Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2012 Garden Plan

I don't know what the weather's been like where you live, but around here it hasn't felt anything like winter. It's been so spring-like that I have felt an urgent desire to get our garden up and running. Despite the balmy temps, it is still a bit too early, but it won't be long before we'll be planting our early spring garden.

We learned a lot from our garden in 2011. Some things will stay the same in 2012 but of course we're also going to make some changes. I can't help it. I'm a fiddler. Sadly, that doesn't mean that I play the violin. I just keep fiddling with things even if they are perfectly fine. It's a sickness.

The first big thing we're doing is adding yet more square foot garden beds.

Please excuse my sloppy handwriting and failure to use a ruler! 

In the oh-so-beautifully-freehand diagram above, our existing garden is to the left. Our ultimate goal is to double the size of our garden, but since constructing and filling all those beds last year nearly killed us, we're taking it in stages. We are building just three new beds this year and saving our energy for expanding our orchard and dealing with our chickens.

In some of the space that will be filled with boxes in the future, we are going to plant sunflowers for our chickens. We'll see how well they do considering the prior luck we had gardening in our poor clay soil.

The current garden plans for both halves of the garden are below. I'm sorry they came out kind of blurry - not sure why the scan is so poor.

The "Old Garden"

The New Garden

The boxes are color-coded with the approximate date of planting for Zone 5.

Although we are growing many of the same types of vegetables as last year, we are changing quite a few varieties. Many of the changes aren't because the previous variety was a failure; this year we simply decided to focus mainly on open-pollinated, heirloom varieties.

We ordered our seeds, plants, and bulbs from several sources: Johnny's Selected Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Seed Saver's Exchange, Peaceful Valley, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and Stark Bro's.

Beet - Bulls' Blood
-We selected this type of beet because of its particularly excellent greens. "Greens" is a bit of a misnomer, though, since the leaves are dark red in color. We may or may not eat the greens (I may save them for our rabbits and chickens), but we'll definitely eat the beets!

Broccoli - Waltham 29
-We planted a different variety of broccoli last fall and it didn't get very far. I really think we should be starting seeds indoors and then setting out transplants, but we thought we'd give direct sowing another shot with this variety.

Cabbage - Farao
-The Thinker planted this cabbage last year and it was ridiculously delicious. I also think the plants are absolutely gorgeous and want to plant some in some concrete planters I have by our front porch.

Cantaloupe - Kansas
-Our beloved "Minnesota Midget" melons just didn't like to grow on a trellis, so we searched for a new candidate that might like trellising better. The description of "Kansas" from Baker Creek drew us in, "The vines are vigorous and the yield is great; oval-shaped, ridged and netted fruit; the flesh is orange and has exceptional flavor; very delicious! A very dependable variety; fruit weigh around 4 lbs. One of our most endangered varieties and also one of the best."

Carrot - Danvers 126 Half Long
-We have reserved a double-depth box (12") for carrots this year. I'm hopeful they will grow larger and straighter with the extra room. It was kind of fun finding all sorts of funny shaped roots last year, though. I try to keep it family friendly on my blog or I'd post some of the more unusual specimens. ;)

Cauliflower - Snowball Self-Blanching
-We had the same problem with cauliflower last fall as we did the broccoli, though we did at least get some small heads. We shall see if "Snowball" does better.

Unrelenting heat and lack of rain really hurt our corn last year.
At least we've figured out a support system that works for
square foot gardens.  
Corn - Golden Bantam
-Corn is our Achilles heel. We never have been able to get a decent crop, which is pretty ridiculous considering we live in corn country! We're trying a dependable old variety and reducing the number of boxes we're devoting to corn this year.

Cucumber - Double Yield
-I favor pickling-type cucumbers. They are good for pickling, of course, but they are great for fresh eating as well.

The "Provider" beans in the foreground were pretty much toast but miraculously returned
to life and gave us another crop 

Green Beans - Provider 
-How could we not plant this variety? Not even last year's record heat could knock these beans down; they literally returned to life after getting fried, leading to my pet name for them - "Zombie Beans". High yielding, too.

