Friday, February 4, 2011

Garden Planning



I'm finally getting serious about garden planning, now that seed starting is just weeks away. Over the last few years I've gotten better at starting most seeds about the right time, not so early that they grow too leggy or root bound and not so late that they never amount to much. I set up a tall metal rack with five shelves, two sets of four foot long flourescents hanging above each level. I can fit four trays on each level. By the end of spring, some plants have moved outside to harden off in the greenhouse and there is room for a few more trays. Fortunately my husband sees seeds as food security. Therefor I am encouraged to invest in seeds. The last couple years I could have gotten away without ordering seeds as we have such a stock pile - but where is the fun in that?

Each year I greet the seed catalogs with much anticipation. Barbara Kingsolver writes in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, (and I paraphrase from memory); "that she gazes at seed catalogs with the same misty eyed adoration as some women shop for diamonds." I looked for my copy so I could find the quote, as I do not do it justice. I remember reading that and thinking, she and I were kindred spirits as her words sum up my seed catalog fetish pefectly. I usually wait for a dull January afternoon before beginning to work my way through them, carefully taking notes. Over the course of a couple weeks I narrow my orders down to two or three catalogs.

This year I've deviated from my norm. I flipped through a couple catalogs and didn't see too much new. So I closely examined the Fedco catalog and have my order ready to place - today hopefully. I'm planning on ordering just from Fedco, so I haven't let myself even open up Territorial or Pine Tree. The greatest temptations will be when Seeds Of Change and Seed Savers come in the mail. They always have great pictures of something unique like hardy quinuoa or some beautiful South American root vegetable I've never heard of.

Some of the vegetable and flower seeds I've been tempted to try for the first time are Fava Beans, Scarlet Runner Beans, Celeriac, Arnica and Lemongrass. Some varieties I'm trying for the first time are Root Grex Beet, Honey Drop cherry tomato, Melissa Savoy cabbage, Charming Snow Cauliflower, and some different colors of Statice, Strawflowers, and lots of sweet peas, always. I've ordered Scarlett Keeper carrot for the first time in addition to Yellowstone, Atomic Red, Purple Haze and White Satin, all carrots I've grown that I was low on.

I did not allow myself to order any more radishes, turnips, green beans, peas, greens or broccoli - as I have enough seed for the next several years. Nor did I order any cover crops as I've done the last couple years. I'm going to see what comes back and just observe this year.

I am growing twice as many beets, carrots and shelling peas this year.The same amount of broccoli and green beans. More cauliflower, cabbage and squash. Less turnips, radishes and rutabagas. No corn! Less bitter greens and chard, more tender mild head and cutting lettuce.  Less full sized tomatoes, and more snacking cherry tomatoes. No leeks or shallots and less onions. Last year I planted over six hundred onion sets. We will be cooking with out own onions through March. As much as I enjoy this, the onions just took up too much garden space - and onions aren't expensive nor are my homegrown onions remarkable in their superior quality, so... I'm ordering two hundred Stuttgarter onion sets. I know it won't be enough to get us to this time of year but there will be more room for other crops. Like, I want a large lusty squash bed. I need to focus on starting medicinal herbs and making sure I plant them in prime locations. I have a habit of forgetting what medicinal herbs I've planted and what it was I was going to do with them. I never got around to harvesting Comfrey, Spilanthes or the Elecampane I grew last summer.

I'll be starting some herbs in the next week or so, followed by tomatoes, then peppers, eggplant and slow growing flowers. Time to set up that rack. What are you most looking forward to growing this year? What can't you live without? What is new?

11 comments:

Miranda said...

It all sounds so exciting. I've never had as big of a garden as yours, but over the past couple of years it had gotten larger and larger as my seed and plant craze grew.

This will be our first summer in North Pole, so I'm thinking I'll just do some container gardening and get to know how the sun hits our property before I choose the best place for some raised beds. Any good tips on the the best nursery to visit for Alaska gardening advice?

jj said...

We are only just starting out, so most of our focus this year will be on structural stuff - trees, bushes, and siting the actual garden beds. We probably won't be able to start any of our own seeds this year, as we will be moving at that time. I am looking forward to planting nut pines, blueberry bushes, raspberries, hazelnuts, apples, and maybe a plum or some cherries. If we get settled in time, the garden is sure to be a mish-mash, but I would want to plant some squash, turnips, carrots, beets, beans, and peas. We'll see what the local garden centre has on offer when the time comes...

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily. I have been dating a guy from Fairbanks, AK, and since I am from VA I have been really enjoying your blog. You are living the lifestyle I have always dreamed of! Even down to the way you raise your children, the food you eat and your breed of dairy goats! I have been raising dairy goats for 3 years now and never want to be without them. However since I am considering a move to Alaska what is your perspective on moving goats from VA to Alaska? Would it be better for me to sale my goats and buy goats in Alaska or would I be silly to bring my goats with me? Is that even a possibility? I love my goats. It would be hard to sell them but if I have to I will.

