Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Seed Catalog Time

Since mid-December seed catalogs have been arriving. My favorite is Johnny's because of the useful information in it. However the source of most of my seeds is Fedco. As time goes on I will be switching away from hybrid varieties and so Seed Savers Exchange will become an increasing source. I would like to begin saving some seeds.

The mild green that we have liked most in the past two years - zen - seems to be only sold under that name by Burpee and Cook's Garden (which I believe is now owned by Burpee). Since it now sells for around $5 a packet I am looking for other greens that are similar. I have several on order and will grow them this year to see if they can replace zen. (Trying to locate zen greens through Google doesn't help - the "zen" part leads down a whole different path.

Zen is the larger leafy green at the left in this photograph. The plant to its right is an Italian dandelion ("Clio"). It is a very nice upright plant that definitely has a dandelion taste. I know that deer like it. I didn't notice any deer munching of the zen but they weren't growing right next to the dandelions this year. Snails and slugs did take their share.

In any event, the arrival of the catalogs has had its usual result - I have ordered a batch of things that I have not grown in the past including tatsoi, golden purslane, minutina, komatsuna, celeriac, and Belgian endive. My garden does not lack for purslane. It is the major weed in the vegetable garden and while we could let it grow to add to salads it seems to grow best with lesser expectations. That is, when I select a few plants to grow for consumption they don't grow nearly as well as the ones that I don't want to grow.

I am told that celeriac is very easy to grow and we bought a couple and ate them. They can be stored to be available after the cold weather begins. The Belgian endive grows during the regular gardening season and then can be brought in and forced to produce again in the dark of the cellar. Both of these are part of our effort to extend the growing season. Some of the other new vegetables - tatsoi and minutina - are greens that I will try to grow in the winter cold frames, which I hope will begin to materialize soon. I have cleaned up enough the cellar area around the table saw that I can begin cutting wood for the first glassed cold frame. I plan to put this one in the garden and transplant mache and spinach into it soon after the beginning of February from seeds I started two days ago. It will be interesting to see whether the soil, under the frame, will warm up enough for planting.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ground Cherries

My daughter asked what ground cherries look like. This is what they look like when they are growing, except that this plant doesn't have very many ground cherries showing on it. The fruit grows inside a husk, and there are two clearly visible in this picture. We didn't grow them until 2008 and this was actually our only plant that year. We had ordered two plants but transplanted them a little too early and one didn't survive the frost. They should be planted on a tomato schedule, that is, near the end of May, beginning of June.

At that time we didn't know how easy it was to start ground cherries from seed. We also didn't know much space they need because the one plant in 2008 had its growth inhibited by the frost and by growing in the shadow of soybeans and cucumbers. This year I had 25 seedlings to transplant but they are so productive that I think I only need 8 to 10 next year.

Harvesting ground cherries take a little effort. The fruit grows inside a husk and they are not ready to harvest until they fall off the plant. Even then many (at least this year) were not ripe enough to use. They have to be yellow. To use the fruit the husk has to be removed, which is quite easy but also time consuming. There was quite a bit of waste this year consisting of unripe fruit and over-ripe (cracked) fruit.

Here is what the fruit looks like. After removing the ripe fruit from the husks and unusable fruit we rinse them, put them on a cookie sheet, and freeze them. Once they are frozen we put them into freezer bags and keep them until we have enough to use. Our favorite use is ground cherry jam. It has a unique and pleasant taste. Other people make ground cherry pies.

Our challenge for next year is to find ways to grow the ground cherries so that harvesting is easier and more productive. This year we had to be on our hands and knees reaching under the rather low growing plants to find the fruits on the ground. We suspect that chipmunks were also eating some of them because there were a lot of empty husks and the chipmunks were often in that area. We might try growing them in containers so they are off the ground.

Extending the Season and the Challenge of Slugs

My only serious attempt to extend the growing season has been a cedar frame with a glass cover that I have used the past four years to keep lettuce in wait for growing in the early spring. Here is what it looked like two years ago. The glass cover (an old storm door window) just sits on top (see below).

The first year this worked wonderfully and in the spring we harvested quite a bit of lettuce before anything was ready from the regular garden. I think I was just lucky that year because I had no idea of when to start the seedlings and no problem with slugs. In the intervening years I didn't plant soon enough (last year) or slugs had a feast. It must be a real treat for them to have a protected, relatively warm place with delicious young seedlings to feast on.

