Sustainable Cooks
First Time Visiting? Start Here!

For Those About to Sow. I Salute You

The temps are low, the wind is howling, we’re kicking ourselves for once again not having the cash to buy a wood stove. Yep, it is officially January, and we’re cold. We’re blessed with large windows, but they’re old and drafty. In the evening when we sit down to watch Jeopardy with Jack (we’re crazy cool like that), I usually bundle up under Bennett’s quilt and sometimes a fleece jacket.

Many of those nights, I keep myself extra warm with thoughts of spring and summer gardening. With seed catalogs stacked next to me, I think about the warm soil in my fingers, the excessive amount of sunscreen on my pasty skin, and of course complaining because it is too hot. A time honored tradition for us in the Northwest.

This past year was fine for the garden. Nothing stellar, but no big failures. “We” added some awesome garden support trellises to two of the garden boxes “we” built a few years ago. The chickens didn’t accidentally plant any pumpkins this year, so we didn’t have any Sugar Pie gourds randomly popping up throughout the blueberries or tomatoes. After saving up to buy four more blueberry plants last year, my blueberry hook up was sold out by time I got off my butt to go track him down. I totally flaked on planting my garlic in October for the first time in four years. Oh well, I’ll get it in the ground in the spring as soon as possible. That is the beauty of gardening – “there’s always next year” is something that you can say with a straight face, and legitimately believe it for a time.

Years ago, I mentioned I wanted to build up the main planting area in our front yard. Still hasn’t happened. I feel like this is the year it finally will. 🙂 Troy and I worked for hours on a gorgeous day in early November, and properly put the garden to bed with a layer of cardboard, a hefty dose of composted chicken manure (I think I hauled 150 gallons of clucker crap that day), and a nice topping of straw. It was a half-assed lasagna bed, but it will work.

As every year, I have huge plans for the garden. I am also somewhat out of excuses this spring, as I’m no longer working and Bennett is not a little infant who just wants to be held all day long. So this is the year of the epic perfect garden. This is also the year I’m already lying and not a thing is in the ground. Usually I don’t start deceiving myself until April at least. This is also the gardening season that I have declared “seed bankruptcy” and have decided to start with fresh seed instead of limping along with old stock that I have not stored properly. I am getting all new seeds, excluding my garlic that I save year after year to replant.

In terms of infrastructure projects, I really do want to build up that main gardening bed with another layer of pavers. It will expand my planting options, as I can add things that prefer to grow more deeply that current conditions allow. I’m going to try potato growing bags for the first time. During our garage clean out this summer, I found some that I had purchased already and never used. Whoops. Still figuring out where they’ll go, but they’ll find a home. I dug up all our raspberry canes in October 2015 to try to combat the morning glory invasion in that planting bed. Results were mixed, so I will keep fighting the good fight, while the replacement canes do their thing. This may be the last year of our strawberry bed; I think the plants are done. I probably should have ripped them out last year, but I got lazy. I’d love to do strawberry pyramids or trellises so that they grow up and I can expand our crop…but I really hate to water the garden and that all sounds like something you have to maintain. Other than that, we are officially out of space. Our little lot is packed to the gills, and not much more can be added.

I have decided to own the fact that I am terrible at planting lettuces, spinach, and carrots. It is a trainwreck every single year. But, because all gardeners are slightly delusional, this is the year I am going to get that ish right.

In terms of plants/seeds, here is my plan for this coming season. Please note, we’re Zone 8. All seeds are from Territorial Seeds, or Baker Creek.

Late winter planting
-Peas sown on President’s Day (this has always worked well for me)
-Potatoes planted on St. Patrick’s Day (also been a success): German butterball, and Yukon Gold

Early spring planting
-Beets: Early Wonder Tall Top, Bull’s Blood
-Blueberry bushes: add four more to the herd
-Carrots: Candysnax (dibs on that for a porn name), Napa
-Kale: Nero di Toscana, always my go to kale. It’s the workhorse of the garden
-Lettuce (sigh): Buttercrunch, Oaky Red Splash (also a fabulous porn name), Simply Salad City Garden Mix (a blended salad mix that comes in pellets. I think even I can grow that)
-Peas: Lincoln (shelling), Sugar Ann (snap pea, and um…porn name)
-Spinach: Corvair

Summer planting (always around Mother’s day for us)
-Basil: Sweet Basil
-Beans: Malibu
-Cucumbers: Diamant (pickling), Sweet slice (fresh eating)
-Peppers: Shishito for this recipe
-Pumpkins: Small sugar
-Squash: Grey Griller, Patio Star
-Tomatoes: Flamme (this is my favorite tomato and I should save the seeds this year. I can never find seeds, so I end up buying the plant at the farmer’s market), Momotaro, Taxi, Gill’s All-Purpose, Cherokee Purple, San Marzano (saucing), Heinz (saucing), Principe Borghese (saucing).

