There is nothing quite like planning the garden to make you ready for spring to hurry up and get here! So this past week, as we watched December’s snow melt and some warmer than average temperatures tease us – Mary and I put the finishing touches on our 2013 garden plan.
Many old standby’s remain in this year’s plan. A healthy planting of Roma (24 ea.) and Celebrity (8 ea.) tomato plants that are the staples for our pasta and pizza sauce, salsa and ketchup that we make and can. Also back: hot banana, jalapeno, cayenne and Cajun Belle peppers that we use in our hot pepper grinds, powders, and of course Mary’s famous hot pepper mustard.
New editions to the garden this year will be rows of head lettuce and cabbage, the multi-colored sweet mini peppers that are becoming popular, and a small row of popcorn.
We always leave a row empty for trying new plants we might find at a nursery or greenhouse. It seems like we are always coming home with at least one unplanned plant at every stop! It is, after all, how we stumbled upon the Cajun Belle a few years back, an amazing appetizer and salsa pepper. And last year it led to finding the Italian Roaster, a great tasting and grilling pepper. They both have become two of our recent favorites. If we can get our hands on a ghost pepper this year (one of the hottest peppers in the world) – we will definitely plant one – but then that just makes for some tense moments this fall when we have to try it!
As we do each year, we rotate the garden rows to use new areas for last year’s plantings. Our peppers and tomatoes will move from the top rows down to the bottom section of raised beds, and our greens, potatoes and beans to the top. In addition to rotating the sections – we also flip the rows from where we planted them the last time they were in these beds – so it becomes 4 years before the same plant goes into the same space.
We will also be changing how we plant our cucumbers and zucchini this year – using the straw bale method. We will fill the two rows used to grow them with a line of straw bales. Then, we will dig out (3), 12″ deep and 12″ diameter circles in each bale and fill them with a rich topsoil/compost soil mix to plant the zucchini and cucumbers in. The plants can then grow above and off the ground, with the straw helping to hold their moisture in. The bales also provide a cascading support for the vines and hopefully, lots and lots of cucumbers and zucchini.
One new edition will be the installation of the 5′ post and board fence all around the garden. Up until this year, we only had the fence along the front – more as a decoration than anything. But the deer have found our garden to their liking over the winter. Moreover, I think it might be the lush green cover crop of winter rye that they found under the snow that they love! Deer have never really bothered the garden too much in the past, but we figure fencing it will keep it that way!
When completed, we will also have the garden silo. It will hold tons of shredded leaves collected from last fall to use as mulch on garden plants and rows – and to add organic material to compost batches throughout the season. Along side of the silo will be the double compost bin and one of our 275 rain water collection tanks. The tank holds enough rainwater to water the garden for 20 days, and is filled from our rain collection tanks from the barn roof.
No matter what happens, one thing is for sure – we will have fun with the whole gardening process!
Happy gardening! – Jim and Mary
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