This year I either planted early eno
ugh or the unusually warm November gave the seedlings enough time to mature. But, as a number of people have experienced, slugs and snails have had a very productive year. I originally set out 35 seedlings and a little later replaced six or seven of them to maintain the 35 seedling number. But as some of those began to disappear I discovered that slugs were the problem. I had left the black six-packs with a few remaining seedlings in the frame and discovered that slugs were spending their daylight hours under the six packs and in the grooves between the cells of the six pack. Obviously slug control was needed. I set out a piece of board with black plastic stapled to it in the middle of the seedlings and a small black plastic tray in a corner of the bed. Each day I go out, remove the glass cover and transfer whatever slugs I find into salt water. I am surprized at the number of slugs that I have removed from this relatively small area - somewhere between 40 and 50. I don't know whether they are immigating into the frame from outside, or there are eggs hatching in the soil, or there are just that many slugs there. When I go two days without finding slugs I think the battle is over but then go out the next day and find three or four more.

I have also scattered crushed egg shells around the seedlings and for the past week or ten days the number of healthy looking
plants has held at 24. I don't know why I didn't do that when I planted the seedlings because I did that earlier with Chinese cabbages. What I did do initially was spread some wheat bran around the seedlings. Rumors that slugs eat the bran and die didn't work for me. The bran absorbed moisture and got crusty and needed to be removed.

As to the correct planting time for the seedlings, I just read in Eliot Coleman's "The Winter Harvest Handbook" that pl
ants you want to harvest through the winter need to have almost reached maturity before the day length becomes shorter than ten hours. In Syracuse that would be November 8th. I started this year's lettuce on September 23rd and transplanted them into the frame around October 28th. That seems about right, although maybe starting the seeds a week earlier would be better. I recall also reading recently that September 15th is suggested.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What We Harvested This Year

This was a year of keeping records and one of my primary goals was to record everything we harvested. We did get most of it although occasionally some greens were already washed and in the pot before we remembered that we hadn't weighed them and although the basil crop had a bad year I know we (well, my wife, to be accurate) did make some pesto even though I don't show any harvesting of basil in this list. But here are the results of what we did weigh:

Asparagus 8 lbs (then I dug up the bed after starting a new one)
Beans (pole) 29 3/4 lbs (not including what was lost to groundhog and deer trimming)
Blackberries 7 1/2 lbs
Blueberries 23 lbs (another great year)
Chinese cabbage 6 3/4 lbs (after removing lots of snail and slug damaged leaves)
Currants 1 lb (this is their first year to produce)
Dill 1/2 lb (plus the seeds that I harvested)
Fava beans 1+ lbs (shelled and I didn't weigh half of the crop)
Garlic 17 3/4 lbs (this was generally an excellent year for garlic)
Garlic scapes 2 lbs
Greens 42 1/2 lbs (this includes zen, Italian dandelion, collards and some kale)
Ground cherries 11 1/2 lbs (but a lot is unripe and over ripe berries)
Jerusalem artichokes 3 lbs (these came up by themselves from ones we pulled years ago)
Kale 19 lbs (and we are still picking)
Leeks 8 lbs
Lettuce 13 lbs (ground hogs got quite a bit too)
Malabar spinach 5 lbs (there was a lot more that got intertwined with the pole beans)
Pak choi 17 1/2 lbs (my first successful year)
Parsley 2 1/2 lbs (mostly made into pesto)
Patty pan squash 18 1/4 lbs (and we would have eaten lots more)
Peas 3 1/2 lbs (I will use an innoculant next year and grow some with better taste)
Peppers 13 lbs
Potatoes 41 lbs (from 5 lbs of seed potatoes)
Raspberries 24 lbs
Rhubarb 2 lbs (first year to harvest)
Scallions 1/2 lb+ (most were picked as needed and not weighed)
Spinach 5 1/2 lbs
Swiss chard 10 lbs
Tomatoes 21 lbs (before the late blight got them all)
Trombocino squash 1 1/2 lbs (we stopped picking them because the patty pans were so much tastier)

About 360 lbs of produce. At the cost of organic produce this probably equates to between $750 and $1,000. More important to us is that what we grow here at home is safe (no pesticides, no E. coli) and, we believe, more nutritious, better tasting and it travels only a few feet from where it grows to where we eat it.

This was a good base year to grow from. My emphasis next year will be on extending the harvest into the fall and winter. That's my reading topic right now. Maybe I will actually use some of those old glazed windows that I have been collecting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Lettuce Is Gone

We picked the last lettuce today. Now about all that is left are some greens (zen, kale and collards), a few raspberries and maybe some peppers. We weighed most all of the produce we got from the garden this year and the total is about 350 pounds. That pales in comparison with the 6,000 pounds the family in California grows annually as shown in the video "Homegrown". But then we can't grow year round and don't have four people working full time in the garden. We wouldn't be able to eat anywhere near that much food.

