Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 Garden Planning

It's March in Ohio, which means a month of being taunted by the weather to come out and start your garden.  The rub is I know full well it will be mid-May before we have a sufficiently low risk of overnight frost to actually have any seedlings outside.  So, working backward the 6 weeks or so it takes tomatoes and leafy greens to get rolling, I'm waiting till the end of this month to start my seeds indoors. 

You may have read here in the past about my adventure last fall tearing down a deck for the materials I could salvage.  One of the things I was thinking ahead to was raised boxes for our tomatoes and herbs.  This will be closer to the house so they're easier to tend to and I can provide better protection for them from wind and critters.  As we were cutting that old deck joists up with a Sawsall, I was careful to keep 4 16" x 48" sections of the super structure as they formed nice boxes made out of rot-resistant 2x10's. 

I'll get some pictures up when they're in operation but the plan for now is to line them with 6-mil vapor barrier (just what I happen to have used as tarps on some of our wood pile this year) to keep whatever chemicals were used to treat the lumber from leaching into the dirt I'm going to fill them with.  The dirt itself which will come from our flood-plain - nice rich silt.   The vapor barrier will have drainage holes punched through into the ground so we don't drown the plants.   This is essentially just some throw-together container gardening, all with reused or reclaimed materials.  Hopefully it will keep the tomatoes happier and closer to our kitchen and hence more used and useful.

Beans are one of the big things I want to grow this year.  We bought an extra large stainless steel pressure cooker for my wife's Christmas present and I hope to do my first batch of canning this year, focusing on green beans and tomatoes.  I've got two new varieties from Burpee to try: Contender and Kentucky Wonder.  In addition, I have some purple bush beans saved from a couple of years back that will also go in the ground.  They did well the second year after our initial harvest, though I had to replant as I put them out far too early last year.

Still elusive this year on store shelves is Kale seed.  I might try to order some on-line since it seems to have fallen out of fashion.  I love kale.  It's hearty, super nutritious and cooks down to a flavorful cooked green.  Especially good sauteed with tomato and garlic.  Also makes for a meaty green on a sandwich - very satisfying.

The last big change this year is I decided to mechanically dig the rest of my beds.  Not with a roto-tiller though, I'm going to go for a back-hoe.  The main ideal in deep digging your soil is preserving the texture.  Using a spading fork produces a much superior texture to tilling.  Unfortunately, the clay here makes it a slow process.  I get about one bed created a year.  This year, I have decided that the beds need to be no more than 4 feet wide, so I also need to redo the space between the two I have and then set about creating 6 more.  The back-hoe will get the hard work done, after which I can break the large sections of turned up dirt down without pulverizing the soil.  Having worked with the two test beds for a couple of years, I now know that establishing the bed is the hard part.  Maintenance is a total breeze thereafter.

I'll also be planting the usual assortment of squash.  Our heirloom acorn squash is in it's third year here and keeps producing steady results.  I have four of them still in the cellar, though they are probably beyond being tasty, they are certainly edible in an emergency.  Some of these long keepers will be our seed stock this year.  Those that rotted will go to the bottom of the compost pile when I turn it over.

Other than that, nothing special or exotic on the menu.  The main focus will be production this year as I fear the future and what food prices are going to look like in the coming years.  Since I finally feel I have the knack for working with the Ohio clay, now seems the time to start cranking out food in bulk.  Best wishes for you garden plans this year!