Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dreamin' Green, Part I

It's that time of year again. After all the Christmas paraphernalia has been put away and winter's chill starts to erode all hope, there comes a new season for gardeners.

The season of The Seed Catalogue.

Like many, I have been pouring over the coveted Veseys catalogue for weeks, visions of vegetables dancing in my head. As the snow continued to blanket everything, I planned my summer greenery. This is the first year that I have an actual yard in which to garden, so you can imagine my state of botanical bliss as I weighed this variety over that and hybrid vs. heritage.

We have a small yard. We also have a small boy who likes to run about our small yard, so we have to really think this through to get the highest yield possible (and still be pretty) in the small amount of space that I have allotted. Sometime during the late eighties, my mother stumbled across a book called Square Foot Gardening which has forever changed my thinking on the subject, but not hers. Now in all fairness, my mother constantly has this battle waging in her: to embrace the concepts of square foot gardening or listen to her farmers DNA which makes her stubbornly attempt to scratch life from barren soil. I don't seem to have this problem as what little farmer's DNA I managed to get will not offer any argument as I pick up the phone and have bags and bags of manure, vermiculite and Black Earth delivered to my door. But I digress...

The whole idea of square foot gardening is to level the playing field. Instead of spending years tending and rotating and trying to cook up the best growing soil possible for a few veggies, you remove the crap soil (in this case Brampton clay) and replace it with highly nutritionous earth. Then, by knowing a little bit about your plants that you plan on nurturing, you can plan out a much smaller, higher yielding garden. I watched my mother spend thirty years tilling and almost killing herself wrenching life from her huge clay-filled garden in the hopes of putting a few beans in the freezer for the winter. Uh uh. Not me. My goal is more than half the yield of her old garden(s) in Brampton with less than an eigth of the space and a helluva lot less roto-tilling.

So, what's the plan?

I have an existing flower garden in my yard that is made out of railway ties. It has a rosebush and some purple cone flowers and heaven only knows what else in it. I plan on leaving it alone for the most part, just so I can see what is in there. What I plan on doing is building an adjacent garden, continuing that one along the fence and wrapping around the corner to make an 'L'. That is the sunniest part of the yard and gets a lot in the afternoon (if the fading paint on the fence is any indication). That's where the majority of my veggies will go. There is a fence pole in the corner where the former owners had a street sign; I have incorporated that into my designs. Once the garden area is dug out and the pole re-planted, I plan on getting some metal brackets and hanging two of Veseys Revolutionary Tomato Planters with, you guessed it, tomato plants in it. They aren't really all that revolutionary as it is an old concept, but I like the adaptations they have made, including the water resevoir and it beats ruining buckets. The tomatoes I have chosen are called "Big Beef" and the picture makes my mouth water. At the base of the pole I plan to plant "Scarlet Runner Beans" which should run up the pole and drape the fence. I chose these over conventional pole beans as the numerous bright red flowers are gorgeous and attract hummingbirds. The beans are edible when small and tender and if you need seed for the next year, just grow some pods to full size.

Scarlet Runner Beans

In the rest of that box, on the outside of the beans, I have planned a spot for "Parade" Green Onions and "Lancelot" Leeks.

Lancelot Leeks

In the small wing of the "L" I plan three different plants. This is the part where it gets a bit wierd as two of these plants I am only growing because I can. Alternating in this space will be Jerusalem Gold Sunflowers and Bon Appétit Corn. Yes, I said corn. That would be how my farmer DNA kicks in. Around the front of this part of the garden I will plant Early Butternut Squash. Call it my tribute to the "Three Sisters". The vines can snake in and around the corn and sunflowers (as the vines lay on the ground) and can spill out over the grass for all I care.

Early Butternut Squash
Early Butternut Squash

In the other half of the "L" will be more traditional crops: Lettuce, carrots and peppers. I have chosen two varieties of lettuce, both provided success last year.
Black Seeded Simpson and Greenvale Mix were hardy enough to grow in boxes on my balcony last year, so I should do ok with them this year. Sweetness III is our carrot of choice, while my peppers will be Fat 'n Sassy (just like me). :P

Greenvale Mix Lettuce

Whew! Seems like a lot... but I have barely scratched the surface. This covers my plans for the "L" shaped garden, but I still have my pots, planters and gazebo to divulge. There are herbs, flowers and all sorts of things to cover. Have no fear gentle reader, I will offer those shortly. In the meantime however, this gardener needs a nap.

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