I have grown almost all of these successfully in the past :coughspinachlettucebeetscarrotscough:, and I know that they are types that work well in my garden, soil, and climate. After years of experimenting, I have found that it is best for my space to stick to one or two kinds of each plant. Going all crazy on different varieties quickly eats up my very limited space. Where I divert from that idea is tomatoes. Tomatoes are the king of my garden, and I love to grow so many different kinds. If we had more land, I’d easily have 50-75 plants. With our current set up, I usually am pushing the limit at 15-18. For the past few years, I have frozen all my excess tomatoes, and then canned them in fall/winter when I had time. I have recently discovered my love of the versatile whole peeled tomato, so I’m going to have to suck it up and can those during the peak of the season. Eff. Balls. I hate it, but it’s worth it.

So, seed orders are getting placed soon. I should be digging out my seed starting gear, and most importantly tracking down a place in the house where I can set up my seeds and grow lights without Bennett being all up in there. Do they make tiny barbed wire fences? I kid, I kid. Electric fencing won’t leave scars and seems like a much more humane choice.

What are you growing this year? Expanding your garden? Starting fresh? Reducing the size of it? And most importantly, if you take the name of your first pet, and the name of the first street you ever lived on, what would be your porn name?*


*Skookie Branson.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

10 comments on “For Those About to Sow. I Salute You”

  1. Molly East

    Last year was my first year gardening in Michigan. Have been pretty successful in my old home town in Southern Illinois, but Michigan is more challenging. Mostly, in spite of moving into a subdivision, I have wayyyy more animals than when I lived in the country (probably the whole destroying their habitat thing). Do you have a problem with deer or squirrels? I think I finally repelled the deer using deer spray, human hair (from cutting the hubby\’s hair at home), and letting my dogs chase them one night, but the damn squirrels would eat 1 bite of every tomato then throw it out. Turns out squirrels don\’t like tomatoes, but that doesn\’t stop them from trying them every night. Any secrets to keeping the critters at bay? I really want to try berries next year but I\’m afraid the deer will mow them down.

    • We don’t really have many wild animals around here. Deer occasionally, but they don’t seem to bother our garden that much. We have wild peacocks in our neighborhood, but they’re shockingly kind to the garden, and are excellent pest control.

  2. Doobie Falcon :sigh:

    Shishitos!!!!! I’m soooo glad Baker Creek has them! I was at TJ’s Thursday and bought 3 more bags. This time the hubs might have a chance to get some ๐Ÿ˜‰ (on my laptop and no emojis…. all the sads)

    Our neighbor has graciously offered to share his crazy-huge garden with us this year again…. so we’ll have roughly 25 by 25 of deliciously tilled, peaty soil to play in.

    Sauce tomatoes- I’m hoping for one 25 foot row with the Florida weave for support.

    Carrots: rainbow and half-longs

    Onions: Whatever I have leftover from last year that’s not moldy in the basement box

    Rainbow Chard: huuuuuuge hit last year but this year I think we’ll plant it in container plantings closer to the house (instead of 300+ feet away)

    Shishito peppers: I wonder why ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Pepperoncini peppers: maybe only 2 plants instead of the 4 last year that produced all.year.long.into.November.

    Zuch’s: In containers because we have those darned beetles

    Green Beans: bush style

    Eggplant: my kids actually ATE eggplant last year only because we had grown the tiny ones. They loved it. Lesson learned.

    Garlic: obviously they go with the saucing tomatoes

    Beets: I like them pickled when they’re small, but if we don’t get them then, we eat the leaves (or give them to our guinea pigs). They’re soooo good sauteed.

    Last year we tried sweet corn but even with 60 (12X5 rows) plantings, they weren’t that sweet and took up a tooon of room. Then we didn’t get it off the stalks in time and it went tough. So we dried it and we’re feeding the birds and the squirrels this winter.

