Saturday, March 14, 2009

Garden Planning Round I

Though the weekend is cold and rainy, the upcoming week is suppose to be nice and warm. Perfect weather to begin planning the garden space. I am starting with a blank slate this year. We had one garden last year and that along with the produce from the great farmers at the Chattanooga Market and some mooching from Pat's garden we made it through. But, looking at the pantry here in mid-March I know we will run out of all things tomato long before tomato season comes around. So, expansion must take place.

I have a slightly sloping backyard but it is in full sun, near a water source and the kitchen so it makes for a perfect spot. The grass is sparse from years of neglect and drought so scraping that away will not be troublesome. I will be using raised beds since the soil in the backyard is poor and will set them up to work with the slope. The plan is to utilize ten to twelve inch wide boards in a four by eight pattern. I am planning on building five to eight beds if room allows. That gives me room for the onions, potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, peppers and sunflowers we want to grow.

I had a lot of fun choosing seeds this winter. Most of you know that I love the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. In her book she goes into great detail of the kinds of vegetables that she and her family grow in their Appalachian garden. So, in my research, I found Seed Savers Exchange located in Decorah, IA, There I found several of the vegetable seeds mentioned in Barbara's book which would work in our zone. Most of these seeds are heirlooms and have been saved for several decades and even further back. Many of these were found in our grandparents victory gardens during the first and second world wars.

I chose the Yellow Onion of Parma for its size and storage ability. Right now, it and the long red onion, is on the heat mats in the greenhouse. Green shoots are up about four inches and as soon as the beds are built and filled with soil they'll hit the ground. We eat a lot of onions so two eight foot rows will go in. On the other side of the onion bed goes the lettuces. Asian baby leaf, mesclun mix, and buttercrunch will be sown the first of April and then again every three weeks until it is too hot. Lettuce is not happy after mid-June in the south. I will sow a fall crop which will grow until a killing frost takes it out. For the tomatoes, I chose some very interesting old timers. Silvery Fir Tree tomato has been around for hundreds of years originally coming from Russia. It is an early producer. Cherokee Purple and Red Brandywine will go in as well as two I couldn't resist because of their names Isis Candy Cherry and Jaune Flamme. I also chose Martino's Roma based on Barbara's description of her spaghetti sauce's best ingredient. Of course I will add in Pat's Health Kick and German Stripe and some Celebrity to round out the tomato harvest. After all, I am trying to make enough sauces, pestos and pastes to last us through to next tomato season. For the peppers I chose Purple Beauty and Quadrato Asti Giallo which is a yellow and green mix with a very sweet flavor. We're even giving potatoes a try so I ordered a patriotic grouping of Yukon, Red and All Blue. And of course I have to try the fingerling potato, LaRatte, from the book.

Well, now that the plan is out there and published so to speak, I guess that makes it so. The kids are on spring break so we'll get wood and soil and get to work. Will post some pictures as things progress. I can't wait for that first tomato sammich.

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