23 January 2011

Where We Are Now

Apple blossoms
   I am going to write one more establishing post to give some structure to my future posts, then I should be off and running. We spent 20 years working on our little spit of land, gardening organically, raising goats and chickens for milk, cheese, meat & eggs and building the garden's "bones". These "bones" included a fence around the perimeter of the vegetable garden made from espaliered fruit trees. Since we have very limited space, efficient use of growing space was important, so instead of having one or two large fruit trees, we have 10 laterally espaliered apple and pear trees that surround  and shelter our French Intensive raised vegetable beds.

Espaliered Granny Smith Apple

Shiro Plum

   Over the years we planted different soft fruits that would grow well in our soil as well as provide us with a succession of fresh fruit from late April through September. The last days of April brought us sweet juicy strawberries. We ate them fresh, made jam and froze them for use later, and when the strawberry production began to dwindle, it was about time for June blackberries as well as yellow and purple plums.

Blueberry Pie by the Fourth of July!

Then in July there were blueberries, red raspberries, and figs that would be available until mid August. Apples and pears would come a little later, but during the lull in our own fruit production, we would enjoy an abundance of fresh peaches that are grown in our area. We didn't plant our own peaches since they were available from local farmers and we just didn't have room for them in our garden. By the end of the season we have a larder loaded with jewel colored jars of preserves, jam and jellies and a freezer stocked with berries and peaches for smoothies during the off season.

  The vegetable garden has grown in scale and purpose over the years. When we were young and full of a novice's enthusiasm we planted a little of everything. As time went by and we learned more about what grew well in our area and what things we actually made use of, we refined our planting choices. At one point we had a tiny green house/potting shed at the back of the garden where we started our cool weather seedlings.  Since the potting shed wasn't heated we couldn't start warm weather crops in it, so we would start those under lights in the house. Later, we decided that the potting shed was sitting on prime real estate that could be used for more than starting seeds, so we just started all our seeds indoors under lights. We tore down the potting shed and used the space to extend the vegetable garden and to plant blueberries. Presently,
we have ten French Intensive raised beds three feet wide and twenty feet long. They are loamy and rich, and have very few perennial weeds.

Fresh produce from the garden

  We grow a large portion of our fresh vegetable supply during the summer. We eat, can, freeze and dehydrate the produce and when autumn rolls around, we pull up the spent plants, compost and manure the beds that we clear and plant them with fall crops. Often we still have fairly nice tomatoes until the days start to get short in late September, and our peppers will produce bountifully until mid November when a killing frost will claim what peppers we didn't get off the plants in time. The rest of the beds will have lettuce, greens, cabbage, root crops like beets and carrots, set onions and garlic, fava beans and chinese vegetables. If we have a mild winter we will harvest letttuce, greens and chinese vegetables all winter, and have an very early spring harvest of beets, carrots, cabbage and fava beans. The onions and garlic will come in later. If we start seeds for cool crops indoors in December we can squeeze in another round of cool weather crops before it gets too warm. Years like this year we will only get in two seasons, since we have had very cold weather and snow and ice that put the fall plantings in temporary holding pattern until the weather is a little more hospitable. They will perk back up in February and finish off strong for a March harvest. We will still have time to plant some things before we need the space for warm weather crops, but there will only be one round of cabbage and root crops.
Spring garden

  Much of our time this past summer was spent getting our gardens and trees back in shape after spending a year in Costa Rica. So this coming year will be a much better year in the garden. We tragically lost one of our mature standard plum trees while we were gone and I have to rip out my herb garden completely and start over since couching grass took it over in our absence. But for the most part we are back up to speed and ready to start the next cycle. I am looking forward to the coming year and all that will be going on in the gardens and around the homeplace. I also look forward to seeing you here and getting to know you. Leave me a comment or drop me an e-mail, I will be glad to make your acquaintance.  

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