    Sunflowers all the way around the garden. Because they’re gorgeous! We’re going to grow red ones in addition to Mammoth’s this year. Saved some for seed for next year, shelled some, and we’re feeding the birds and squirrels with this, too.

    Our neighbor does a strawberry patch that they let us clean after they’ve taken their freezer full. And asparagus. Ohmygosh.

    Oh, and we are going to try Brussels sprouts. Because. we eat them like candy. No less than twice a week.

  3. I too look at the catalogues for a boost to January blues! Although around here we can’t even begin to think about sowing outside until May, so many of my veg get an early start in Mar/Apr on the windowsill. But I have to sow my tomatoes and peppers in February – so exciting! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I rent an apartment and convinced my landlord to let me dig a tiny 12×12″ plot a few years ago. I have a huge balcony but it faces north north west so I can’t grow much except kale and flowers up there. When I don’t have a garden, I have no idea what to do with my summer!

    Learning to garden this far north has been an experience (2 hours north of Edmonton). I’ve learned that I can’t grow artichokes unless I manage to find good sized plants to buy. I can’t grow anything longer than 90 days and that’s pushing it. I can’t grow brocollini/rabe/sprouting. And there aren’t really ‘seasons’ for vegetables here – it’s all a huge glut at the end of August if you’re lucky.

    But I’ve found a variety of leek that does super here (Chinook) and a variety of tomato that produces excellent year after year. I’ve tried dozens of varieties but this is still the one I go back to – Black Sea Man (say that carefully). Good beefsteak sized tomatoes, lots per plant (I only grow 2 now), and they will take a little less water. And most importantly here, they don’t shrivel when I pull the whole plant out come 1st week September and hang it upside down in my garage. The other black varieties I’ve tried don’t like that but these keep ripening well. Plus, I don’t like acidic tomatoes and these are the sweetest I’ve ever tasted!

    Last year I tried cucamelons (so-so and I’ll give them another chance this year), a bush squash called ‘golden nugget’ (again this year), a tiny cucumber called ‘patio snacker’ (so-so) and Hungarian cheese peppers (nope). We stay around 25ยฐC so we don’t get the heat needed to set fruit on some peppers/eggplants. But my neighbours have success with short season corn so I’m going to try a little patch of that this year. And I’m also trying baby corn!

    Besides that, most of my garden is normal this year!

  4. Perhaps you should search for the tomatoes under “Jaune Flamme”, I found them at multiple seed companies, including Amazon and Seattle Seed Co.
    Down here in PDX we have, generally, wonderful gardening weather and I have a half acre lot. Every year I have started many (over 200 one year) tomato plants, it’s such a rewarding feeling. However, this is the year I am vowing not to plant a garden because we leave for 6-7 weeks every summer for our place in BC. I don’t know if I can do it, I love my garden!

  5. I am horrible with gardening. So I gave up and the hubs took over! I do know he is planning to plant what seems to be 90,000 different tomato plants. I will be so glad to reap the benefits of his hard work. Scooby Sugar Hill

  6. Trixie St John

  7. After two years of working in a community garden plot that was 10+ miles from my house, I’m throwing my hands up in the air and admitting a few things: the distance was too great to travel, the materials too costly (and sometimes stolen from my plot, and one time the plot stolen from me and my plants ripped out), and the 20 X 20 plot was WAY too much land for what I really need. SO, I got some of the largest pots I could find at the end of summer clearances, great soil, and popped them in my garage, and I am going to turn my small condo balcony into a garden. I will have about 8 decent sized pots going, and that should be enough for a couple of tomato plants, maybe some squash if I can get proper supports for them, and strawberries. Plus, I can water them daily with the extra water I use in my dish tub (I don’t have a double sink, so a $5 tub with handles is my extra sink when I need to put dishes somewhere but don’t want to fill my sink proper). I’m excited, because instead of only getting there 2-3 days a week, or having to make extra trips during the absolute dreadful heat of summer, I should be able to respond quickly to plant needs and maybe finally have a year without my tomatoes getting blighted. Maybe. I have never had good luck growing tomato from seed but I’m going to try, again. Just like I always do. I envy your garden. One day I’ll have a proper house and land and kale as far as the eye can see.

    • That is a lot of kale!!

      Our shower takes forever to heat up, so in the summer I have a small bucket in there that captures water before it is hot. I take it outside and throw it on the garden or in the potted mint by my front yard. Gotta love the free water!

  8. Black thumb here *sigh*

    *Oscar Brown ???