First year garden
As the main growing season winds down here in paradise, I thought it would be a good time to do some updates, and to think
about what has worked out well, what hasn’t worked, and what I might do differently
next year. All in all it was a fantastic first year garden! The buried wood
beds produced beyond my expectations, and I am thrilled with the outcome.
The whole growing area consisted of 2 beds, 4x40’ each. From these two beds I’ve sold over $800 worth of veggies between about the middle of July until now, including:
Because I was under the optimistic but misguided impression that I would have twice as many beds, I started far more seeds than needed for these two beds.
And because I just couldn't bring myself to throw any of the transplants away, I planted most of them into these two beds. Of course
, I ended up having to thin out quite a lot of kale. But everything I grew and thinned out went right back into the garden or was dried and powdered, so all is well.
The tomatoes were planted WAY to close together, and didn’t have strong enough
supports to brave our crazy summer wind storms. But I got lots of tomatoes - 5 different varieties - so although it was more like an Easter egg hunt than a tomato harvest, it was a very productive little tomato patch. I harvested over 140 lbs for market, plus lots for our own consumption, and I also dried a bunch. Once the rains started they began to split, so although they are still producing, many are split, or otherwise nasty. But I’m still getting some good ones, and many good-enough-for-me tomatoes for my own use. At this point I’m also picking unripe tomatoes as I’m not sure when the first frost will hit, and we’ll be getting some heavy rains from now on.
The Curly Scotch Kale is still pumping out lovely tender leaves for market and fresh eating, and I also have a Red Russian type that I mostly keep for myself as it wilts too quickly for taking many bunches to market. I imagine the kale will keep producing all winter (such a new concept for me!)
Parsley put out a new flush of luscious green when the weather cooled down, and I take lots of that to market, plus eat quite a bit myself. I have Curly Moss and Italian.
I have some lettuces that are at baby leaf stage which I’m cutting from sparingly. It will be interesting to see how long they last, and how much they grow. I’ve never had lettuce in the garden in October! I’m also still getting baby chard cuttings. Yum.
The last of the celery will be taken to market soon, except for a small patch that I’ll be keeping for myself until the frost takes them. It’s a very strong tasting celery, so it works best in soups, stews and stirfries - a little goes a long way. I’m going to freeze some, and also dry the leaves to see how they keep.
The broccoli is still putting out tender delicious sprouts that I harvest about every three days or so. I also eat the small tender leaves.
I just took three small zucchini out of the garden (October 10!), but they’re about done now. I’ll be saving seeds from a couple of big ones.
I got a small harvest of onions which is drying in the house. There are still some in the garden that sort of got lost among the kale. They are putting up new sprouts, so I’m cutting those and using them like green onions.
The basil is about done, although there is the odd leaf that I can harvest. The summer savory is also about done, but will self-seed for next year, as will the cilantro. Of course, there are chives, thyme, rosemary and sage, which are still happily sharing their abundance with me.
There are still many flowers blooming in the garden, and the bees
and other insects were happily buzzing through them a couple days ago when the sun was still shining: Sweet smelling sweet alyssum, California poppies, a pretty little pink type of poppy, borage, calendula, and a bunch of others that I don’t know the names of - they’re in a Beneficial Insect mix from West Coast Seeds. There are also radishes, cilantro, lettuces and broccoli going to seed
, and which the bees
appeared to be quite happy about.
Using the soil blockers for my transplants may have been a little bit more work at the beginning of the year, but I think it was totally worth it. I had the healthiest transplants I've ever had, and they grew like crazy when they were planted out. My lack of soil as a growing medium in the garden beds
didn’t affect their health and growth one bit. There seemed to be very little set back at transplanting time, they just kept right on growing!
I did have to spend a bit of money on ingredients for the special potting mix ingredients needed for soil blocking, but that won’t happen every year. Next year I’ll have my own compost
, as well as some seaweed which I’m drying, and oyster shells that I’m going to burn and grind up. And the year after that I hope to be able to replace the coir or peat moss with my own leaf mould (another thing I learned how to do!). And I have a source for some sharp sand, as our sand is too fine - it worked okay, but the sharp sand will be better. For next year I’m going to get the larger soil blockers that make more blocks at one time, to speed up production.
I used the 3/4 inch soil blocks for the earliest seeds that need heat, as I can fit a lot into a small space (in the living room under lights
). They worked great for the early things, or seeds that take a long time to germinate like celery. I potted them on to 2 inch blocks. Some went into the garden in those blocks, but some got potted on to larger pots from the free
Seeds that were started later - the ones that could be started outside in the unheated greenhouse
- were started in the 2 inch blocks, such as lettuces, kale, and the succession plantings of parsley and cilantro.
The large seeded things like cucumber and zucchini were planted directly into pots I’ve collected from the Free Store. Oh, how I love the Free Store.
