Five Truths I Learned From The Garden in 2017
Let’s just spare you the long introduction of all the things I did with the garden last year. And I’ll get right to it, why the food wasn’t as abundant as I had hoped it would be.
(You can find some of the videos of the garden here, at my YouTube channel)
1. Big trees grow lots of leaves.
I should have thought about this when I planted all of the sun loving plants. Because when I planted in the spring, the mature black walnut tree didn’t have as many leaves. As June and the summer solstice approached, the leaves filled out on the tree and my great start on the plants left me with low producers (that were closest to the trunk of the tree).
The walnut could use a good trim, as well. And last year, because of the wet spring, our branches were so heavy that some were touching the ground. We had many walnuts and I still haven’t figured out an easy way to harvest them. Thinning out the tree would be good for it, and good for the plants underneath.
2. Just because it grows here doesn’t mean it should stay here.
I have “volunteer” plants that sprung up last year and I didn’t have the heart to move them. These were plants like kale, random strawberries and othe plants that had reseeded or reproduced.
But the kale doesn’t need as much sun as the tomatoes and I should have put the tomatoes in the spot where the kale was because the tomatoes were close to the trunk of the walnut tree and got mostly shade. They were very poor producers. But the kale had sun for a lot of the day because it was placed at the edge of the tree canopy.
3. Use vertical space.
I have a fence that gets full sun for most of the growing season and I did not use it at all in 2017. I could have planted cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and other vining plants. I could rotate tomatoes here every couple years. There’s so many sun loving plants that could go here, and take up just 12 inches of width along 40 feet of fence line.
4. Succession planting is a must.
When the spring lettuces are about to bolt, chop em, drop em, and shove something else in there place (never leave the soil bare) like green beans or carrots. Then, maybe melons. And that’s just in one section. There alll the other square feet of food production space to get an abundant harvest.
5. Pick 5 veggies we eat on a regular basis and grow the shit out of those.
Last year my main plant concentration was for perennials (and I threw in some herbs and annuals). Most of the perennials are 2 years old and don’t have a great harvest yet. I expect the currants to do amazing in 2018, so I had better start looking into recipes for those berries. For 2018 I expect a better crop from a lot of those perennials
But perennials and herbs aren’t exactly satiating or filling. So this year, I’m not going to let that damn zucchini plant win. It will grow! Here’s my list of ordinary fruits and veggies that my family loves to eat and that I’ll be planting:
Strawberries (these are in place already)
Yams (yeah, I know we’re over 5 items)
Green beans (sorry, I can’t help myself)
Bonus: harvest every day in the growing season.
Zones help with that. And I don’t mean hardiness zones. I mean planting zones on a piece of land according to permaculture philosophies.
Zone 0 is the house.
Zone 1 is what you walk by every day. This is the area you walk to get to and from your car each day, maybe your porch or a deck or patio you go to every single day. Plant here!
Container plants are great for the porch, deck, or patio. If you have animals that need tending, plant edibles on the path to get there.
You do not need formal 4×8 beds.
I give you permission to plant in random areas if it means you’ll eat it. (This is why my elderberry and hardy kiwis are in the front yard.)
Zone 2 is where you visit a few times a week. Put slower growing edibles here. Perennials work great. So do fruit trees.
A future post about my zones will be coming.
If you harvest every day, you’ll eat fresh healthy food, you’ll be able to pull a few weeds to make the job easier, and you’ll notice when a succession plant can be added.
And zone planting can give you 100 square feet of planting space along your paths and fences. If you’ve got 100 linear feet, and 1 foot width of planting space, you can get a lot of food even on the smallest of mini farms.