Let the Planning, and Learning, Begin

If you have been following this blog a while then you might remember that the Food It Yourself garden had some pest problems last summer. Too many consecutive years of nightshade planting made us susceptible to tomato wilt. We also had some serious squash bug damage. We forgot the prime directive of food production- change it up! The insects all knew where to come for their preferred hosts. The fungi and molds went from soil to plant to soil to plant; the spores wintered over and the cycle started again. Meanwhile, the same nutrients have been removed from the soil each year. All around, I perpetuated a bad micro-environment. It was a rookie mistake. I should have known better.

Thus, we will neither grow tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers/chilies (“the nightshade family”) nor zucchini, winter squash, melons, cucumbers, and gourds (“the cucurbit family”) in 2016. What will we grow? Since it is too cold to go outside and take pictures I have mapped it all out. Here is the back yard garden.

This illustration is not to scale. Also, my planted rows are never this geometrically perfect.

This illustration is not to scale. Also, my planted rows are never this geometrically perfect.

As you can see, we have asparagus and rhubarb already in place. Right now, the bee balm is in the middle of the main plot, but as you can see I plan to move it to the side plot so we can give the plants some fresh soil. Lettuce should be an interesting experiment,as we can probably get multiple plantings in the same space during a single season. I plan to plant cool weather-

This is just one of many-so very many- Queen Anne's lace in our back yard. They are also known as "wild carrot"

This is just one of many-so very many- Queen Anne’s lace in our back yard. They are also known as “wild carrot”

loving lettuces, like this guy  early then try a round of more heat tolerant (“slow bolt”) varieties as the summer continues. This one looks good to me.  If I really stay on top of things I can try another crop of cool weather varieties in the fall.

I am planning to grow snow peas, shell peas, and a few colors of beans. This snazzy snap bean did very well last year tucked in between my strawberries, so I’m growing that one again. I’ll grow some classic green and yellow string beans also. As an added bonus, we can dig the bean and pea pants back in to the soil after harvest to increase nutrients. Healthy food that comes with free fertilizer- there is no down side.

I am very excited to see how carrots will grow in our soil. “Half long” varieties like Danvers, tend to do better in heavy soils. We can also loosen the soil with a little sand. Considering how well Queen Anne’s lace grow on our property I think we’ll have good luck.

For herbs, I have thyme, sage, oregano, mint, chives, chamomile and lavender currently under snowcover in various other garden beds. I’ll keep what survives the winter and move it to the main bed. Dill and basil generally do not survive the cold in our area, so I will have to replace those, and I missed having parsley last year. Most likely I will purchase plants for those. Parsley in particular is notoriously hard to start from seed.

We will also expand what we have growing in our front yard.

Again, this is not to scale. There is also a possibility that we will remove all the grass around the cairn and replace it with things that do not require mowing. Like some of the wild violets from the back yard.

Again, this is not to scale. There is a distinct possibility that we will remove all the grass around the cairn and replace it with things that do not require mowing. Like some of the wild violets from the back yard.

As shown in the diagram, we always grow sunflowers along the front walkway. I might tuck some other annual flowers in between them. These calendula are pretty, edible, and have the most adorable name. (And yes, that matters to me.) Some varieties of chard are pretty enough to be decorative.

Gardening is a continual learning process, and I am looking forward to the lessons of 2016. Will we have enough carrots to justify the amount of space we will dedicate to them? I hope so. Will we figure out how to keep that #$@% chipmunk out of the strawberries? I really, really hope so. If nothing else, though, we will gain a better understanding of what will grow in our little corner of the planet. What are you planning to grow this year? Share in the comments!

The strawberries are sleeping under there while that #%$@ chipmunk is hibernating near by dreaming of ways to eat all the strawberries.

The strawberries are sleeping under there while that #%$@ chipmunk is hibernating near by dreaming of ways to eat all the strawberries.