It was an interesting year and a good base for planning next year's garden. In past years tomatoes produced a lot of produce weight but since I am now the only one who can eat tomatoes I planted far fewer and then all succumbed over time to the blight starting, surprisingly, with the ones that were planted where I had never planted vegetables before. I only picked enough to have a daily tomato sandwich and those ended yesterday with the last blight free tomato. I was away for the weekend and was reacquainted with the tomatoes that are commercially grown - tasteless and hard - and hope that next year I can grow my own throughout the whole tomato season.

Among my other disappointments were beans and broccoli. Three of my four plantings of broccoli were chewed nearly to the ground by groundhogs - three of which were removed from the garden. The fourth planting, for reasons unknown to me, produced vigorous untouched plants with no broccoli heads. So the count for this year was zero broccoli. The only beans I grow are pole beans and they were first cut down by groundhogs and then, after I replanted and surrounded them with circles of 3 foot fencing, they were trimmed weekly by deer. We did harvest beans but not the quantity we wanted nor that would be produced by the number of bean plants we grew. We ate fresh beans fairly regularly once the groundhogs were out of the picture but did not have any for freezing for the rest of the year.

The only cucumbers I planted were lemon cucumbers. I scattered them around the garden but think that was not a good idea. The rather dry summer was not favorable to good production.

So what did grow well? Peppers did extremely well but I did learn that I should carefully read the catalog descriptions. One of the three varieties (Beaver Dam) that I planted was medium hot. One bite and my lips were burning and my eyes watering. Neighbors liked them, however. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries were very productive. Some of them are now stored as jams, others are in the freezer. The red Russian kale that I planted early is still in the garden producing. I set out a lot more of it about two weeks ago but the rather cold rainy weather since then may keep it from getting big enough to produce a harvest before cold weather stops it altogether. Will it start again in the spring? Ground cherries were productive but there were a lot of unripe cherries that fell off the plants - which is supposed to be the sign that they are ripe - and separating the cherries from their little covers is a pretty slow process. They are also now in the form of jam, which I really like. The later pak choi and Chinese cabbage were great - the earlier ones were ravaged by snails. Patty pan squash were delicious and although I started them under row covers until they began to flower they were destroyed by borers. Next year I have to check them daily. I also grew trombocino squash and it sure does want to climb. It would have been very productive if we hadn't preferred the patty pans. By the time those were gone the trombocinos had remained unpicked for many weeks and seemed to have stopped producing. However, as I pulled the plants out of the hemlock trees at the end of the season I found that they had started producing again, maybe because I finally cut the huge squash off the plants. Potatoes were good. I got nearly 40 pounds of potatoes from 2 1/2 lbs of seed potatoes. I would like to have fewer but larger potatoes because I am the one who has to peel them.

Greens (zen, dandelions, kale, and collards, along with some spring spinach) grew well and we had greens as part of our meals almost every day. We also froze some, but not as much as we wanted. Next year I need to have a large garden of greens beginning in the spring. I think my wife wants the garden to be mostly greens and beans. I grew red Malabar spinach but since I again did not read the description didn't plan for the fact that it wants to climb. It became entangled with some of the pole beans to the detriment of both.

Now it is time to clean the garden up. I do still have to plant garlic - that also did extremely well this year - and, hopefully, some lettuce seedlings that I started about two weeks ago. But for those to succeed I need a nice Indian summer to get them large enough to survive the winter in a class covered frame. The peppers still need to be pulled up sometime
. I don't think the freeze we had killed them. My compost bins are nearly full but I can find space to stuff in some of the remaining plants. I have planted cover crops in a number of beds - clover and oats, both of which will be killed by a heavy frost. I planted either annual rye or winter rye in other beds but saw no signs of germination. I might stop by Lee's Feeds tomorrow and ask if it is too late to plant winter rye.

I began emptying out my leaf barrel today. It has two years of leaves in it because last year I wasn't able to empty it because of a back injury. Soon my neighbors will be raking their leaves and putting them in large paper bags which are handy collect and empty into the circle of fencing that is my leaf barrel. I find it is best to wait until mid-leaf season because the earlier bags often have stuff besides leaves - sticks, stones, dead potted plants, and whatever accumulated junk got raked up with those early leaves.

Then there are the rain barrels to empty out, clean (if it's warm enough) and turn over for the year. And the hoses to put away.

And finally it is time to begin planning for next year.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It Has Been A Good Year

The time lapse since the last post is an indication of how busy the garden has kept me. For many meals everything is from the garden. One recent example is a mixture of roasted potatoes, leeks and peppers, all growing very well this year, together with a serving of green beans. That meal might be topped off with a slice of raspberry pie. In fact, raspberries seem to be so easy to grow that my wife wonders why everyone doesn't have them. Although I cut our raspberry bed in half this year (but I planted a new half that will begin to produce next year) we have been picking very close to a quart a day.

