The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Changing gears for the 2012 garden

Purple kale We're making drastic changes in our garden for next year.  A winter with delicious fresh food from the quick hoops and larder has made us neglect our frozen food.  In fact, if I had as much fresh kale, lettuce, cabbage, and carrots as I wanted, I suspect the only vegetables we'd actually take from the freezer would be vegetable soups and sun-dried tomatoes.

So we're changing our summer gardening strategies to:

  • Start onions inside this winter so we'll (hopefully) finally be eating homegrown onions all year.  (This is the one vegetable we still buy for part of the year.)
  • Start some broccoli and cabbage inside for earlier harvest than we can get when starting them in the quick hoops.  (We'll still start most of them with the low work quick hoop method.)
  • Double the tomatoes.  I might also try starting a few inside, although this is chancy since I don't keep the trailer warm in the spring --- quick hoops will still be our primary starting method.
  • Halve green beans and summer squash (since we'll mostly be eating them fresh rather than freezing them.)
  • Halve sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and winter squash since we've cut back on carbs and don't eat as many.
  • Double the parsley to plan ahead for winter harvests.

ParsleyMeanwhile, we'll be boosting fall production as we:

  • Double fall carrots and winter greens.
  • Start fall broccoli and cabbage inside or in the shade in the summer so we have more for the winter.
  • Experiment with beets and spinach a bit more, starting the seeds in the fridge to aid summer germination.
  • Experiment with Brussels sprouts.

If you're curious, here are the number of beds I plan for each crop.  Keep in mind this includes spring, summer, and fall plantings, so the five bean beds will be spaced throughout the summer for a succession of bush beans, and the spring lettuce beds will be long gone by the time I plant fall beds.

Basil 1
Beans 5
Beets 1
Broccoli 16
Brussels sprouts 2
cover crop
Cabbage 6
Carrots 8
Corn 17
Cucumbers 6
Garlic 12
Kale 14
Lettuce 15
Mung beans 2
Mustard 4
Oats cover crop
Okra 2
Onions 7
Onions, potato 1
Parsley 3
Pea, sugar snap 8
Peanut 1
Peppers 2
Poppies 2
Potatoes 4
Pumpkin, naked-seed 1
Radish, oilseed cover crop
Rye forest pasture
Spinach 2
Squash, butternut 4
Squash, summer 7
Strawberries 9
Sweet potatoes 4
Swiss chard 1
Tatsoi 1
Tokyo bekana 4
Tomatoes 25
Watermelons 4

It's a bit scary to change gears so drastically, but I strive to make our garden plan follow our stomachs.  And our winter stomachs say fresh kale trumps frozen green beans!

Our chicken waterer keeps our flock's diet well-rounded with clean, POOP-free water.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Very smart to change what you are planting to match what you are eating. I still am in the learning what we can grow and what we do with it.

25 beds of tomatoes, impressive.

Comment by Fritz Tue Jan 24 10:14:31 2012
It's a long process --- the more good food you grow, the more it changes what you eat, which changes what you grow, etc. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Jan 24 11:40:21 2012
So, does each crop have its own dedicated bed, meaning you have 201 beds, or are you rotating crops throughout the year and thus have fewer beds than number of crops? If so, do you already have your crop rotation planned out? Also, what percentage of your crops do you estimate will come from your own saved seeds? Sorry so many questions, but I find this fascinating.
Comment by Sarah Tue Jan 24 11:45:27 2012

Have you actually eaten them?

Personally I'd call them an acquired taste if I'm feeling polite. The rest of the time I just call them gross. :-)

Comment by Roland_Smith Tue Jan 24 13:54:21 2012

Actually, brussels sprouts can be utterly fantastic. The main thing to keep in mind is that they have a strong flavor and they get mushy if you cook them too long . . . in which case, yes, then they're very gross! :) But I've had very good luck with chopping and stir-frying them with strong Asian condiments (think ginger and garlic or five-spice blends); sauteeing them until they're browned, but still have some crunch, in some real butter can also be really good. Honestly, even confirmed sprout haters have admitted that they can eat brussels sprouts when I cook them! So people should try not to hate them until they've tried them several different ways.

This ends my "Getting a Better Reputation for Brussels Sprouts" service message! :)

Comment by Ikwig Tue Jan 24 14:55:55 2012
I used to hate Brussels sprouts, but they've grown on me. If you toss them lightly in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast them in the oven, they're divine! (I guess I'll need to try Ikwig's methods too if we ever get sick of that. :-) )
Comment by anna Tue Jan 24 15:52:04 2012

Don't apologize about the number of questions --- they're all excellent! I'd actually considered putting part of that in the post, but it was already feeling too in depth/long.

We're rotating throughout the year, and are also adding in as many iterations of cover crops as we can fit between other things. We have about 160 beds in the garden, but maybe 10% of that is perennials that mostly stay out of the rotation. On the other hand, I'm planning on making perhaps fifteen more beds in the forest garden for extra tomatoes. (We'll see how much extra sunny garden space we need once I plan my rotation.)

I usually plan my rotations before I order seeds, but I'm running a bit behind this year. I've been editing the book like crazy, and didn't have the brain power to plan my rotations yet, but I'm due to start planting a few things next week, so I figured I'd better hurry up and order seeds!

I'd say we save about a quarter of our seeds, but I also buy the larger packet of most things when I buy them, so I still have a lot of storebought seeds from last year (and earlier) to use up too. So, we bought about half of the seeds this year that we'll be planting, which came to about $100.

Comment by anna Tue Jan 24 16:08:40 2012

I think brussel sprouts look like little shrunken monkey heads, but they've gotten really trendy. As has kale. Very strange how vegetables go in and out of fashion.

What's a mung bean?

Comment by Heather Tue Jan 24 20:10:00 2012

I hadn't realized Brussels sprouts and kale were trendy, but now that you mention it, I do think I've seen all kinds of pretty kale lately.

A mung bean is a sprouting bean. You often see them in Asian cuisine.

Comment by anna Tue Jan 24 20:38:28 2012

Yes, you should definitely try my methods when/if you decide you would like a change; I'll be including your roasting method in my repertoire, since that sounds yummy! :)

By the way, in regards to the quick hoops, I've been very taken with all of your pictures of lovely, fresh greenery this year; enough so that I'll be including quick hoops in my own garden as I get it started up again. :) But I wonder, since the east has been generally mild this winter, if you think that you can count on them for providing food even in more typical winters. I know that it's gotten pretty cold for you guys a few times, but do you think that it's been bad enough to prove that they'll be successful whatever the weather? (And I'm sorry if you've already answered this question elsewhere - feel free to point me to another blog entry, heh :) )

Comment by Ikwig Tue Jan 24 21:52:55 2012

You're completely right --- I don't know yet if the quick hoops would have handled a winter like last year. That's why I'm boosting soup-making ingredients while I downgrade other freezer contents. Harvest catch-all soup still tastes delicious, even when we have fresh kale in the garden.

I'm also doubling our fall carrots and (hopefully!) making fall cabbage happen so we'll have those storage vegetables for fresh eating in the winter. Hopefully that'll all be enough to keep us eating delicious food even if the quick hoops peter out in December.

Comment by anna Wed Jan 25 08:36:08 2012

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