WARNING: This post contains explicit gardening content. If you aren't interested in manure, heirloom veggies or fruits, heavy physical labor, and extensive seed lists, this is not the post for you. If, however, that type of content is as titillating for you as it is for me, read on.
The winter garden plot that I planted in October, soon after we moved in to our new house, is beginning to come heartily into full production. In it, I planted two varieties of fava beans, sugar snap peas, carrots, kale, chard, broccoli, cabbage, rutabagas, parsnips, salad greens, and a variety of garlics. I've been collecting all sorts of greens for braising and salads for the last couple months, but now the larger crops are coming into their own. I've been collecting bowlfuls of sugar snap peas (along with their top tendrils—so good in stir fries), a few small carrots here and there, and now, rutabagas too. I planted two open pollinated varieties of rutabagas this year, Joan and Laurentian.
Joan is on the left in the photo above. It has a smoother root, with a more violet top, rounder shape, and a stronger resistance to clubroot than my experience with Laurentian. Laurentian is on the right. It gets bigger a little faster, has a longer shape, a more burgundy top, but is much more likely to get knobby with clubroot. Although I've tried, I've been unable to taste a difference between the two. Right now, with the cold weather, they're both incredibly sweet and delicious, wonderful cut into wedges and roasted.
After I built the first plot, the one that is producing right now, I started figuring out where I wanted other plots. I've built the second one now, and this week, I pulled out the two flowering (not producing!) plums that were in the way for plots three and four. The four plots will allow me to rotate crops to avoid disease and pest buildup, and to move legumes through them to help fertilize naturally. The two existing plots are (and the others will be) approximately 12 feet by 12 feet. To build them, I dug a foot deep and piled the soil up to the side of the plot. I then laid down hardware cloth to keep out the gophers and moles, returned the soil to the plot, and added more soil and composted material. I built short retaining walls with rocks from the property, cinder blocks from the incinerator bins ECG and I tore down, and broken concrete a landscaper friend donated to me. I hope to finish the two remaining plots in the next couple of weeks (if the rain lets up) so they'll be ready for the massive rush of spring planting.
Since we have the space on this property, we can think about more than just vegetables. This fall, I built a berry bed and planted Youngberry (a blackberry variety) starts that a friend shared with me and strawberry runners that a coworker shared. A mysterious, kind, and fascinating man gave ECG and me banana pups, so we built a banana on the east side of our bedroom, where it will get sun for the half the day, shade in the hottest part of the day, and reflected heat from the house all winter long to keep them from freezing. Not knowing quite how beautiful it would be, I put a Sunshine Blue blueberry bush in a big red-glazed pot (where I could monitor its soil to keep it adequately acidic) where it has thrived. This fall, it gave me berries then beautiful teal and burgundy fall color. It has already begun its spring flush of bloom, set a few fruit, and shows no sign of stopping. I hope to purchase another of these babies—they're wonderful plants.
The property came with a mature, but very sad-looking, Meyer Lemon tree. I gave it regular water through the fall and early winter and the rain has taken over for me lately. When I received the gargantuan manure delivery, I mulched the tree heavily, but kept the mulch from touching the base of the tree. The tree has responded. Shooting from every part of the tree is purplish new growth and clusters of blossoms. I can't get over how good it smells.
I've also planted a few fruit trees. To feed ECG's undying hunger for good satsumas, I put in an Owari Satsuma. Where the pampas grass used to be (its' a California invasive, folks, on the "Do Not Plant List," so as drought-resistant and rugged as it is, please stop planting it!) I put in two heirloom plums, an Elephant Heart and a Bavay's Green Gage. And along the front entrance walkway, where they'll get filtered shade for a couple hours in the hottest part of the day, but full sun for the rest of the day, I planted two heirloom apples, Golden Russet and Wickson, both excellent eating, cooking, and especially cider-making apples. (Homemade cider: I see it in my future.) For each of the fruit trees, I lined the planting holes with hardware-cloth or chicken-wire baskets to protect the main root ball from the gophers that strafe our topsoil from the bottom up.
Inside, I've started the seeds of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and groundcherries. They're growing quite happily and will be ready to put in the ground in a few weeks. I've also researched varieties, purchased and traded for seeds, and made myself a little list of what I want to purchase from my fellow Seed Saver's Exchangers once I finally get my Yearbook. (Is anyone else still waiting on the Yearbook?).
This is what I've already started indoors and what I'll be planting directly for my spring and summer crops. I'll break down and buy a few seedlings of readily available varieties (herbs, and some tomatoes like Black Krim and eggplants like Ping Tung, for example) to fill out the plot, but this is what I'm growing for sure.
Blue Coco Bean
Indian Woman Yellow Bean
Sonora Gold Tepary Bean
Black Mitla Tepary Bean
Black Seeded Yardlong Bean
Red Noodle Yardlong Bean
Red Ruffled Pepper
Pimente de Barcelona Pepper
Eva's Purple Ball Tomato
Teton de Venus Tomato
Japanese Pickling Eggplant
Uncle David's Dakota Dessert Winter Squash
Queensland Blue Winter Squash
Seminole Winter Squash
Tromba d'Albegna Squash
Collective Farm Woman Melon
Ananas d'Amerique a Chair Verte Melon
Boule d'Or Melon
I'm still looking for another melon: We ate wonderful melons last summer on our Portugal trip, but I don't know what they were called. They were oval-shaped, pale green-fleshed, and had skin with netting that ran the length of the melon. Does anyone know what variety this is? I should've saved seeds . . ..
Joseph's Coat Amaranth
Red Malabar Spinach
Corn: I'm looking for a sweet open-pollinated corn. I've been spoiled by the sugary-enhanced hybrids that fill most of our markets, and although that is not what I want to grow, I do want something that has some sweetness, not just starchiness. What has grown best for you? I welcome your recommendations.
Whew. I feel good. Having the time to reflect on this helps me see how much I've accomplished and how much I have to be excited about. Bring on the spring; I'm ready to grab it with both work-gloved hands.