In February our family started planning this year’s vegetable garden. We’ve finally finalized what to grow and where to grow it. Every year we make a few major changes.
The first is the moving of the potatoes to a dedicated plot behind the garage. This may be a traditional plot or a box. We have a lot to consider: cost, curb appeal, our neighbor’s view on that side of the property, etc.
The potatoes overgrow pretty much anything they share a box with but we love them.
They are crazy easy to grow. They practically plant themselves. Unlike store bought potatoes they have a lot of flavor. And you can pick them over the course of a few weeks to extend your harvest of fresh potatoes.
I’ve personally decided that growing potatoes in buckets just isn’t worth the effort. I actually find it easier to plop piles of dirt onto a large area with a garden spade than carefully scooping small amounts of dirt into several different containers with a small trowel. (Can anyone relate to this or is it just me?)
The second major change is we are going to put bush beans in raised beds to make them easier to pick. Last year we let way too many beans go to seed.
Kneeling on the wood chips hurts my knees even through denim and bending down makes me dizzy. These are small things but the cost of loss of crops from putting off picking beans “tomorrow” can really add up.
I can’t tell you what the raised beds will look like because we don’t know yet. We are still in the early design stage. For all I know we may just stick some buckets in the bed hidden from street view.
We might do a proper build but it would have to be portable. We try to rotate the plants every year. That means the raised beds would have to move from spot to spot. So even if we build something it’s likely that it will only be a proof of concept.
We are combating the under-picked bush bean problem on two fronts. By happy happenstance the type of bean that we selected this year is an heirloom variety. Even if we miss some this year we can still harvest the seeds for next year.
This gives us a little flexibility because we’d have to let the beans go to seed at some point anyway. I say “a little” because obviously we only need so many seeds for next spring.
Bush beans, like pea pods, freeze well. This means we don’t have to eat them at the time we harvest them. They keep well for many, many months after the last harvest in the freezer, making them real money savers in the winter and early spring…assuming we can pick enough of them!
The third major change is that we’re going to try to grow a few seedlings indoors for transplanting.
Growing two cherry tomato plants from starters (small young plants) can cost around $7 just for the plants. A packet of seeds, that will stay fertile for two years, costs around $2 to $4.
A $5 savings per year isn’t something to sneeze at. I know it looks like something to sneeze at but we’re planting a lot more than cherry tomatoes.
If we manage to successfully grow the seedlings, we will be looking at around $18 savings this year alone.
Again this doesn’t seem like much in the long run. I get it. What is $18 dollars out of a one year food budget?
But this isn’t about the $18 that we might save this year (assuming that we’re even successful.) This isn’t even about the $42 per year that we will be saving once we nail down this skill.
This is about the potential to save hundreds per year on our grocery bill.
This is about being able to expand our garden while still making a profit from it.
This is about getting one step closer to harvesting the seeds in the fall so we can plant in the spring.
Mostly though, this is about being able to see green plants a month or two before we can actually put them in the ground and being able to casually work the fact that I grow vegetables from seed into random conversations. (Again, is that just me?)
Gardening is a skill. It takes time to develop. As you can see we are far from master gardeners. But we are much better gardeners than we started.
We started with just two tomato plants in pots. Now we’re going to have four plots with 15 different vegetables and 3 different herbs. I’ve barely begun working with this year’s plantings and I’m already thinking about starting a tea garden next year!
If you had told me this when we started several years ago, I would have been overwhelmed by the idea. If you had told me that broccoli was one of the easiest vegetables that I’d be growing, I would have been positive that you were addressing the wrong person!
I grew more than 22 pounds of food last year. (Actually much more than that but google docs updated around mid season and I couldn’t keep track for a while so I stopped trying to keep track. I have a love hate relationship with google products.)
I’ve killed quite a few plants in my lifetime, too. If I, in any way, look like I’ve got my gardening stuff together please check out last year’s carrot “crop.”
Don’t worry where your gardening is going to take you. Don’t worry whether or not you’re even “good” at it. It’s a growing process, so to speak.
And remember, it’s not a matter of perfection it’s simply a matter of doing something today to get a little Closer To Green.