Blueberries, peppers, potatoes, kale and garlic were particularly productive this year. Even the bean plants, although they were ravaged early in the year by groundhogs (three have been removed but there is one still sighted in the neighborhood) and trimmed the rest of the year by a deer (although I have never seen it, its tracks are quite visible about once a week), have produced a number of meals.

I tried a number of new things - arugula (neither of us eat it), red Russian kale (great and it just keeps producing), patty pan summer squash (great, but succumbed to borers almost overnight), trombocino squash (not as tasty as advertised), red malabar spinach (great promise but I didn't realize it needed to climb), and lemon cucumber (so-so).

Yesterday and today, since we are going on a camping trip for most of next week, we have been cutting and freezing most of the greens - collards, kale, and zen - but leaving the plants to grow more. I also pulled out all of the Swiss chard and pak choi and froze that. I also pulled out the arugula to add to the compost pile.

Now there are empty spaces appearing in the garden. Some space will go to garlic in October and I am growing more kale (just planted the seed a week ago) and hope that it will grow big enough before the cold weather stops it. In the meantime I am planting a variety of cover crops. Clover germinates very quickly and I am planting rye and oats in other places. The rye grew very well last year but it either germinates more slowly than I thought or last year's seed is not viable this year.

This has not been a good year for tomatoes. In addition to the virus that turns leaves brown from the bottom of the plant - which I have had for several years - the plants simply did not grow vigorously and I don't know whether my plants had the problem that has been reported fairly widely this year, but a lot of the tomato fruits developed what look like big sores. The sores have a hard crust but begin to rot underneath. Most of my plants have been pulled out. Even the ones that I planted where tomatoes (or other vegetables) have not been grown for 25 years developed the virus that turns the leaves brown.

But every year there are successes and failures and usually far more of the former than the latter.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Time to Enjoy the Fruits of our Labor

A fair number of our meals in the past few days have been straight from the garden. Yesterday, for example, we picked blueberries (but they are winding down now) and they were part of the dessert for lunch today and also picked kale, Swiss chard, and pole beans (all of which made up supper yesterday). Two days ago I pried out much of the garlic and now have 25 or 30 pounds hanging in my shed to dry. The bulbs were larger than I have ever had before so this may be an especially good year for garlic. I even picked my first tomato but haven't eaten it yet. It wasn't fully ripe but I didn't want to take the chance that something would come along and take a bite out of it. We have also been harvesting a few of the potatoes.

We also "harvested" our third ground hog and our third raccoon and had them removed. (I don't have a problem with raccoons and wish they would stop going into the traps.) Squirrels, as they have for years, are knocking off or carrying away the large number of pears on our one pear tree. We hardly ever eat more than a few of them because the squirrels usually clean out everything before any are ripe enough for me. I did bring a few in to sit on the porch and ripen - if I didn't pick them too soon for that. The main purpose of the pear tree is to keep squirrels from eating other things.

The deer has returned. For the past three days we have seen deer tracks in the garden. They come up the side road from the front of the house - either choosing the mulched path through the flowers or just using the road. I could see tracks in the mulch leading to the gate to the back yard but didn't see any tracks immediately on the back yard side, but there were clearly new tracks near the potatoes and in the lettuce bed. We do have a fence around our yard (but five feet is no barrier for the deer) and a thick row of shrubs next to the fence on the road side. I haven't yet figured out where the deer jumps the fence nor have we actually seen a deer anywhere on our property this year. I don't see much damage if any at all - maybe a few pole beans nibbled higher than the ground hog would have reached - but my concern is what a deer could do. [I know what ground hogs like but what vegetables deer prefer.] The hoof print is no more than 2 inches so I assume this is not a large deer.

Snails remain abundant on our property but they are not such a problem in the vegetable garden as they were earlier. I still remove them when I see them.

We have picked about 12 1/2 pounds of blueberries so far this year - just from six bushes. Weight-wise that has been our biggest producer but squash (for sure) and tomatoes (I hope) will soon provide greater poundage (and they are a lot faster to pick).

I hope your garden is growing well.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Between Planting and Harvest

This is the time of the year that is devoted to weeds (and, this year, snails). Most of the garden is planted, although I have collards, kale, pak choi and arugula seedlings in the cold frame. The big vegetables are not yet ready for harvest - tomatoes have green fruit but probably three weeks before any picking, peppers just have blossoms, pole beans are now beginning to flower (after having been repeatedly pruned by the groundhogs), the potatoes are in flower, and the garlic leaves are just beginning to dry.

