Monday, February 6, 2012

The New Adventures of Old Garden Plot

The garden's not a sexy place in February.
You can see the few oats that the rats and rabbits didn't eat.
The rest is smothered in an emergency soil cover (hay).
And so it begins.  The first batch of seeds have been ordered from Seed Savers Exchange. The early season "to do" list for the garden has been written.  I'm looking forward to a good, but perhaps very different year of gardening.

2011 was a crap year for gardening.  There, I said it.  And yes, I know I won another "most beautiful garden" award in spite of it all, but it was an unsatisfying season in many ways.  Which leads me to the big question, "What do we do differently this year?"  I guess I'll start with the problems.

1. Rabbits and Rats - the garden plot next to mine was abandoned, but not before the gardener planted a full crop of tomatoes, bell peppers, and squash - all perfect rat food.  The rats got a bit of my crop, but more frustrating was the fact that they and the rabbits ruined two attempts at planting winter cover (oats and field peas).  Just literally ate them all up.   Due to a lack of available time, I didn't trap them or poison them like I should have.  If they mess with my plot this year, I will have bloody vengeance.  This from the guy who allowed a nest of bunnies to live, unharassed, in my lettuce bed last spring.

2. Harvest failure.  Yeah, I know this is about the same as "poor crop," but it bears a further look.  Some species we planted resulted in no crop whatsoever.  Okra. Bergamot. Carrots, Spinach. This was certainly a symptom of the strange summer weather, but more so a symptom of the fact that I spent much less time in the garden in 2011 than I did in 2010.  I wasn't there every other day to tweak and adjust this or that.  More like once a week.  And so there were failures.

So, looking forward into 2012, I'm going to do things a little bit differently.   I spent too little time in the garden in 2011, partially because Hank (at age 1.5) wasn't ready to "hang out" there while I worked.  That changed for the better around his second birthday, and might get even better this year - but I can't count on it.  Also because of Hank and his "typical two year old diet" (pizza, cookies, crackers, milk, lemonade), we aren't cooking or even barbequing much these days.  Home Skillet doesn't even like hamburgers (although choking hazard hot dogs are a big hit).   But forget vegetables or potato products.  As a result, we're holding a lot of produce from 2011 still in the freezer and down in the basement (sweet potatoes).   I don't want to waste food, and I don't want to garden for "no good reason."  So....what to do?  I think here's how I'll lay it out, by season:

Seed tape is a legit product!

Lettuce Cover Crops - 2 beds
Carrots (sequenced), Onions, Garlic - 1 bed
Various Lettuce/Spinach - 1 bed (under hoops if needed)
Nothing (hay cover) - 2 beds

Going to try a Millet cover crop!

Tomatoes + Borage - 1 bed
Experimental Cover Crops - 1 bed
Peppers/Wildflowers / Sunflowers - 2 beds
Sweet Potatoes / Wildflowers / Sunflowers - 1 bed
Cover Crop / Herbs - 1 bed

My awesome cover crop, May 2011!

Oat and Pea Cover Crop - 3 beds
Other winter cover - 1 bed
Lettuce - 1 bed
Sweet Potatoes - 1 bed

Also new for 2012, I'll be trying some garden plants that Hank can enjoy a little bit.   Most of them are standard plants, but Hank-sized.   He enjoyed messing around with the purple millet last year, and we'll add in several other toddler-sized grasses this year, including pearl or white millet and "bunny tail" grass.   Also picked up 100 seeds of "Teddy Bear" sunflower, which only grows to 24" tall.  Hank should get a kick out of that.   I already have a dozen species of mints and wildflowers, so he'll get into those too.

All said, it should be an interesting year.  I'm going into it with different, if not lower expectations and I hope that I can get back into the mindset that gardening is something fun that Hank and I can go do, not something I have to go do, and then run home to watch Hank.


The Reverend Fowl ™ said...

We are only planting fast growing hybrids from now on. No more starting indoors, hardening, transplanting; it’s not worth the trouble.

We had a black walnut tree and its toxin juglone poisoning our plants. I became so angry that I cut the tree down/up with a hand saw, after quiet hours.

Our garden plots are all round in shape so they can all be wrapped with twine to keep the plants from being flattened or knocked down during tornados, micro-bursts, straight-line winds, ect.

Kirk Mantay said...

Rev - round plots is actually a GREAT idea. And planting around walnut trees is always a bad idea!

Indoor/hardening from seed is a huge pain in the rear, for sure, but I've enjoyed doing it for the last 10 or so years as a "rite of spring."

That being said, I've found that some types of plants simply do better/grow bigger when bought live from a nursery - and there's no use fighting that fact.

Anonymous said...

My 7 yo was 1.5 when we moved into our new house and he really enjoyed having his own bed--a 2" square raised bed. He was able to pick out his own plants and plant them, he LOVED watering them.
He still loves to help water and we let him whenever we can.

Regarding the food consumption, kids will eat what they are familiar with. If they see it on a regular basis it stops being foreign to them and they will try it, eventually. It took him a year to try red bell peppers no matter how many times I told him they were sweet. It took him 2 years to try sushi. Unless the child has some sensory integration issues, usually just seeing a food on a very regular basis will be enough.

One thing I did specifically was introduce my son to "adult" foods very early on. He ate for dinner what we ate for dinner, no separate meals though I would adjust it if needed (tomato sauce instead of pesto for example). But once he was a bit older and recognized that he was getting something different from us, he would demand to have the same thing.

When my husband and I would eat other foods such as Indian, sushi, mushrooms, whatever, we always offered some to him but never forced him to eat it. There was always a kid-version of the food (samosa, pakora, dumpling, noodles, wonton soup, fried rice) available too so he wasn't pressured to eat ours.

Now his diet is more varied than that of most adults. Not only does he eat a variety of salads, he eats buckweat, couscous, homemade filled pasta, sushi, Asian, Eastern European and Middle-Eastern foods.

Good luck!
Anna in MD.

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