Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gardening Plans for 2012

Well, the gardening plans are in the works. As I mentioned recently, I
am cutting back the garden to contain fewer varieties of plants. When I
think back, there was a year that I bought 68 different varieties of
vegetables. That was crazy! I am all for trying something new, but 68
was too many. This year, the garden is going to be more sensible.

We are preparing to garden in a totally different way this year. In the
last couple of years, the summer heat has dried up the garden far too
soon. With drought issues, we were unable to get the yield that we had
hoped for. The hot days were difficult to work in. I had high blood
pressure and being outdoors in the garden in the hot part of the day
when the children were napping was just too hard on my physically. This
year, we are relocating the garden.

Near the house, we have a small woods area. There is a fairly large
side yard which is bordered on the south and west sides by the woods.
We are placing a border of raised garden beds in that yard in areas that
will receive partial shade in the hot summer afternoons. The goal is to
have the sunlight in the morning and early afternoon that the plants
need to thrive, yet the sheltering shade of the woods to protect the
plants from the worst of the heat in the afternoon and early evening.

The raised beds in a sheltered area should make growing salad greens
much more productive. In past years, the lettuce and spinach has bolted
and gone to seed before we were even able to get enough leaves for a
single dinner. I am considering buying bulk amounts of seeds for some
of my favorite greens. I won't be planting them all but will be
sprouting some to use as micro-greens. I remember buying a mixture of
alfalfa sprouts mixed with radish sprouts when I lived on the west coast
over a dozen years ago. The flavor was so good, as well as the
nutrients that they provided. Living in a southern climate where
growing lettuce is difficult, sprouting the micro-greens is another
option worth considering. You can use them as you would lettuce on
sandwiches. A wonderful salad made with micro-greens is a combination
of alfalfa, radish, and mung bean sprouts tossed with a light
vinaigrette dressing.

I have been keeping track of vegetable prices. I have found that if I
go to a particular store chain (Wholesale Market) here in Oklahoma, I
can buy at regular price cans of vegetables for far less than I can grow
them. In example, I buy 11 flats of 12 cans each of vegetables for
$58.00. This gives our family 132 cans of veggies that lasts
approximately 3.5 months in the winter when fresh produce is not
available from the garden. That same 11 dozen cans (about the size of a
pint jar) would have cost me $2.47 per dozen for the flat canning lids
at a cost of $27.17 total, not counting sales tax and propane for the
stove to process the jars. Added to that is the cost of seeds and water
to grow the vegetables. By the time it is all factored into the costs,
the price of buying those vegetables is only slightly lower than buying
the canned goods. Now, if I were to come across a great deal on fresh
produce at a farmer's market, then I would take advantage of it. In the
interim however, I am having to take it all into consideration.

The vegetable varieties that I am focusing on are the favorites we love
that are costly both as fresh produce and in the canned form. Some of
the vegetables that I will be growing include sweet potatoes, summer
squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, and pumpkins. I plan to plant
green beans, Italian flat beans, and green peas in the partially shaded
areas. I still have a surplus of corn, so that won't be needed. I am
focusing instead on the things I am using the most often.

I am still planning my herbal garden. To buy bulk herbs, which gives me
the best price, I have to travel 160 miles round trip to a health food
store in a large city. The smaller health food stores don't carry the
bulk herbs and spices. I generally will plan out a full day supply run
and go to the city about once a month or less frequently. If I can find
a good mail order resource that has prices at or below what I already am
paying, then I will choose that option. I do find that there are
certain herbs that I use often in my cooking. Those are the first that
I will be planting in my new herb garden area.

For the kids, we will be planting a small strawberry patch and a few
grape tomato plants. The kids love to snack on those and they will be
planted along the edge of their play yard. We wanted to have something
that they could pick and eat safely on their own. The ones most likely
to do that are our 6 yr old grandson and our own little miss who will be
6 yrs old this spring. The only other vegetable that the kids will be
growing is their own sweet potato plants. The kids will each have their
own 4-5 gallon sized bucket to plant their sweet potato slips in. About
2-3 good sized slips per bucket is sure to yield a nice batch of sweet
potatoes for them.

Eventually, we will have a permanent garden area set up that will
include fruit trees and berries. It is a goal to work towards. I am
considering trying to transplant slips from the wild blackberry vines in
our back field. I will need to check more into that to see what I would
need to do. There are so many plans that we have for growing our food
for the family. By and by, we will be able to do it. For now we are
simply looking for simple solutions to make long term gardening more
easily managed. The end goal overall is to have the permanent garden
area set up so that even as we age, the gardening will continue to be
manageable. Each year, we will continue to expand the number of raised
garden boxes until we reach the number that is needed to fully support
our family's vegetable needs without having to purchase from the
stores. The goal is attainable, but will take time. By planning
carefully and being sensible about it, we will reach that goal.