We have been picking blueberries for about a week and the bushes are heavy with berries. For the first time we notice that some of the birds are interested in pecking at the berries. We continue to harvest Swiss chard and other greens. With a daily surveillance of the snails there is less loss to them.

I have planted broccoli from my seedlings and surrounded them with cut worm collars (I cut the cardboard backs of note pads into about one inch wide pieces and staple each one to form a circle). With no groundhogs these may grow. I hope so, this is the 4th planting.

One thing I have become much better about is the amount of seed I use when starting plants indoors. I became aware of this when I was growing milkweed seedlings and wanted to compare the germination rates of seeds that were cold stratified with those that weren't. To do that I planted three seeds in each cell in the six-packs. I was amazed at the germination rates (92% for those that were cold stratefied) and the result was that most cells had three seedlings in them. With the last broccoli I only had a few seeds left in the package and so I planted one to a cell. I had 17 seeds to plant and just set out 16 little seedlings from them.

In past years there have been times (admittedly rare) when I was current with weeding. Then we go away for a week - or life intervenes and I don't get to the garden for a week - and the weeds have taken over and I never catch up again. Do my vegetables grow that quickly? Of course not. I think I can weed an area one day and three days later it needs to be done again. I have been pleased with the clover that I planted among some crops. It discourages (but does not totally eliminate) weeds. The clover can best be used with larger plants - about the size of broccoli and kale - that will be taller than the clover.

This year I have grown a couple of new vegetables and I should have researched them more. I planted arugula (mostly because I wanted to see what it looked like). It grew very well but I didn't know when or how to harvest it. By the time I really noticed it, it had begun to flower. One website says once it flowers pull it out because it will be too bitter. I will be able to answer that soon because I did pull it out yesterday but saved some of the leaves in the process. Some of them will go into a salad today and then I will know if they are still worth eating. I have started more arugula but since it is a spring (cold weather) green it may not do well - unless summer continues to elude us.
Another new vegetable is red malabar spinach. Having read that it is like New Zealand spinach I treated it as such. But apparently the similarity is that it is a warm weather plant that is sort of like spinach. The New Zealand spinach plants I grew last year spread out in a bush form but I just learned that the red malabar spinach is a vine that will grow 6 to 8 feet tall. I need to create a trellis for it.

If anyone has grown arugula or red malabar spinach I would appreciate any suggestions on when to pick the leaves. I assume that I could start now with the spinach.

Although it has not been very hot yet I see that my pepper plants are beginning to grow well. So all is well right now.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Am I In Control Again?

I learned this past weekend that other gardeners have the same problems that I have had. Slugs and snails seem to be having a banner year most everywhere and groundhogs are a problem for many.

In my garden the little groundhog was finally caught and removed. My pole beans are now growing. I had just surrounded most of the pole bean areas with fencing held down with tent stakes to keep out the groundhog. I have left them there just in case the family had other members living nearby. I transplanted some new little lettuce plants and maybe we will actually be able to eat some. The last lettuce we had for a salad came from the Regional Market this Saturday.

Snails (we have far more snails than slugs) still abound but I scout for them two or three times a day, dropping them into soapy water. This was the suggestion of another gardener and I prefer it to squashing them. I don't have anything under row covers right now so the snails cannot operate freely. I don't have anything to report yet on whether surrounding Chinese cabbage with bran meal and/or egg shells cuts down on the snail damage.

In general, the vegetables are beginning to show good growth. Tomatoes are forming. Greens (like Swiss chard, pak choi and zen) are providing part of our meals. I grew some snow peas that have done well but are tasteless. Back to sugar snaps next year. Summer squash have flowered and are beginning to develop. Cucumbers (I went with lemon cucumbers this year) had been nipped back by the groundhog but are now beginning to show growth and flowers. The potatoes have certainly grown quite well, at least above the ground. [Hard to know what's going on below the surface.] The fava beans my son brought back (as seeds) from Oregon are impressive and the soy beans, initially nipped off, have been replanted and are growing. Peppers and basil are not having their best year, but it is early. Garlic and leeks are doing nicely. Our blueberries are covered with berries and are beginning to ripen. My goal of weighing what we get from the garden fails with blueberries - they usually don't make it into the house. The raspberry plants are growing well. Japanese beetles have been found on the roses outside the fence but I haven't seen any on the raspberries yet. About fifteen years ago they were a major raspberry problem for several years. When I find them they will also be candidates for soapy water. We have some blackberries growing along the fence and we should get more of those than we did last year when the canes weren't supported.