I did everything by transplant this first year, as I didn’t know if seeds would germinate and grow well in the soil-less medium I am using in my garden beds. I did direct seed some radish, lettuce and broccoli seeds into the beds to see how they would work. The germination rates weren’t great, but they did germinate and grow. The next time I tried direct seeding I put a shallow layer of soil down and planted into that. The germination was much better. I think next year I will do more direct seeding, but will be sure to put a sprinkling of soil/compost down in the row. This will probably be most important for fine seeds like carrots (which I didn’t grow this year).
I think my beds will be really good for growing potatoes. They will be easy to harvest and clean. I didn’t plant any this year, so that will be a new experiment next year.
I don’t think tall, top-heavy plants like corn or quinoa will be work well in these beds. The growing medium is just not strong enough to hold them up. When the kale and broccoli got a bit top heavy they started to kind of grow sideways . . . but they eventually started growing vertically again! If tall plants are planted close together they might hold each other up. We'll see how that goes next year.
I mentioned at the start of this thread
somewhere that I experimented with planting some seeds - globe onions and green onions - in bunches. I put 10-12 green onion seeds, and 4-6 globe onion seeds, into a 2” soil block, and planted them in clumps, a little further apart than normal. The green onions grew really well that way. Most of the globe onions did as well, although as I mentioned, some of them got shaded out because of over crowding in the beds. These tended to be much smaller than the ones that didn’t get crowded. But all of the onions did pretty well all in all, and they are delicious!
Next year I am going to experiment with other veggies planted this way. The benefits are that you can plant slightly more in the same amount of space, they take up less room in the greenhouse
, and it takes less time and effort to transplant - i.e. if you want to plant 300 onions, it will take a long time to plant out 300 transplants; but if you plant 6 seeds in each block there will only be 50 blocks to plant out, instead of 300. Brilliant, yes? I’d like to thank Eliot Coleman for that little tip.
I’m pretty excited about the plans
I have for next year. We’re working on the next garden bed now, and I’m hoping to have at least 6 4x40’ beds next year (Hey, I like to dream big!) So obviously I’ll be growing more for market - I’m hoping to at least triple production. Because the beds weren’t finished until June 1 this year, I didn’t have anything for market until the middle of July. But next year I’ll be able to get things into the ground at the right time and have things to sell
by April or May, some possibly earlier. I’ll also have more room to do succession plantings of lettuces, green onions, cilantro, and other quick growing things. I also hope to get a couple of more venues for selling to - Squirrel Cove Store is interested in carrying local
produce, and the new owners are much more pleasant than the last one.
Besides just generally growing more produce, I plan on doing some experimenting with different varieties, and starting my landrace
experiments. Tomatoes are first on the list. I’ve saved some seed, and will be introducing some different varieties next year as well. So not a lot of action next year, but I’ll be introducing some new genetics, and hoping they get it on and make some interesting crosses in the future.
I really, really want to get growing some corn. Everyone in the PDC class
got a handful of corn from Rick Valley (instructor). It is his own variety that he has bred in Oregon. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of that. It’s very colorful.
We also got to see and shell examples of cobs of Carol Deppe
’s corn that Jodi grows and saves seed from on Linnaea Farm. It is quite beautiful. The difference between her corn and Rick’s corn is that with Carol’s corn, all of the seeds on each cob
are the same color, where as Rick’s are mixed. I think Carol’s will be much better. Rick says that you can use his all mixed together, but Carol says that it’s better to separate kernels by color as each color has a different flavour and a different use. So there will be experimenting in the garden and the kitchen next year I hope!
Quinoa is also on the agenda for next year. I have been told that it isn’t worth growing because it takes too much work to harvest the seeds. But I think it will be worth experimenting with. I’m a pretty smart cookie, and I think I can come up with a way to harvest and thresh it in a way that will make it worthwhile. So next year I will be growing some, and we’ll see how it goes.
I’ll also be planting potatoes next year. Now I just have to figure out how to store them! We have a small cold room in the basement, and some other cool areas, so this winter I’ll put some thermometers down there to see what the temps and humidity do. I dream of a big ol’ root
cellar . . . it’s on the list.
I’ll be doing lots of propagating this winter and spring. I want to get plenty of grape and figs started, as well as try out some air layering on the plums, apples and figs (another new skill learned from the PDC
!). I’ll also be starting many more rosemary, thyme and sage plants from cuttings. I have visions of a large herb garden as I want to sell dry herbs, herbal vinegars, and essential oils - and I LOVE cooking with fresh herbs. The riding ring will be the home of the larger herb garden, so I want to get things going and growing in there next year. These three herbs are pretty deer
resistant, so they will be going around the outside of the ring.
And that's enough for today. I've attached photos of
• the view of Gunflint Lake and a small orchard, from the deck of the classroom at Linnaea Farm - how's THAT for an inspiring view?!
• some of the kernels of the Carol Deppe corn (I forget which variety, at the moment) that Jodi grew and we got to shell
• my certificate, which I am very proud to have.
Thanks for stopping by!