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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Garden planning

As a child I spent a lot of time with relatives when my mother was too sick to care for us.  My aunts and uncles had gardens and did lots of canning.  I helped with their gardens when I was there.  My grandparents (I called Mama and Papa) had gardens and canned lots of things.  Papa would hitch up the mule each spring to plow up the spot where he planned to plant the garden.  My pet goat and I would follow along and sit nearby to watch Papa.  The goat followed me.  Probably because she knew there would be spring grass to nibble on. 

After a morning of plowing, Papa would let the mule nibble on grass too while he and I would walk down to the bottoms to fish and eat lunch.  Sometimes we caught a fish or two, sometimes not.  A couple of hours later Papa would go back to plowing and I would head for home with our catch if there was any. 

Papa was the one who decided what was planted in the garden and where.  I never really understood how he decided and he never offered to teach me.  Maybe he and Grandma Mama discussed what to plant when I was off doing childhood things.  Grandma Mama taught me how to spot polk or early dandelions.  She taught me how to find elderberries, dewberries, wild strawberries, and blackberries but she never discussed planning a garden with me.  When it was time to plant, Papa simply told me to put the potato cuttings at such and such intervals as he came behind me to cover them.  Potatoes were always planted on Good Friday.  Papa told me to put a corn or bean seed every so often and I did.  It was the same for all the planting.  I was the helper and never gave much thought to why they planted which plants.  I now realize that Papa and Grandma Mama saved seed from year to year.  Only a couple of times do I remember Papa going to the general store to pick up new seeds.  The seeds were stored in drawers of a seed cabinet.  The customers picked up a little scoop and got what they wanted.  The cost was determined by the weight of the seeds.

What's the point of this story?  It's that I know nothing at all about "planning" a garden.  What should I grow?  How many plants?  What types?  How far apart?  Will there be enough for canning or simply enough to eat through the growing season?

Even back when I actually had a tiny backyard garden it was merely a couple of tomato plants, a cucumber plant, some bib lettuce, and every now and then something different if I could find it at the garden center in tiny pots.  Nothing was planned other than stretching my food dollars through the summer.  Even last year my tiny garden boxes had only a few plants with nothing really planned.  Canning or freezing extra was just a bonus.  Now I have these lovely new raised beds that will become my new small but intensive garden.  I also have the raised beds from last year to use too.  I find I'm at a loss about what to plant. 

I have a few plants given to me by the man who built the boxes.  A starter pack he called it.

I know whatever I do plant will have to include one for me, one for the rabbit, and two for the thieves neighborhood foragers.

I know I can't just plant willy nilly again this year.  There must be a plan.   I want to grow plants with the idea of canning some to eat during the cold months.  I also hope to build a tent to cover at least one of the raised beds to grow greens through the winter too.  We've had rain, rain, rain the past couple of days and more rain is expected all week.  There was so much lightening all day yesterday that I couldn't quilt or get onto the computer.  It took me all day to write one email because each time I turned on the computer the lightening started again.  I used the down time to think about garden plants. 

I know there are certain plants I really want and there are some I might try.  Tomatoes, peppers, bib lettuce, radishes, green beans, beets, and collard greens are a must.  Cantaloupe, baby watermelon, flowering cabbage, and carrots are a maybe.  Does anyone have any secrets to share about planning a garden?  Does anyone know about seed saving?  I remember doing it but the details are lost with my memory.  Hmm... has anyone seen my memory?  I'd really like to get it back.

I hear thunder again, time to post and turn off the computer.


kathi said...

ah. MEMORIES. my paternal grandparents were also gardeners. city garden. tomatoes. cucumbers. that eventually turned into the BEST garlic pickles one could EVER have. alas. i never "got" the recipe. DILL.needed for pickles of course. and on it went.

CARROTS. you NEED carrots. dig up the soil so it is "loose".. our first carrot year. not so good. but after that. GREAT carrots. which can be frozen. dried, etc etc. GO FOR THE CARROTS. just dig up and loosen the dirt first.

ENJOY. whatever comes up.. is a BOUNTY.

lw said...

There's a lot of website on companion planting, so I'd start there. Some plants really do well together and others not so much.

Also, plant the taller plants south of the ones that need shade (like lettuce and kale.)