Most of the planting is done. I still have collards, more kale, broccoli, pak choi, arugula, and Swiss chard starting in the cold frame. All in all the garden is doing well despite the early set-backs.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Always Room for Learning

Maybe because I am retired and have more time to observe I am learning more this year than I recall in the past. Some of what I learn I would rather not know. For example, if you remove a groundhog it doesn't mean you will have no more groundhog damage. As soon as the groundhog that was wiping out the broccoli was removed neighbors told me that it wasn't the only one. And, sure enough, a day or two later my wife saw another groundhog in the garden area. This one seems clever enough to avoid traps. When we returned from a short trip to Pennsylvania the trap was empty but the third planting of broccoli was gone. Along with the Italian dandelions, virtually all of the lettuce including what was inside a hardware cloth cage - the ground hog just pushed it aside and clipped the lettuce - and some of the scallions. I haven't seen damage this week but perhaps that is because my son set up his tent in the back yard and has been sleeping there most nights. But he won't be there for the rest of the growing season.

While at the native plant conference in Millersville, PA, I attended a workshop on composting. We have been composting for years but the thrill of seeing steam rising from the compost pile ended some years ago when we stopped adding our next door neighbor's lush grass to the compost. (It was to avoid adding pesticides but these days most people mulch their grass, especially those who do not have chemical treatment for their lawn, so the supply has ended. We have virtually no lawn and so cannot supply our own grass.) I thought the lack of grass was the reason my compost no longer heated up but apparently it was really lack of moisture. Most of what has gone into the composter dries out very quickly and then sits there breaking down very, very slowly. I have never added water. So over the past two days I rebuilt the compost piles. I have a composter that consists of three 3 ft by 3 ft sections. They were all full of material. First I emptied out one section. Then I put some large stuff (pieces of branches mostly) into the bottom of the empty compost section and transferred material from the second section into that section, with the hose dripping water into it as I did. Then I put a large plastic bag that is full of straw that I gathered from the garden beds earlier on top of the compost pile to retain the moisture. Then I transferred the material from the third section into the second section after adding some large stuff at the bottom (to allow oxygen to reach the composting material). During the recent three inch rainfall I ran out and pulled the bags off the top of the two sections so that the rain would provide more moisture to the piles. I remember how quickly the piles used to sink when I was adding layers of new, lush green grass to the piles. I hope to report soon that when I turn the piles over - that is, move one pile into the empty section - steam rises.
Although I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about compost, it seems I lacked a few basic essentials.

I have also learned that solving one pest problem may create another. I have been unsuccessful with Chinese cabbage in the past because flea beetles (I think) eat the leaves so much that the little cabbages are unable to grow. This year I put the Chinese cabbage and pak choi under row covers. That prevented the flea beetles from attacking the little plants. They grew very nicely but when we began to harvest the Chinese cabbage we found that they were covered with snails. The snails were protected from any predators by the row covers. I probably picked a hundred snails (and a couple slugs) from the plants. Most of the leaves had so many holes that they were unusable (well, at least unpalatable). I have removed the row covers and spread bran meal around the area (something I read said that they eat the bran meal and die) and kept picking off whatever slugs and snails I could find. The centers of the plants are now doing pretty well. I harvested one yesterday and after removing a couple of layers of the outer leaves the rest didn't look too bad and there were relatively few snails or slugs on them. The snails and slugs seem to come off in the water when the cabbages are washed. We generally wash these things three times to eliminate the undesired protein.
Since I have started some more pak choi under a row cover I better get out there tomorrow with my bran meal to surround the plants. If this works I will have the procedure for next year - row covers with bran meal. And inspect them from time to time.

Not all is dealing with pests. Potatoes appear to be growing well. (In the previous post I was wondering where they were.) They have gotten to the point where I have no more soil to hill them up with. The tomatoes are beginning to take off (which means I need to stake them soon). The peppers are holding their own and should take off as the weather warms. Even the dead looking asparagus crowns which I thought I had buried far deeper than they could deal with have come up. I can count 22 little shoots from what I think were 25 crowns. Something has cut off a couple of them (cutworms?) but the first of those has sent up another shoot so I expect they will be okay. The peas are forming pods, the fava beans look good, dill is every where, the summer squash are growing well (I took one out from under the row cover), parsley and basil, which had started very slowly, seem to be established, the kale and Swiss chard have been good, the spinach is finished although I have also planted a New Zealand type spinach and the ground cherries look good. Both the pole beans and the soybeans are troubled by something that snips off some of the growing tips - groundhog for the pole beans I suspect because the cuts are 4 to 6 inches above the ground. Weeds are developing nicely also. But that seems to be true even in bad years.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Some Things Are Discouraging

Maybe I am impatient. I planted potatoes on May 4th (two weeks ago) and don't see any sign of potato sprouts yet. The pieces of potato that I planted seemed in good condition and those several that I didn't cut into pieces should not have rotted if that is was happened to the others. I planted asparagus crowns April 29th (two and a half weeks ago) and don't see any sign of asparagus shoots. Admittedly the asparagus crowns really looked in bad shape - more like dry strings - but I know that 20+ years ago when I planted our current asparagus they didn't look like they had potential either. But I can't imagine that these asparagus crowns have the strength to send anything through six inches of soil. I looked at an article on asparagus several days ago and the advice of that article would have been to not buy asparagus crowns that looked like the ones I received.

