Food It Yourself Garden 2022: Planning All the Things
It is the coldest day (so far) of the 2021-2022 winter season here in central Massachusetts. It was exactly 00F at 7:00am today. The chickens are at maximum fluff and we are feeding them high calorie treats to help them stay warm. D0ttMatrix is absorbing every possible calorie of heat from the kitchen heat vent. I am thinking warm thoughts and planning what seeds I will buy for the 2022 Food It Yourself garden.
First, the things we will have to avoid this year: the entire Cucurbitaceae family. This plant family includes winter squash, pumpins, summer squash, cucumbers, and watermelon. We did very well with our pumpkins last year. We had a respectable zucchini and crookneck squash harvest. Cucumbers were problematic. The real problem was Acalymma vittatum-that striped cucumber beetle. They eat the leaves, flowers and young squashes of cucurbits. The also spread bacterial wilt, the real cucurbit killer.
There are wilt-resistant varieties of squash and cucumbers, and those are the varieties I typically choose. However, summer 2021 was warm and very damp. This promoted both the beetle population and the spread of wilt. We need at least a year off from growing plants in this family to send the beetles packing and let the bacteria die off from the soil. If cucumber beetles are a problem for you, check out this page from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
What will we grow, then? Corn, tomatoes, string beans, bok choy and carrots (the half-long varieties) haven been doing well for us, so we will continue to grow them. Peppers, egg plant (aubergine) and lettuce have not done well for us on the past so I will continue to avoid them. Kale is only fit to be consumed by chickens; I might grow some for the ladies.
We will stick with the known high performing crops, but I think we can shake things up a bit. Since bok choy does well for us, we could try Napa cabbage. On the subject of greens, I do like Swiss chard, but it can be difficult to find in our area. How hard could it be to grow? This might be the year we find out.
I can not get too “creative” with tomato choices. Mr. Food It Yourself has an aversion to tomatoes that are not red (which still leaves approximately one zillion varieties to choose from). However, there are some other Solanaceae (nightshade) crops we could try. It has been a few years since we grew potatoes. I tried groundcherries (also called dwarf Cape gooseberries or physalis) as an afterthought a few years ago. They did not do spectacularly well, but I did not work all that hard on them. The few we were able to eat we enjoyed and I think they are worth trying again. I’ll start them in side and actually pay attention to them this time!
Clearly, there is much to think about before I actually start purchasing seeds. I have some left-over seed from last season that I can still use. I am considering adding one more raised bed to the back yard garden area, which will increase the over-all growing space. My front yard herb garden needs to be rearranged. My strawberries need a major intervention. I have four fruit trees to prune…Oh I just need to pour another cup of tea, grab a sketch book and draw a map of where it will all go and how we will get it done. That is what the New England winter is for. Making the plan.
What are you planning for the up-coming growing season? If you are in the southern hemisphere, what are you growing now? Share in the comments section!