Farmgirl Gardening Series- Week 2 (Potatoes and Other Spring Crops)

Well, it’s snowing again.  As I write, warm in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot, earthy coffee, I watch the rain/snow mix fall weightlessly to the ground.  Maryjane thought Santa was coming the other night.  But, even folks that live in Colorado forget that April is one of our snowiest months and we have two more weeks before Santa can put his snow boots away! Still, the finches are singing and a quiet hush is over the land as the blossomed fruit trees drink and the earth softens with moisture.

Last week if it were even fairly warm I was at the Community Garden.  Opening a little late, leaving a little early from work, goodness, it’s a very good thing I can’t fire myself! (so this summer should I be missing from my shop go to the community gardens…)

Now, let’s get to work, spring crops are going in!  I lined the paths I created with thick blocks of straw.  Underneath, as I empty the bags of garden soil, I slip the bag beneath the straw as weed suppression.  I will place walking stones across these as money allows to hold everything in place.

Use a good old fashioned hoe to rough up the areas and to easily pull up errant, non-medicinal weeds.  You see that I purposely am gardening around the Cherokee roses and mullein!

The first row of potatoes (russet) will be joined by garlic.  Any organic garlic from the store will work (conventional vegetables are sprayed so that they cannot be planted).  A row of potatoes every foot and a half or so and a long row of garlic cloves next to it.  I used this marker to show where  ran out of garlic cloves, cause I’ll be damned if I waste even two feet of space!  In went kale seeds.

The next two rows of potatoes were joined by yellow onions.  When I ran out of onions, I planted chard.  Just dig a hole, nestle seed potato in, cover with garden soil.  Cut a thin row with your hoe, put a few seeds per few inches, cover in garden soil.  That is how we will plant everything.  Water, cover the whole thing with a light, and I mean light, covering of straw. We aren’t trying to suppress weeds here yet, just keep the soil from drying out too fast, and leaving little seeds exposed.

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I use tomato cages to hold up vines.  Around the outside of the tomato cages every three inches or so goes in a pea seed.  Four cages of snap peas, four of my beloved purple snow peas (just like immigrants and travelers and migrators of old, I have carried my seeds with me through our journey this last year), and four of Alaskan shelling peas.  In V shaped lines zigzagging between cages went four different kinds of lettuce, and more kale.

I had room at the end of the peas (see how many vegetables you can get in a small space?) I planted a few seeds in each hole a foot a part of quick growing cabbage.  Greyhound cabbage, it’s called.  I love it because we loved and miss our greyhound!  In a tick tack toe grid between the cabbages went radishes.

Another row went in of another kind of cabbage and Doug’s favorite, cucumbers, every other.  The last foot and a half is for corn, beans, and pumpkins, and sunflowers but we won’t put those in for two weeks.  I left a foot on the north end as well for the same.

In the other bed Maryjane and I started one row that contains beets, three different colors of carrots, pak choi, spinach, and cauliflower.  Then one of broccoli who will probably be interplanted with soy beans.  Seeds will grow, planting 1 or 2 in each hole is quite sufficient, unless you have a three year old gardener.  I think she planted 20 cauliflower seeds in each hole.  She was so cute doing it though!

Paths in, seeds lightly covered, now we wait for the rain and snow to moisten, then Nudah (sun) to come out and spread enough warmth to germinate the seeds.  Soon it will be summer.  See you next week!

 

Farmgirl Gardening Series (Planning and Prepping-Week 1)

The very first step is to sit with the land for a moment.  See which animals share that space.  See what weeds (or rather, medicinal herbs) are there.  What are the challenges?  What are the benefits?  Then measure the space.  Draw out (doesn’t have to be architecturally perfect) a grid so that you have a solid design for your garden.  You’ll know exactly what will fit and will be able to arrange the plot so that you can grow absolutely everything you want and still fit in a reading chair.

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I have 1 garden plot that is 20×20.  I have one that is 10×20.  I decided to make the smaller one the spring and fall garden.  It will also hold medicinal plants.  Each of my gardens will have the traditional Cherokee rule; the north and east side will be the three sisters, corn, squash, and beans.  Sunflowers will line that.  The Cherokee didn’t need books to figure these things out, they were passed down and I will keep that going.  The corn provided a stalk for the beans to grow on, the squash leaves keep the weeds down and helps divert marauding characters of the night who love corn.  The sunflowers provide food for beneficial insects and birds that will help pollinate the plants.  The tall plants also provide a little respite from wind and sun to help the plants below them.