For several weeks I have been disappointed in the growth of all the lettuce that I have planted. It just seemed to be very slow. And a few were disappearing. In fact, one group of six or eight seedlings that I planted in one spot were all gone several days later. I blamed slugs. Then, on Friday I discovered that almost all of my broccoli plants that were in three different locations had been chewed almost to the ground. My immediate thought was groundhog. But a few minutes later seven year old Julia next door called over that they had seen a deer jumping the fence from our yard into their yard that morning. So then I thought "deer". Saturday I went to the Regional Market to buy more broccoli and friends there didn't think that deer would eat broccoli. Sounded more like groundhog to them.
This morning every one of the twelve new broccoli plants was eaten to the ground. And the lettuce looks more chewed than stunted so I think those plants have been trimmed back by the groundhog also. And the parsley that I planted out recently has been cut back.
We used to have a ground hog living under our shed until I put hardware cloth around the base of the shed and down into the ground. No problem for a number of years. Last year there seemed to be one episode of severe damage to the brussels sprouts. I was also told that there was a ground hog living a couple of houses away under a shed. This year the damage seems to be daily. I am pretty sure that fencing will not work unless it is fairly high and set about a foot into the ground. The fence that I have around part of the garden to discourage rabbits certainly hasn't and won't stop a determined ground hog.
Now I am afraid to plant out the warm weather vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers) for fear that some (or all) of them will be delightful treats for the ground hog.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Some Early Mistakes

The gardening year is young but I have already discovered a few things I do that need to be changed:
(1) In early March (the 14th to be exact) I seeded the area within a wooden frame that has a glass cover with various kinds of lettuce, some Swiss chard, and some other greens. While they all germinated germination and growth was very slow. I did much better with seed that I started indoors and transplanted outside later. Having this frame in one of my beds also interfered with my ability to follow my garden plan because lettuce wasn't scheduled for that space. When I did remove the frame it fell apart so that will help not repeat this mistake.
(2) I still have a habit of using more seed than I need to. For example I may put four or five tomato seeds in a little pot. Generally they all germinate and I am loath to thin them out. But I only use as many pots as I want plants, so two seeds would be enough. But I am learning to snip off extra seedlings (or, at least, some of them). Outside I also tend to overseed. This all goes back to Jim Crockett saying something to the effect that if you are stingy with your pea seeds your peas will be stingy with you. Maybe that is true for peas in the early Spring but it doesn't seem to be necessary for all vegetables.
(3) I still set out seedlings too soon. Nice weather just doesn't mean that the soil is warm enough for little seedlings to flourish. And often I have not hardened them off long enough. So I am putting seedlings that are too small and not properly prepared into the garden before the soil (and sometimes the air) is warm enough. While they try hard to please me they would do better if I waited a couple of weeks more.

So that I don't feel totally full of mistakes, I am happy to say that I have actually begun using the row cover material that I bought last year. That year I put it over an area where I had just planted pak choi and Chinese cabbages seeds. (Flea beetles seem to love these plants.) But with the row cover there I did not water the seeds and germination was poor or many of the emerging seedlings dried up, but the number of plants was very small. And, they also had flea beetles anyway. This year I started the plants indoors and put the row cover over them immediately after planting, making sure that it was pretty well secured around the edges. They seem to be doing very well and we may be eating some of them in the next few days. So that looks like one success.

May there be more.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's Hard To Wait

Okay, so the cold weather vegetables have been planted and are growing nicely - especially with yesterday's gentle rain - and we aren't yet at "the average last frost date", but I can't wait to plant the warm weather vegetables. After all the 10th of May is only a few days away and with the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the weather is warmer and the newspaper doesn't show any cold nights in the immediate future, so why not get a jump? I planted my pole beans two days ago. I thought about planting the tomato seedlings but I have been "stung" before by planting tomatoes early only to have a frost seriously set them back. Anyway they are not actually big enough and haven't been hardened off enough. Not to mention that the spinach that occupies the bed where the tomatoes are supposed to go aren't even close to picking size. I guess I can wait until the 25th or the 30th.

