties instead of really cool heirlooms.

Leeks: I haven't picked them yet, but they look good.

Lettuce: We planted too much all at once, and then didn't harvest it aggressively enough. Next year, more turns, happier harvests. The varieties we chose were good. My favorite was Forrellenschlus.

Arugula: Was great while it lasted...again, plant more turns.

Spinach: see Arugula

Melons: I got one Charentais that unfortunately was over-ripe, and it doesn't look like any Emerald Gems will make it to maturity. I might try these again, but in the garden beds, not back against the fence - and on a trellis, now that I realize how small they are.

Peppers: I didn't end up growing any of them in containers. I also screwed up my labeling so I grew 6 or 7 jalepeno plants and only 1 or 2 bull nose bell :( More bell peppers next year....probably less little peppers, and more large hot peppers (I picked up a hungarian hot pepper at the farmer's market that's just about ready to harvest).

Swiss Chard: Good to eat, but I planted WAY TOO MUCH. It's sort of a pain to harvest it all. Next year I'll only plant 1 or 2 rows (this year I had 4 or 5).

Summer Squash: yum. But, I planted too many plants, too close together. Next year I'll do 2 of each plant. It's so easy to shred and freeze, and include in roasted tomato sauce :)

Winter Squash: I have 2 Marina di Onioggia, but they're not mature yet. It looks like I have about 12-15 butternut squash, but I haven't picked any yet. Butternuts will definitely be grown next year, with something to climb

Tomatoes: Not enough blondkopfchen (now that my niece and nephew love them). And oddly, not enough for preserving, even though I grew 8-10 paste tomatoes. We'll probably plant 2 beds of them next year, and I'll grow some determinate paste tomatoes for canning, saucing, etc.

Basil: Too much, if that's even possible. We had about 16 square feet of basil. Four square feet would suffice.

Overall: I need to plan for seasonality. I didn't grow enough early-season vegetables (radishes, peas, garlic scapes, etc) and the bounty started to come in in July, right when we went on vacation (also: no more summer vacations). I need to plan for multiple turns, and re-using garden space.

Garlic is ordered, so it's almost time to get started on next year's garden!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Who needs flowers?

Why would you want flowers when you have these beautiful plants that you can eat too?

Bush beans that have only been up about a week.

Red iceburg lettuce

Forrellenschlus lettuce

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tomatoes, Asparagus & Mulch

Today I weeded the garden beds, planted the 19 tomatoes, watched Aaron rip his hands to shreds as he pounded in my rebar tomato stakes, got straw on most of the beds, planted sunflowers, and planted the asparagus after Aaron was kind enough to dig the trenches.

A few tomatoes seem to have gotten sunburn, even though they've already been outside for about a week and a half. Any idea what's going on?

The bush beans are coming up! :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Sometime this winter I bought some organic potatoes at the local co-op with the intention of eating them...but that never happened. My parents were in town last weekend, and when Dad saw them in the closet, he said I should plant them. I think my husband wanted to buy some power tools, so he offered to build a potato box. For his first try with the circular saw, it wasn't bad. I'm sure my next potato box will be perfect :) Supposedly you can grow 100 pounds of potatoes in this thing. We'll see. If it works, we're ready to buy seed potatoes next year and have 2 or 3 of these boxes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pretend this is dated April 23

I have been neglecting the blog for awhile, but only because we've been doing so much work!

The following photos were taken on April 23 towards the end of my indoor seed starting. Everything is now in the garden except the tomatoes and sunflowers...I'll try to get out today and take updated pictures.

The entire seed-starting rack. Not quite at the fullest point of the spring.

Parsley & Chard seedlings. These ended up planted together in containers, since I also planted chard from seed in the garden.

My onions. They're a little sad. Next year I'm starting them in potting soil instead of seed starting mix, since I hate the concept of fertilizing. I've also learned to plant them a lot closer together to save room.

Basil in the front, peppers in the back.

An entire flat of peppers - Blue Nose Bell, Garden Sunshine, Jalepeno, Aurora, Candlelight

Tomatoes. I planted Sheboygan, Amish Paste, Italian, Blondkopfchen, and Yellow.

Leeks, more tomatoes, and some peppers that never made it - started too late.

