Friday, January 7, 2011

'Tis the Season

 'Tis the Season....

for gardening catalogs.

Every time I open our mailbox, it seems like there's another two or three seed catalogs mixed in amidst the bills and late-arriving Christmas cards. There's nothing like thinking about sun-warmed, ripe tomatoes growing in your backyard to cheer you up on a gloomy winter's day. All this is to say: The time to plan your 2011 garden is now, so get to crackin'! :)

I'm not a gardening expert, but I have been doing it for a while and I do know a few things.
  1. Find out when to plant for your area. If you do not know your plant hardiness zone, try this map. Once you know your hardiness zone, find out when it is the best time to plant your desired crops. There's a huge range of climate variation in the US and if you're not careful, you'll plant things too early or too late. Too late or too early = reduced harvest or maybe even killing your plants. Around here, we aim to get potatoes into the ground by St. Patrick's Day. Those of you in the South probably aim for sometime in February, so you see how important it is that you know your planting dates.
  2. Decide what to plant. If you're a rank beginner, start small. Pick four or five types of things that sound fun and grow well in your area. If you start with a giant garden, you may find yourself overwhelmed. I've learned the hard way that it is better to start small and get bigger every successive year. 
  3. Ask for advice. Ask friends who are experienced gardeners for their recommendations. What plants are ideal for your area? What problems are commonly encountered? My family has a vineyard and my Dad knows a lot about the diseases common to fruit in our area. He warned me that fire blight runs rampant around here, so if I want to grow apples and pears organically, I should select varieties resistant to it. Good to know! At the same time, don't be afraid to try things your friends might say are impossible. A person Hubby Dear works with is a fabulous gardener and he insisted that we wouldn't be able to grow watermelons - the coyotes would run off with them! Well, we tried growing watermelon last year and the coyotes left them alone.  
And finally, something we learned the hard way...

4.   If you're going on vacation this summer, think about that when you plan. We were gone for two weeks in July 2009 and missed the peak of our garden. We didn't think about that in May and June when we spent all that time planting, watering and weeding.  

Hubby Dear and I made our 2011 garden plan this past fall. We are ordering most of our seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds. Their seeds are of high quality and many organically-grown varieties are available.We're planting some old favorites as well as some vegetables that are new to us:

- Tomatoes - several varieties. San Marzano for canning.
- Cucumbers. I always plant a variety for pickling and that does fine for fresh eating as well.
- Sweet peppers
- Peas - both sugar snap and English peas.
- Bush beans - For fresh eating and canning
- Cantaloupe - Minnesota Midget is the BEST variety I have ever tasted.
- Watermelon
- Corn
One of our Minnesota Midget Cantaloupe hills last year. (Ignore the weeds!)

New for 2011:

- Onion - We've never tried to grow onions and they're something my family didn't grow when I was a kid, so this is a new realm for us.
- Radishes
- Carrots - We tried to grow carrots at our old house and it was a miserable failure. The plants died off right after germination, even before they were large enough to thin.
- Lettuce - Both head and loose leaf varieties.
- Potatoes - Hubby Dear and I have never grown these at our house. I've helped my parents, though.
- Strawberries

 We have also reserved part of our garden for the children. Our oldest two kids get to pick what they would like to grow and they will be in complete charge of planting, watering, weeding, etc.

In addition to our vegetable garden, we have an herb garden planted up close to our house. It has:

-Sweet Basil

My herb garden in early May. It'svery near my kitchen, which is so convenient.

Most of these are perennials, although I have to replant tender plants like basil and rosemary each year.

We also have a row of raspberries that we are going to expand as well as some thornless blackberry bushes. Our "orchard" consists of a solitary dwarf sour cherry tree that we got as a freebie from Stark Brothers. One of these days we intend to plant many more fruit trees, but I think we have enough on our plate for 2011, don't you?  

I said it was a dwarf! This is one of the three trees total that we have on our 5 acres.

Are you planning to garden in 2011? If so, what are your plans?

1 comment:

  1. Oh, gardening ... my unconquered frontier :-(

    We just had a spectacular failure with indoor basil. From what I have read, it's literally (!) impossible to fail at indoor basil. Sniff.

    I'm trying to convince our neighbor to grow all our produce ... keep your fingers crossed ;-)