Monday, April 13, 2009

Garden Planning 2009

Last year I found I wasted valuable space on veggies we don't eat that often and didn't plant enough of others that we do. With hubby's big market garden supplying some of our needs I still have to maximize the space I have to grow what he doesn't. For example, he grows all of my cucumbers, and since we do 100 quarts of dills plus sweet pickles and relish that is quite a load! He doesn't plant green beans and we eat a lot of them so I need to plant enough here at the house garden.

I've been sitting here doing some reverse planning. I'm asking myself what to plant this year by thinking about what we eat, can, freeze, dry, and store. If I want to make 4 batches of borscht a year and it takes 3 beets each time I need to grow 12 beets. Only 12 beets. Not a huge row, just 12! On the other hand if I want to grow enough tomatoes to can, make salsa, spaghetti sauce, and dry I need to plant LOTS.

For other foods we buy straight from farmers I am making notes of where I buy them: eggs, beef, chicken, honey, corn, tree fruits, grains and legumes are all available locally. The question I am looking at is what to grow ourselves and what still makes sense to purchase. The prices for some items like strawberries make it a better idea to make room for at home. Blueberries we can barter for so those I'm not planning on growing here ... yet. As we live right downtown we can't raise chickens, cattle, or bees so those items we have to buy or do without. Some things grown locally we don't eat like asparagus, allergies are the cause here, it's too bad as the local stuff is AMAZING!

Every year I try to increase what we eat locally. Some we grow and some we purchase. We joined the grain CSA last year and loved the experience of learning to grind our own grain for baking as well as the wonderful lentils and oats that came with our share. Now I'm thinking about finding a source for dried beans and chickpeas. Can we grow them ourselves or do they require too much space for our urban garden?

This year I want to get back to drying some foods: fruit leathers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, cherries, apricots, apples, herbs for spices and teas, as well as mixed vegetable flakes for soups. This is pretty ambitious and more of a long term goal to work towards than this year's plan. I used to dry a fair bit when we lived on the farm but my drier didn't survive the move so I'll have to purchase a new machine to accomplish this. I've been reading how to dry and powder your own garlic and chilies online and it looks like it's totally doable.

I'm also thinking of working on cold room storage, something that we haven't done much of at all. Item on this list include potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, garlic, beets and turnips, maybe more. I do have the Mike and Nancy Buble's book on root cellaring as well as a mother who is experienced with this. Hubby also did a lot of cold storage of when he worked at a fruitstand way back. It is time to learn this valuable skill. Only problem is that we don't have a root cellar or a room in the basement suitable for this. Were not handy building type people so this maybe a long term plan!

Also as I plan for this year's harvest I am keeping in mind what supplies I'll need to purchase: sugar, certo, vinegar, spices, lids, lids, lids... I find it imperative that these are bought well in advance so as not to be running to the store in a panic only to find them sold out.

So I'm busy scribbling this into my garden journal and then I'll go to the library to get the book that gives you the yield for garden veg by the foot of row. Very handy that. Hubby says one of his seed catalogues also has yield figures so I'll check that out too to make my planting plans. So if I want to grow 12 KG of peas I'll need to plant how much??? Ohhhh... I love planning :D

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