I got antsy in January and started some lettuce seed to see how it would grow under the lights. It definitely got long, skinny leaves that weren't very crisp. I transplanted these into some containers, and now they seem to be doing ok. It really didn't give me a headstart on my lettuce, though.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More progress

We made some more progress today. I came home from my 9AM appointment with my personal trainer (he made me run 6 sets of "suicides!"), I found Aaron out back digging post holes for the trellis. I joined in and started running chicken wire along another length of fence, then got to work getting that annoying tree out of the corner by my third bed. With a bit of help from my father in law, I got it all down and cleared out. I'm building a compost pile around the remaining stump, and hope it will just get rid of itself in a few years.

Tree remains on right, sad stump (and no annoying dead tree) in the back left corner.

Aaron got 3 of the 4 post holes dug, posts in, concrete footings added...and we started to put the trellis up. Turns out we have to do some cutting, and a storm is coming in, so we're done for the day.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

First Spring Day

It's not the first day of spring, but it's the first day that really felt like it. Aaron and I were able to work in the yard in jeans and a t-shirt. We took a trip to Menard's with my father in law to purchase supplies: trellis & posts, chicken wire, and beams for the raised beds. We had to head to Lowe's afterwards, because Menard's doesn't carry compost. They didn't seam to carry much of anything organic (just potting soil).

When we got back home we amended the soil in the two existing raised beds with some compost and peat moss. After Aaron tilled it in, I checked the UW Extension garden calendar and learned that I could plant some veggies. So, today I planted two kinds of carrots, beets and chard, and three kinds of lettuce. I still need to get some more greens in the garden, and I hope to do that tomorrow.

Our garden construction projects have started. Aaron tilled up a portion of the lawn and installed one of our four new raised beds.

Aaron also tilled the space that the trellis/gate will occupy. His hops had to get in the ground today, so he planted those but we're still trellis-less.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More Seeds!

Last Saturday I started my tomato and pepper seedlings. I planted 24 tomatoes and 19 peppers, a few varieties of each (listed in my garden planning post). I planted each one in a 2-inch pot so it would have some room to grow. I also placed them on a heat mat, which is new for me this year. The heat really worked - my first tomato seedling only took four days! It was an Italian tomato. I've had to water the seedlings at least twice a day because they're drying out so fast.

The first pepper seedling popped up today (Aurora) but I was expecting most of those to take about 14 days to germinate. My onions finally seem to be hitting their stride, and most of the swiss chard seedlings look great. The lettuce greens seem pretty flimsy....I'm realizing I started them in seed starting mix but they probably could have gone right into soil. Maybe I'll remedy that later today.

As my husband and I talk about canning, he's concerned we might not have enough tomatoes. I'm more concerned with the limited garden space we'll have. Regardless, I started 7 more Amish Paste tomatoes today.

The weather last weekend was a bit of a tease. It was in the 50's and I got our compost pile going. Now there are snow flurries outside and the temperature likely won't top 20 degrees this weekend. Grrr, Wisconsin.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Seed Starting

I got antsy last weekend and started some spinach, arugula and yellowleaf lettuce seeds in hopes of having some fresh greens before I can get them from the garden. I didn't water them correctly (I have a spray bottle now) so the germination was a bit uneven, but I'm hoping that will be fixed this week.

Today I planted onions (36), two kinds of swiss chard (12), parsley (24) and chamomile. The new seeds are on a warming mat under the lights, and they look quite happy. These all should actually be started next weekend, but I'll be out of town.

When I first started gardening (2 years ago), I had no idea how to start seeds. Now I'm feeling a bit more confident. For other neophytes out there, here's a quick example of the different shapes and sizes seeds come in.

So you get a sense of scale, here's the paper I wrote on, next to a seed packet.

Next up: I'll be starting peppers and tomatoes on March 20.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Seeds & Grow Rack

Today I placed my seed order with Seed Savers. I ordered everything listed in the previous post, for a grand total of $124.02. I also took a trip to Lowe's with my husband, and purchased the materials for a seed starting rack. The 6-foot utility rack, 2 shop lights, light bulbs, power strip with timer, S hooks, zip ties, and 4 small bags of potting mix came to $152.79. So, start-up costs this year are a little high (especially considering I'll be expanding the garden plots), but it's going to be a fun season!! Once I start my first seeds, I'll take pictures.