It is odd how simple phrases – like the title of this post- change over time. That seems to be a reoccuring sentiment for me in 2009. This year is just different; from the Economy to the Oval Office things have caused a huge change in my thinking. In the past, “garden planning” has meant physically laying out beds in traditional permaculture flow charts, or the last few it has meant laying out the rotation of the crops to ensure maximum bounty / soil fertility. As time has passed my gardening is becoming more intuitive – I need graph paper less and time with my hands in the soil more.
It is an entirely ineffable thing, but I feel that I can almost know what crop the bed is ready for this year by scrolling through my mental calendar, running the soil through my hands, crumbling it under my nose, and using this aural experience make my call for this year. Likely I will need both – a structured rotation scheme on paper/pixels, backed up by soil test, but one that is loose enough to be modified subjectively. This may all just be hubris, but I like it and am going with it.
But more impactfully, the biggest change this year is that it is time for the garden to make money. Blame this on a combination of Obama’s “pull on your boots” inspiration and the fact that people are getting laid off left and right and I need to ensure these gardens are producing viable products. That is not to say money is the ultimate goal, but it is a sufficient way to judge if what you are producing is what people want/need. Here are some key components to that end in my market garden this year:
To readers of this blog, this is no surprise. I like potatoes and made a huge splash in the local markets by being one of the first in the county to grow heirloom spuds. Try eating a hand grown Carola potatoes after a lifetime of Idaho russets and you’ll no what I mean! I sold every one of the 1560#’s I grew last year that we didn’t eat ourselves and made enough to pay off the Grillo and one of its implements in one season. Damn. This year we will focus even more of potatoes with over 340#’s of seed purchased and a harvest of 2500-3000#’s expected. Varieties: Carola, Yukon Gold, Kennebec, Purple Viking and Island Sunshine. Moose Tubers is our supplier – they ROCK.
Our local resturaunt customer spent the winter reading Kingsolver and Pollan and is All In for local food. She is looking for as much lettuce and spinach as we can give her. That will be alot – we are growing a huge variety to test for local affinity. Spinach Varieties: Space, Longstanding Bloomsdale; Lettuce Varieties: Forellenschus, Red Rapids, Rossa di Trento, Mereveille, Lollo Rossa, Bronze Arrowhead, Grandpa Admire’s – almost enitrely from Seed Savers.
We had the best peppers of our life last year. It may have been just a good year for peppers, but I also think it has to do with it being our first experience with Fedco’s products. Regardless, we’re hooked. We had great results with them in the hoop house, so will convert the summer hoop house to almost monoculture production of peppers this year (its only 250 sq ft). Varieties: Peacework, New Carmen, Valencia, New Ace, and Poblano’s.
Last year was uniformly awful for tomatoes – far to wet early, and far to dry late; blight was rampant. Very few local growers did much of anything. But we are undeterred. The same restaurant that wants all the lettuce is looking for up to 30#’s a week, which is a huge step up for us. Will likely call in some reinforcements, but as tomatoes are rather easy to grow -in a good year!- we will give ‘r a go. My wife was smitten by many of the new offerings this year and is really on fire in the kitchen of late, so we are experimenting again – will likley winnow this down to about 7 Varieties: Sheboygan, Speckled Roman, Austin’s Red Pear, Beam’s Yellow Pear, Cream Sausage, Earliana, Eva Purple Ball, Amish Paste, Hungarian Heart Brandywine, Wisconsin 55. Oi! Again, Seed Savers.
We have a new business serving us local-vores – an organic bakery has popped up in the town west of us. It just so happens they are interested in potatoes for potato bread, but also in herbs for their baguettes. We love their baguettes and have offered a barter system – we grow the herbs, they make them into warm vehicles for goat cheese. Basil, oregano, rosemary, and a crazy amount of alliums are thusly on the docket. Also, we are huge salsa fans, so cilantro will have a steady presence all year.
We are also going to try pumpkins this year as they take a bunch of space and I need to fill a 1/4 acre for the rotation at the market garden. Howdens look good and we will likely interplant them with crimson clover and sweet corn in super wide spacing. Mia wants to try leeks, and I may try brassica’s again after the moths chased me away 3 years ago. I will also try for a bumper crop of Sudan Grass just to see it hit 8′ in a season so I can practice mowing with my Scythe- yes I grow cover crops for fun! We will also have our supply of sunflowers for the kids, and may try a flower cutting garden too.
The plan is to spend an hour of so out at the farm each night on the way home several nights a week. This is a step up from the weekend only approach last year. But that approach also killed an embarrassing amount of produce due to simple neglect. My Monday’s off will likely be focused on the “hardlines” side of my business (rainbarrel, compost bins, raised beds) with hopefuly one or two large rain garden gigs on the weekends.
The stakes are higher this year, but 2 years ago I chose to follow my heart and form an LLC rather than go for a promotion which would have entailed another 10 hours a week in work. The money actually works out about the same, but the quality of life is no contest and now I can write off Grillos as a business experience. 😉
This could all be rendered moot very quickly if we actually get the CSE grant, but we are just one small fish of a river full of salmon on that one so we’ll see.
The world is changing – the things that I have researched and wrote about for years are coming to pass in all their staggering reality. Some are appaling – the erupting wars in the 3rd world, the 10% unemployment, the palpable fear. But so many others are so hopeful: people turning inward to family, to gardening, to quality over quantity as we power down our spending.
May we choose hope over fear this year in our planning. That change to hope will need some help.
Be that Change.