Gearing up for Spring

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but I've made one for 2008, and it's a doozy. My goal? Growing -- and subsequently preserving -- at least half of my annual food supply. In part I'm after really fresh, organically grown produce, but I'm also hoping to make fewer car trips to the grocery store this year.

To help realize that goal, I've waded through the countless seed catalogs and placed a couple of enormous orders for heirloom seeds including soy beans, green beans, beets, broccoli, three kinds of carrots, cucumbers, kale, several types of salad greens, garlic, onions, peas, spinach, Swiss chard, storage onions and potatoes, and, of course, a few different tomatoes. Needless to say, it's going to be a big garden and lots of work.

To keep myself from feeling completely overwhelmed and to be sure I can get the most from my garden, I've marked up a calendar with the last average frost date -- that's around May 15th in my area -- and seed-starting dates for each type of crop. (Incidentally, since I'll be starting some seeds indoors and direct sowing others, I also won't have to drive out to the nursery or large hardware stores to buy bedding plants which invariably come with plastic pots and have been trucked in from who-knows-where.)

Because I have my own small greenhouse, I'll be able to start the garden as early as the middle of February. That's when I'll start the broccoli and tomato seeds, and, as long as the soil outside isn't too wet, I'll be planting garlic bulbs and onion seeds about the middle of March. Toward the end of March it'll be time to direct sow the sugar snap peas, potatoes, and spinach. April has me planting waves of kale, beets, lettuce, and other cool weather crops about every week. In May I'll harden off the tomato seedlings in cold frames and direct sow the green beans and soy beans. June will mean more of the same -- plenty of succession planting and harvesting to maximize space. And to think that's just the growing part. There will be loads of freezing, drying, pickling, and canning, too. Perhaps I've bitten off too much to chew? We'll see. . . 

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