Saturday, February 21, 2009

Garden Thoughts

I have had several people ask me, "How much of your own food do you produce?" My first response is not near enough. I know what we spend at the grocery store and it would appear by that total that we don't raise a garden at all! The truth is that we could cut our grocery cost by A LOT if we milked our cow and had more meat in the freezer. We are working on both of these issues. Our family drinks over a gallon of milk a day and for my "men" a meal isn't a meal unless there is meat on the table.

We have 10 raised beds that we grow our produce in each year. One of those beds is consumed by flowers. Michael used railroad ties as the border and I do not want to grow food in that for chemical reasons. This is my designated flower bed. That leaves me 9 large raised beds to use for gardening. My goal would be to add at least 5 more beds this upcoming year, but for now we make do with what we have. We also have a separate garden area that we can plant potatoes and corn. We haven't used this plot for the last several years. We have no way of watering it, and the drought here has been severe. I plant in a succession manner. When one bed is finished, then I till it up add more compost and start again with something new.

For example, I will use 2 beds to plant my broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce in for early spring. I will also use a bed for peas. A bit later in the season I will use one bed for my squash and zucchini. Another full bed will be designated for my green beans. (We really need at least 2 if not 3 beds for green beans, but I don't have the space). I will also use 1 bed for peppers and at least 2 beds for tomatoes. By the time I am planting tomatoes, it won't be long and my broccoli bed will be ready to be used for something else. I will till it and add compost and plant another bed of tomatoes. When my cabbage and broccoli plants are getting bigger, I will sprinkle lettuce seed around them. The lettuce grows, but the cabbage and broccoli plants give them some shade. This allows me to grow lettuce that isn't bitter later in the season. I plant lettuce seed every 2 weeks somewhere in my garden until it is just to hot. I also put green onions all throughout my garden beds. I usually give Seth a sack of onion sets. I show him where I want them planted and I leave him be while he plants the onion. He is 4 years old and I find onions ALL over the place, but I don't mind. It keeps him busy and we eat all of the onions no matter where they may grow. Another thing I do with green onions is use them as a line marker between my different varieties of lettuce. I plant a block of Black Seeded Simpson lettuce and then I plant a vertical line of green onions. I then plant my next variety of lettuce and I again plant another vertical line of green onions. It really helps me to designate where things are using this method. My husband likes to plant his lettuce in Alphabetical order. That can be a great help in knowing what you are growing as little baby lettuce can be hard to identify when they first break through the ground.

My garden goal is to grow as much of our food and eat it fresh as much as possible. This means that we never have tomatoes in our fresh grown salad. Lettuce comes in way earlier than tomatoes. By the time the tomatoes are ripe, it is too hot to grow lettuce in our area. I will purchase lettuce from the grocery in the winter, but we don't eat a lot of salad in the summer. Once our lettuce is finished growing, we are eating other garden vegetables. We never eat cucumbers or tomatoes in the winter time. I HATE grocery store cucumbers and tomatoes so we just don't eat them. We don't eat citrus fruit in the middle of summer either. We try to eat whatever is in season. I am not a die hard in this, but it is my rule of thumb.

Next time I will post about the yield of our garden and how much we purchase from the grocery store.

grace and peace,


Paige said...

Yay! I'm always so excited to hear about your gardening! I LOVE gardening! Thanks for taking the time to share this!

Amy Ellen said...

I would love to be able to plant a garden like yous. With 6 kiddos and a husband to feed. Sheesh anyway we have got to get out in the country. Milk cow, chickens, a steer or two for beef and a couple of pigs, plus a garden and I could cut our monthly food budget way down.

Oh yes and thank you for the email. My mother will be so pleased. You are very sweet!!