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I opted not to rototill.  The beneficial organisms and earth worms are screaming their little heads off as the ground is tilled, plus you expose all those lovely invasive weed seeds to sunlight.  I will simply comb the areas with a rake, dig holes for each seed, and cover each seed/plant in its hole with organic garden soil.  This provides enough nutrition for now for the young seeds without creating too much havoc.  The ground will be covered with straw to keep in moisture and protect the plain soil.  Paths will be created with straw as well.  A thick pad of moist straw and cardboard makes any weed or grass that makes it through very easy to yank out.

Once you have your list of what you want to plant, and where you will plant them, go seed shopping at a local nursery (more on that Monday).

In the 10×20 I will plant 3 different kind of potatoes, garlic, onions, kale, chard, spinach, 4 different lettuces, arugula, English peas, snap peas, snow peas, wild flowers, California poppy, dill, lobelia, Bidens ticks, calendula, cucumbers, radishes, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, beets, corn, melon, sunflowers, and beans.

In the 20×20 I will plant beans, sunflowers, okra, Asian greens, bok choi, soybeans, butternut squash, roses, lemon balm, mint, thyme, valerian, chamomile, motherwort, borage, comfrey, broccoli, 12 pepper plants, 4 eggplants, 20 tomato plants, basil, oregano, chives, green beans, collard greens, zucchini, corn, and 3 different kinds of pumpkins (I am still Pumpkin Hollow Farm, after all) plus include a reading chair for me and Maryjane, a trellis to grow the Morning Glory seeds I saved, and have a bird bath.

How on earth will all this fit in 600 square feet?  By interplanting and sticking to a map.  Root vegetables need to have something growing above them.  Potatoes and spinach, carrots, beets, and lettuces, et cetera.  No monocropping!  Tomatoes need space between them, so collard greens and herbs will fill the spaces.

I went to the gardens to see if I could plant the potatoes yet but a sheet of snow still hid the plots beneath.  But, one thing I have found is whether I plant spring crops in the beginning of April or at the end, they still grow at the same rate.  It doesn’t matter whether you get a head start and plant potatoes and greens the first week of April or if you don’t get to it until the end of April.  The germination rate seems to slow the earlier you plant in this climate, thanks in part to 80 degrees, snow, freeze, flood, hail, heat, wind, cold… the soil can’t keep up with Mother Nature’s moodiness this time of year!  Plant when you can.  Next week, we will plant potatoes, onions, garlic, and a whole slew of spring seeds! See you in the garden!

Farmgirl Gardening Series

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I rented three 10×20 plots from the community garden.  I went yesterday to sit with the land and watch, listen, look at the soil and note what may have been planted there.  My plots are a little rough.  Very sandy, very dry.  Weeds popping up.  But it is a blank canvas.

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I could  have rented the snazzy ones down the way from my apartment.  For $200 one could have a 5×10 fully amended garden bed ready to go.  Fake turf lines the paths between the beds.  Easy.  Mine was $30 for a 10×20.  It would have cost me $800 at the garden nearby for equivalent space.  I think I can take a hundred of that and go get some soil to amend in. This is my garden for a whole year or until I have my own again.  We are starting from scratch.

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Every Friday I will lead you through successful organic gardening.  Each week we will talk about how and what to plant, what to harvest (and on Wednesdays we will cover how to preserve), and how to have the most amazing Eden.  I will be writing specifically for the high plains of Colorado (about 6500 feet above sea level with about zero humidity), a very difficult place to grow, so the rest of y’all can just follow along knowing you are probably having an easier time gardening but you can use all the same tips.

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I went yesterday to determine whether Maryjane and I should hurry up and get potatoes, garlic, and onions in.  We could amend the rows real quick.  We are getting a glorious rain and snow storm tomorrow that could get the sets going.  But looking at the weather we are in for five days of rain and snow.  I would risk decomposing my potato, onion, and garlic sets before next Wednesday so I will wait.  It is all about timing and being able to act quickly to get done what needs to be done.  The best would be to plant on a warm day with a good snow the next.  With the rain we are looking at getting, the soil could wash away as well.  We’ll plant next week.

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I will blog as usual during the week but next Friday I will see you back in Maryjane’s and my garden.