1. I've got to like it. Why grow it if it's not going to get eaten? I don't grow much Swiss chard because I don't like the feel of it on my teeth -- it feels abrasive. But we can't seem to grow enough sweet corn for our family.
2. The exception to priority 1 is that I'll grow stuff that the chickens enjoy. Thus, there is Swiss Chard in the garden. As stuff gets leggy or starts to bolt, it goes into the chicken tractor
for the girls to convert to eggs and fertilizer.
3. Greens need to be planted weekly if you are going to have a constant salad bowl throughout the year. I plant lettuce, spinach, arugala and other salad greens about every other week. I'll plant carrots about once a month except the hottest summer months. Cabbages get started and planted about 8 months of the year. Moringa is available 8 months of the year, as is Chaya.
4. I've selected fruit trees so that there is always something available 12 months of the year. Right now, we are enjoying the last of the citrus for another month or so. Stone fruits will start ripen in late April and early may, and then we'll have peaches, plums, pluots, apricots, apriums, nectoplums, nectorines . . . for about 3 months. Berries will be available all summer. Apples ripen from May through October . . . 6 different varieties, all with different "due dates". Figs are available in the late summer and into the fall, as are Asian pears. Pomegranates are ready in Sept. and Oct. Avocados are late fall and continue to hold on to the tree throughout the winter months, even into spring. Basically, I never want to buy fruit --- there is always something good growing on a tree. Selecting trees according to their ripening date is as important to me as selecting trees that are really productive.
5. I don't want to be out in the garden working hard in August and Sept. when things are super hot, so hot weather veggies all go in during May - July, so I won't have to plant when the heat comes --- just go out and pick okra, sweet corn, watermelons, tomatoes, tomatillos, various peppers. These are also the busiest months for canning, drying and preserving. Once September is over and the summer plants are spent, then I'll get my hands in the soil again as the fall crops are sewn -- but I'll wait for a cool weekend to do it.
6. A common problem is that production out-strips your capacity to eat the food or preserve it. It kills me to have so much available food and no way to use it. We give away so much food, yet hundreds of pounds end up in the chicken
pen or compost
pile. The key is to not over-plant. Only plant 2 or 3 cabbage plants every 2 weeks. Do this throughout the spring and into the summer -- lest you suddenly have 30 big cabbages that are all splitting open because you haven't harvested them in time. Plant 6 sweet corn kernels every 4 days, so that you will have a steady crop of corn throughout the summer, not one big burst of corn. Same thing with zuchini and crook-neck squash: plant a new hill every 2 weeks so that you can pull the old ones out. Get the drying racks ready to go by July 1 and the canning equipment all set up so that you are ready to go when the rush of productive harvest happens.
7. Multi-purpose plants are scattered throughout the garden and orchard. Sweet potatoes and peanuts are our ground cover on the hillside. They don't need any attention at all. Moringa and Chaya grow in hot places that don't get a lot of love, attention or water
. If there is a little space anywhere in the garden or orchard, something is planted — a little drift of beets or carrots, a little spot where a pepper can be planted . . . maximize every square foot.
8. I only grow stuff that sets seed and I'm able to from year to year without having the purchase seed. There are a few exceptions to this (cabbage), but most things produce WAY more seed than I'll ever use. One beet that goes to seed will give you enough seed for your whole garden for the next two seasons. Poppies, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, and sweet potatoes volunteer
. Plant them once and never plant them again. As summer transitions into fall, I work hard to be disciplined about gathering seed for next year. I keep it all organized and well-labeled so that I know what I've got. Small packets of seed are easier to store than big bags. Then, when you are ready to plant the next year, you just grab one of your packets of, for example, okra, and are not tempted to over-sew because there are 2 lbs. or seed in a bag.
Those are a few of my guiding principles in what I choose to grow and how I go about facilitating the gardening process throughout the year.