Tuesday, February 27, 2018

2018 Garden Plan

It's that time again!  As I get ready to start all my tomato, eggplant, and pepper seedlings next weekend, I have to diagram everything out to make sure it will all fit!  Since I garden more or less by the Square Foot method, I made these garden templates when we built the raised beds.  I copy them into a new file every year and mix it up, trying to keep crop rotation in mind. 

The short bed (4x4) has been the eggplant and pepper bed for two years, so it's time to mix it up.  I'm going to put my block of corn there.   I have seeds for Hopi Purple and Jimmy Red, and am waffling on which to plant.  I am leaning toward the Hopi Purple, because I found a mill in the south where I can buy Jimmy Red corn flour and grits.  I don't know of any place to buy Hopi Purple corn meal, so making it appeals to me.  I wasn't thrilled with the corn flour I ground from the Painted Mountain flour corn I grew last year, but maybe I had dried it for too long.  It didn't have a strong "corn" flavor to me.   

I'm also going to try again with okra this year.  I have never had good luck with it.  One year we had a bed of it in the Master Gardener area at Charles Street Gardens and it was doing great-- and then suddenly we had a MASSIVE aphid infestation that caused us to lose 99% of the crop and ultimately have to pull the plants.   I console myself knowing that even if the okra doesn't do well, I can add flowers to fill the space.  And that's the bed you can see down the driveway, so flowers will be great there.  The okra itself is very showy, it's a red heirloom variety with creamy white flowers, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

This past fall, we cut the fig tree back substantially, so the far left hand of the long bed (4x16) should get more sun.  The far back edge is still a good location for greens that like partial shade, so I plan to have chards and mustard and pak choi there.  The squashes will be able to vine into the 2 - 3 foot wide path between the long bed and the back fence-- I will do some vine arranging to get them to go there rather than bothering the peppers and eggplants in the front.

I'm rotating tomatoes out of the long bed this year and into the medium bed, which grew corn and squashes and a few beans last year.  You'll see a lot of the Capitano yellow roma type beans in my garden plan-- we LOVED them last year, buttery and tender even when the beans are large.   We could eat them for a meal by themselves!

The tomatoes get pretty crowded in the middle bed.  I try to keep them trimmed down but they always get out of control by the end of the year.   I am not starting an Early Girl seedling because they are so prevalent in the garden stores, and may omit it and only grow 3 tomatoes to give everything more room.  I am waffling here because I love the Early Girl true tomato flavor.   I may scatter some cosmos seeds among the sunflowers, since those can work around the summer squash.

Last and pretty much least is my problem child bed, the narrow corner bed.  I thought it would be perfect for vining crops to train along the fence.  In practice, it gets neglected later in the summer and kind of just gets by.  I'm going to put easy care crops there this year-- peas along the corner in the spring, and a spaghetti squash that can ramble all over the bed and the fence in the summer.  I'll try some carrots and lettuces too, as an experiment.

I hope it will be a good gardening year!  We'll see how many of my grand plans actually are put into action.  :-)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What a load of ...compost!

Part of the responsibility of having a bumper crop is replenishing the soil.  I fertilize veggies when I plant them, and also try to remember to do supplemental fertilization around mid-summer.  That's not enough to keep from gradually depleting the organic material and nutrients in the soil, though.  That's where compost comes in!  And now is a great time for composting.

In the picture above, you can see my main raised beds, freshly mulched with 2 - 3 inches of compost.  I still need to rake it down and make it more tidy... or let the rain do it for me.  :-)  The main reason I made time to compost this weekend is that we should get at least one more heavy rain storm this spring.  I wanted to have the compost down in time for that.  Compost can absorb a lot of water, so I'd rather have the rain water it.  Also, the rain will bring nutrients from the compost down into the garden soil.  That lets me avoid doing a lot of mixing of the top soil layers with the compost yet still get the benefit of composting.

If you live in Santa Clara county, like we do, you can visit the SMART Center once a week and pick up a load of compost for free.  We use a bunch of huge rubbermaid bins and a couple of clean plastic garbage cans to keep from making a big mess.  When we were there today, we saw folks re-using potting soil bags to fill up, which is a great idea too.   Here's a list of where to get compost in Santa Clara county.

What's that green stuff in the middle of one of the beds?  That's a lot of volunteer cilantro, from where I let my spring cilantro go to seed last year.  I composted around it, in a compromise move.  If I had composted in January, as I had meant to, I could have composted over the whole bed and the cilantro would have come up anyway.  Oh well!  Sharp-eyed folks will see an obvious weed or several in that patch, which I need to deal with too.

By the way, do be sure to weed before you mulch with compost-- a heavy mulching won't kill most weeds, sadly, so you'll just be fertilizing them and encouraging them to grow strong roots.  Right now the garden soil is dry, so pulling weeds is easy, and a lot of the roots come right up with them.  So go forth and weed before the next set of rains!