Betsy and I had our annual vegetable summit this week. We went through our seeds to see which ones were still usable and which we have to buy. We made preliminary placements. We discussed new techniques. And we dreamed of a summer with a backyard garden brimming with organic vegetables.
The major change in our gardening this year is that I will no longer have a separate garden two miles from our house. I concluded that it involved too much watering and driving, as described here. This year, I will have primary responsibility for our backyard annual vegetables, while Betsy concentrates on our front- and side-yard edible forest gardens.
We have 11 beds for annual vegetables inside a fence and five outside, each 30 to 40 square feet. In addition, we have linear beds along the fence for climbing plants like beans, cucumbers and peas. Their placement is simple: the beans will go where the cukes/peas were last year and vice versa.
The five outside-the-fence beds include a very productive one where a compost pile used to be and two new ones of uncertain fertility. Although we appear to have won the woodchuck wars. we still have lots of rabbits, and the outside-the-fence plants will be tomatoes in cages or ones critters don’t like, such as leeks and peppers.
Inside the fence will be tomatoes, eggplant, rutabagas, spinach, broccoli, celery, lettuce, celeriac, kale, beets and greens. We’ll have two containers for carrots. We don’t grow onions or cabbage, which are cheap to buy, or corn, melons, cauliflower or melons. (Above is my map of what has gone where over the past several years.)
Here are some techniques I want to try this year:
Drip irrigation. I plan to put pinholes in a bucket, shovel some compost into it, and put it inside a tomato cage, filling it with water when it goes dry.
Companion planting. I want to try harder to put friendly plants together, such as peppers and basil, eggplant and beans, lettuce and scallions, broccoli and celery and beets and lettuce.
Succession. The spinach will be done in early June, so I want to pull it up and plant tomatoes, cucumbers or zucchini in its place. Later plantings might avoid insect damage.
Natural deterrents. Bean beetles don’t like marigolds, and aphids hate nasturtiums, they say. Sprinkled wood ashes can deter aphids on lettuce and beans. I’ll made a batch of garlic-cayenne spray.
We don’t grow crops to save money or to approach self-sufficiency. But it’s more than just a hobby, because we find it aesthetically pleasing to have growing things in our yard, and we know we’re getting the freshest possible food.