After three heavy reading posts in a row – it’s time for something dreamier, lighter, more inspiring don’t you think? That is, it’s almost the end of January and I’m thinking about the garden again.
Though it’s hard to imagine when I look at the yard right now – sodden, muddy and partially frozen mess that it is – in only a few short months the signs of spring will be upon it, followed by the abundance of summer. Winter gardening, I’m convinced, is not appropriate for my backyard since its north-facing – though I’m curious to see if my winter veggies – brussels sprouts and broccoli – in the front yard take shape in the spring before the leaves come back on the trees and shade it all in again. They are still alive at least, and the plants look relatively healthy. I also have a single broccoli in the back which *is* still alive.
Already my garlic are peeking through, little green shoots of promise that they are every winter….. though it’s a long way off before anything else is going to go in given the very wet winter we are still having!
A first priority this year is going to be to finish the front yard. I’m actually considering getting some hardscaping done in the form of a front-fence/gate just to give our yard a little structure, though leaving the sides open and landscaping them instead of installing fencing. We’ll see how afforadable (or not) that ends up being. Other than that we’re going to keep mulching the lawn and installing perennials (food and decorative) as the finances allow.
In the food garden out back, on the first dry-ish day that allows it, I will be heading out to get compost and mushroom manure for the boxes which all need a top-up. To lighten up the soil, I think coir will be my choice, and I’m going to put a load of sand into at least one of my boxes to make a good carrot bed for a change. Last year I made the mistake of skimping on re-nutrifying my boxes and that lead to less than stellar yields – especially in the greens box which doesn’t get a ton of sun to start with.
In planning for the upcoming year, I like to think of what my favourite things from the last growing season were. Fortunately, I take lots of photos of the garden in progress which makes it easy to remember most of what went on!
Best things about the last growing season:
- The Bean Tunnel: At the edge of two boxes I erected bamboo poles and grew beans up them – which turned out an incredible crop and the tunnel (vs. the traditional teepee) was easy to get inside and pick from. I’ll be changing the location of the tunnel this year for crop rotation purposes, but otherwise pursuing the same strategy.
- The Garlic: This is just the easiest thing in the world to grow and I had a stellar crop last year. Not ony did I get lots of scapes during the growing season, but I still have lots of bulbs in my larder from the July harvest.
- The Cauliflower: I only put a couple of these babies in because of space considerations, but it turns out my yard has perfect cauliflower (and cabbage) conditions. I am going to eschew some other plants in favour of more cauliflower this year. And the same amoung of cabbage as last year.
- Berries! Both the blueberries and raspberries produced prodigiously last summer (one of my raspberry plants produces right into November). I planted some more bushes at the end of the season along with two plum trees and am looking forward to more fruits from the garden this year.
- Dahlias: Last year was my first dahlia year, and while I didn’t successfully save the tubers – I am prepared to re-invest in some this year and work harder at keeping them over the winter. I loved having such incredible flowers late in the summer and look forward to more this year.
Worst performers last season:
- Tomatoes and tomatillos: Not only do I have a cool-ish backyard, by the end of August (when these things are ripening) there is a lot less daylight back there once the sun shifts. I’m going to stick to container gardening a couple of tomato plants this year and otherwise forget about the hot weather crops unless the spring makes for a promising summer. Last year was late and cold, and I could have used the space better.
- Summer Squash: I get excellent summer squash yields but they tend to get powdery mildew and blossom end-rot which I suspect is from overcrowding. Perhaps this year I will only plant two summer squashes, far apart from each other and super-fertilize for better yield. Or I might find a climbing variety and a bush variety in order to rearrange my space use.
- Potatoes: My potato yield hasn’t been great for all the work that goes into the bags (I grow them in burlap sacks). We’re not big potato eaters anyway, so I’m not sure if I’ll bother with them this year at all.
Things I would like to grow some or more of:
- Snow peas: Every year I forget to buy snow peas for planting even though I have a trellis for peas. Not this year!
- Fava beans: I know they aren’t a big producer and they get aphidy – but I love them anyway and I missed them last year when I didn’t plant any.
- Winter squash: I skimped on planting location for these last year and got nothing as a result. But I *love* winter squash, so I’m thinking I might build a little box along the back fence this year in which to put a couple spaghetti squash plants and the scarlet runner beans.
All in all I’m planning for: snap peas, snow peas, carrots, beets, fennel bulb, cabbage, greens, pole beans, summer squash, winter squash, fava beans, scarlet runners, cauliflower, leeks, slicing cucumbers and radishes. The garlic, rhubarb and berries are already well in hand. Not to mention my plum trees which should at least come into leaf this spring.
Just writing this I feel the joy of spring coming on me and also forseeing the need to set some cash aside to pay for it all! But it’s all for the glory of having a productive and beautified outdoor space, and if I start now, I can spread the spending out over several months…..