Garlic - Music
-We planted many cloves of "Music" garlic last fall. It was heavily mulched with straw. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the field mice left it alone over the winter!

The Thinker's box early last year (Clockwise): Beets, Pod Peas,
Farao Cabbage, Winter Density Lettuce

Lettuce - Winter Density, Encore Lettuce Mix
-After a slow start, lettuce was one of our big successes last year. We're planting "Winter Density" again plus an organic version of the lettuce mix we enjoyed so much. Again, any extras will go to the chickens and/or rabbits.

Nasturtium - Empress of India 
-Mini Me wanted to grow some flowers in the kids' garden box and this was her selection. Nasturtiums are edible, but I imagine we'll mostly just enjoy their beauty.

Onion - Copra
-We're planting transplants this year rather than sowing seed or growing from sets. Hopefully they will grow larger than last year's marble-sized crop.

Pea (Shell) - Lincoln and Pea (Pod)- Sugar Sprint
-If we can keep the mice away, we should get a nice crop. Sugar Sprint doesn't need stringing - bonus!

Peppers - Ancho GiganteBull Nose Bell, Chocolate Beauty, Jalapeno, Orange Bell, Tolli’s Sweet ItalianKing of the North, Cayenne
-Peppers did so well for us last year! New varieties to try out for 2012 plus my nemesis, cayenne

Potato - Yukon Gold
-Another repeat variety from last year. 

"Cherriette" radishes we harvested last spring

Radish - Purple Plum                                                                                                                                        
- Radishes are the one veggie I don't get very excited about, but they are one of Hubby Dear's favorites. He couldn't resist trying out this purple variety.

Spinach - Corvair
-We weren't able to get spinach to grow last fall, but we're bravely forging ahead in the spring. 

Strawberry - Earliglo, Tribute
-One of our boxes of strawberries mysteriously died last spring. (Dang, now that I type all our failures out, it seems like 2011 wasn't so good after all!) We are replacing that and filling in the remainder of the box that Mini Me successfully nurtured.

Sunflower - Peredovik Black Oil
-This type of sunflower is supposed to produce high quality seeds for bird feed. They will be treats for my chickies. 

Swiss Chard - Five Color Silverbeet
-Everyone says that Swiss Chard is a pretty much foolproof vegetable. I can vouch that it is not! All the chard we planted last fall failed to germinate. Well, these fools are trying again! 

Tomato -  Amish Paste, Green ZebraBrandywine, German Pink, Rosso SicilianGold MedalItalian Heirloom     
-The heat last summer really stunted our tomato production, but even so, we managed to have fresh tomatoes from our garden until January! I'm hopeful that I'll be able to can many more quarts of spaghetti sauce in 2012. 

Watermelon - Golden Midget
-This is an unusual type of watermelon. One of our problems with the "Little Baby Flower" melons we grew last year was that we couldn't tell if they were ripe or not. Since they were trellised, we didn't get the usual yellow-white spot on the ground. We checked tendril browning, thumped the heck out of them - none of the usual methods of determining ripeness worked. Golden Midget shouldn't be a problem because the melons turn yellow when they are ripe! 

Zucchini - Costata Romanesco
-Carol Deppe gave rave reviews about this zucchini in her book, The Resilient Gardener. Apparently it is great both fresh or dried. 

That's it! More than you ever wanted to read, I'm sure. What plans are you making for your spring garden? Are you growing anything new and exciting this year? 


  1. This year we are moving to a square foot garden (watching you do it last year encouraged me to take the leap!) and also going to be planting heirloom varities for the first time. I rented the square foot gardening video from our local library and showed it to the hubby to get him on board....yeah! I have someone to help build all those boxes! Looking forward to see how your garden does this year...good luck!!

  2. Anonymous - Good for you! Square Foot Gardening is so much easier that traditional row gardening you won't be sorry. Way to go roping your hubby in. Smart girl! ;) Good luck to you as well.