As mentioned in episode 1 the 2011 spring gardening has begun for me here in Northern VA. This is my third year as a producer of fruits and vegetables and one of the keys to my success has been All New Square Foot Gardening written by Mel Bartholomew Mel is an engineer by training and his skills and experience have helped create a system for growing more food in less space. Mel travels the third world presenting his techniques for helping others grow more of what comes naturally. Mel’s Square Foot Gardening book is where I turn for all of my gardening how to’s and more. You’ll notice two attachments in today’s episode.
“Planting times” is an excel chart of the what and when for sowing and planting my fruits and vegetables. The timeline is based on average first and last frost dates for Northern Virginia. The crops that are greyed out are not being sown this or are already in the ground as perennials as in the case of asparagus.
“Home outline and plans 2011” is a powerpoint of the layout of my gardens and bee hive. When you view this presentation you’ll understand the importance of keeping track of the gardening chores. I have 16 gardens spread around my 1/3 acre property. These sixteen gardens plus some other growing areas encompassing 240 total square feet of growing space.
On February 13 I sowed bunching onion better known as green onion and chive seeds in vermiculite, let them soak water and placed them in the upstairs bedroom. The warmest room in the house. On February 20 after sprouts started to rise I moved the tray to under their lighting system. Today’s chore is to transplant them to a mixture of 1 part each vermiculite, peat moss and compost. Better known as Mel’s Mix. Mel Bartholomew of square foot gardening fame. A link to Mel’s square foot gardening site is provided in today’s show notes.
I started collecting vegetable seeds even before I had a place to put them. We were still living in apartment in the summer 2008 when I made my first purchase of seeds from Big John Lipscomb. His website and youtube videos helped me understand that there were some things that I could I have influence over and one of them was growing your own food. You truly experience liberty when you take a tiny single seed and produce a plant to feed your family and then later retrieve dozens or hundreds of new seeds from that same plant. For me growing your own food is as exhilarating as hunting, fishing and sports. All of those things require hard work, patience and perseverance and gardening is no less of a challenge.
We moved to our home in the late winter of 2009 and within a few weeks I was at it sowing seeds, making mistakes and planning for the summer 09 gardens. I started out not knowing what to do and I only had Big John Lipscomps’ planting guides which were not too bad for a beginner but they were very limited in how to plan beyond the initial sowing and separating phases of gardening. I had images of my Mike DeLoia’s tomato and hot pepper garden back home and how proud he was when he showed it me years ago. I thought I could do the same and the first year results were pretty good. Lots of tomatoes and hot peppers (although they weren’t so hot. Some success with lettuce and a bountiful cucumber crop.
In 2010 I decided to try one of my favorites, long green onions known in seed catalogs as bunching onions. I love these things and could never have too many. Which also brings me to point out a key element about gardening. Grow what you like first and don’t get caught up in images of a gourmet garden of food you’ve never tried. Stick to what you like and you’ll like what comes out of your garden even better.
As I was saying the green onions I grew last were awesome. They were plentiful, delicious and easy to grow. The picture in today’s post says it all. Last year I was careful to cut the plants slightly above the root system when I harvested them. That way they become never ending onions. Or at least that’s how they’re described in some circles. I was not sure if I did a good enough job of cutting and leaving the roots in the ground so I decided to grow some more just in case.
As for the chives I have three spots in the gardens where they grew in 09 and 10 and although they are perennial I wanted some extra plants to supplement the earlier plantings. To transplant these plants from the cups of vermiculite to starter trays of Mel’s Mix I water the Mel’s mix from underneath first so that the soil becomes moist and firm. I then take a pencil once the soil is moist enough and put a hole in each of the plant holders. I use the same pencil and insert into the vermiculite away from and below where I believe the individual roots to be. I carefully grap a leaf or stem of the plant and use slight leverage to pry the plant from the vermiculite and quickly transfer to the soil mix. It takes a little practice and a careful sometimes to do this right without damigin your plants. However, I have learned that my children hand’s are most adequately adapted to this kind of work and they usually find themselves helping me with this regular chore throughout the spring. Having the children help with this step prepares for the next step of transplanting into the gardens once the plants are big and sturdy enough.
This certainly must seem like an awful lot of work for something we won’t be able to harvest for another 5 or 6 months. But whatever fruits and vegetables you buy from the store or anywhere else don’t take any less time to grow. If you’re not buying locally grown fruits and vegetables form a farmers market or growing your own you are reliant on a complex system to provide you with sustenance. At what point does this become too expensive for you? How many people and unclean machines have a hand in the production of the food that appears on your dining room table? How much are those systems reliant on other systems like the oil complex to make food appear in the grocery stores? These and other questions lead me to believe that food only becomes more expensive from here. Let me say that again. What you depend on everyday to get by is dependent on strangers and strange systems and your sacrifice of liberty is worse than what we experience when we have to take our shoes off at the airport. The more dependent we become the more we are forced to pay the piper for the going price. As food becomes more expensive I have chosen to take control of what I can. It’s not much but it is so much more than zero. That’s if for today now go and do something useful.
- Talking to my neighbor and asking for permission to begin beekeeping.
- Mel Bartholomew – Introducing Square Foot Gardening
- Planting Times
- home outline and plans 2011