Emily said...

Miranda, if you don't already have the Alaska Guide, get it or check it out. As far as Nursery's go, I recommend Plant Kingdom as far as selling plants that are suitable for our growing climate. I believe Plant Kingdom uses organic or at least not chemical fertilizers, bees for pollination and ladybugs for bug control - and not pesticides. They have some informational packets and offer workshops. Their plant prices are among the more expensive. I usually buy just a few odds and ends so it works to get them there. Not the place for the cheapest starts.

JJ, wish I could grow hazelnuts and cherry trees...

Anonymous, I would be tempted to bring my own goats. First, I would have to ask: How many goats do you have? How many milking Does? What time of year would you be traveling? Do your goats have health issues or any diseases? Do you have a trailer that can move them all? Are you moving to a place with land and an established shelter or plan to build one? If you were to buy goats here what are your notions of what you want? what prices you expect to pay or availability to find? It is such a small town, I'm tempted to ask who you are dating? :)

Anonymous said...

I am dating Joshua Strickland. Do you know him and if so what do you think of him? He owns a 6 acre hobby farm outside of Fox? He has a underground log barn so my goats would have shelter. To answer your questions. I am starting to downsize my herd. I have 8 bred does and one Saanen buck. The 8 does are Nubian/Saanen, one LaMancha and 2 Saanens. I love all my goats but I have 2 that are my favorites. I would hate to sell them! I have a horse trailer so it would not be a problem to transport them. However, it seems like a lot of trouble and money to take them to Alaska when I could buy does from you. My goats are very healthy and are very well bred. What are your prices on doe kids and does? I really like LaManchas. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Keren

Emily said...

Keren, I think I went to highschool with your boyfriend, we might have been in the same class, West Valley 97,my maiden name is Bates. But it has been a long time and we ran in different circles.

As far as goats go, I've been breeding three to five goats a year and have been trying to retain two doelings a year. We've had a majority of boys each year, so I haven't even sold a female goat yet. This year if I keep two, I am selling two - so that is something, but one is probably going to be my doe with the weakest udder and the other my three year old who I've yet to get bred... I'm planning on asking in the three hundred dollar range for doelings and closer to four hundred for milkers.

There are not a lot of Lamanchas or Nubians that I know of up here, more Saanans, Toggs and Nigerians. Seems like folks are crossing their milkers with Boers, as they say there isn't much demand for their doelings. CAE is common up here. I think if I were you, I'd bring up my favorite milkers and that way at least you've got a couple disease free quality goats- and milk. We can certainly keep in touch and see how the spring goes.

Annie said...

Hi Emily, I'm from Fairbanks also. When do you start your Tomatoes? What roma or slicing varieties have you had success with?

Emily said...

Annie, I start tomato seedlings mid to end February, no later than early March. The last two years I've grown Bellstar as a Roma, with drying or sauce in mind. However, I tend to make sauce and dry any tomato varieties, usually the ones I pick green and bring in to ripen. I do grow some indeterminate varieties, but the determinate tomatoes ripen the earliest. For nice size early tomatoes I like Early Wonder, Early Bush Girl and Oregon Spring. I also like Early Cascade, and Slitz for being earliest to ripen, although smaller fruits. Our favorite summer snacking tomato is Sun Gold, early and tasty!! I plant tomatoes out around early May in Wall o Waters. O

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and really enjoyed reading it. I'm adding it to my list of favorites!

mattiespillow said...

Hi, Emily--

Just ordered from Renee's--I admit I'm a sucker for their beautiful website! I've had good luck with their seeds in past years and don't have time to seed save when school starts each fall.

I ordered my current favorite tomatoes: Chianti Rose (a pink Brandywine/Italian cross), Pompeii Romas, Camp Joy cherries, and Sungold. Will probably get some Black Krim--so sweet and tender!

New things include Italian flat beans and multicolored carrots. I'm going to try a separate bed for my root crops by my sunny south-facing bank.

Also, we've built manure-composting bins along the north corral fence. Last summer we couldn't keep manure in the corral--too many gardeners came over!

I haven't had good luck with eggplants, even in the greenhouse. Do you grow them in hoop houses? When do you start them?

I need to come by and visit your goats soon!

Emily said...

Cindy, I usually grow just a few eggplants. The year they did the best, I had started them early, transplanted them into raised beds and kept them under plastic most the summer. Since then, I haven't put as much energy into Eggplant. The last couple years I've just grown them in pots in the greenhouse, hand pollinate the blossoms. I get 8-12 small fruits. Pick a 70-80 day variety - I skip the fancy ones. I would enjoy having you over for a visit, there will be cute goat kids in a month or so.