Not that there hasn't been enough to do in the garden recently. Taking care of the seedlings indoor takes a certain amount of time especially because I started about 250 milkweed seedlings for a local nature center's fund raising plant sale. Boy will I be happy to deliver those. They have been ready to go for about three weeks and I have visions of them drying up for lack of space in their little containers.

I had this great garden plan all mapped out. Then we decided that the flower garden that was going to become part of the vegetable garden should remain in flowers. Since I then didn't have the place to transplant the pak choi and Chinese cabbages I just put them in a different bed. But that was where the new asparagus was supposed to go. And the little seedlings in the glass covered frame really didn't grow as quickly as I expected so that space remained tied up. [The seeds started indoors later that thos ein the frame have done much better.] I decided to scatter the cucmbers around the garden instead of putting them all in one place where pests could easily find them. Today I went out to see what I had put where and where I had empty spaces. Then I sat down and rewrote the plan around what I had already done. Somehow everything still fits. Part of the reason is that I cut way back on the number of tomato plants because Janet isn't supposed to eat tomatoes.

Right now the swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, zen (a green), new asparagus, peas, broccoli, garlic (some from October, some planted in April), new raspberries (and the dry little sticks are beginning to send out shoots), fava beans, scallions, potatoes, fennel, kale and leeks are in the garden. Plus a few nasturtiums as companion plants.

We ordered a number of new fruit plants - two cherry trees, two concord grapes, two more rhubarb, a currant, and a cranberry. The directions were to plant them within 8 hours. It took a little longer than that but they were all in the ground within 24 hours.

One thing I have done this year is cover some of the empty garden beds with compost. Then I can just plant seedlings through the compost. Will this keep down the weeds? Or will they grow even better with the compost. Another thing I have done is grow red clover among some of the larger plants - broccoli and kale and around the new raspberry - as a cover crop. I did scatter a little too much seed so they might crowd each other out.

I think this year I succeeded in using a row cover over the pak choi and Chinese cabbage. I started them indoors and then transplanted them and immediately covered them with the row cover material. They seem to be growing beautifully and not being eaten by little black bugs. Maybe I will try the same with the summer squash. I also started those indoors and they should be ready soon after the 15th of the month. Will that keep the squash vine borer off of them - at least until they flower and the cover needs to be removed?

I have been much better at record keeping this year. That also takes time. My planting schedule has been very helpful in keeping me doing what needs to be done. In the past there were always some things that didn't get planted because I didn't have a written schedule of what to plant when.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Nice Weather Again

We have had a string of cold or rainy days where it is too unpleasant to be in the garden. Today it was sunny and warmed up some.
It is still basically cleaning up and preparing time. I did get the cold frame out of the shed so that some of the seedlings can spend a little time beginning to harden off. They are otherwise ready to plant out. I did plant six little broccoli seedlings today and put small tables over them to keep the sun off until they get established. If they don't survive it would be no tragedy as I have more than enough to replace them. I usually use as many little pots as I want plants but put a number of seeds in each and end up with two to three times as many plants as I need.

For several years we have had the water level in the pond drop faster than it used to. We thought this was related to the amount of vegetation which has become established and which is transpiring water vapor into the air. But this year the loss of water was noticeable from the time we started the pump (March 27th) and could not have been because of the vegetation. The loss seemed to be more than last year so we began the search to find the problem. Clearly it wasn't in the pond itself because when the pump was off the water level there remained steady. The obvious first place to look was the "bog", which is a small area below the first falls where we arranged for some water to go off to the side and form a wet area, but still within the liner. Robins like that spot to gather mud for their nests. I looked around that area and didn't see any problem. I don't recall whether the pond pump was running at the time or not. But later events show that my search must not have been thorough. Next was to check where the pipe from the pump connected to the skimmer and to the bio-falls. It was easy to see that there was no problem at the skimmer end but the pipe to the bio-falls was a foot and a half below the surface so that took some digging. No problem there. Next was to uncover the entire length of the pipe. That also took some digging at the bio-falls end but not far from there the pipe was only a couple of inches below the surface. When we made the pond the pipe was laid on the surface of the ground and covered with some sod that we removed to make the pond and stream. There was no visible leak along the pipe. That left the stream that started at the bio-falls and went to the pond. I covered this with two large pieces of plastic so that the water (mostly) would run over the plastic and not the stream. My intention was to remove the lower piece of plastic later in order to see if the leak was in the upper part or the lower part. The problem was that having the water run over the plastic didn't seem to significantly reduce the loss of water. It was at about that time that Janet took a careful look at the bog and noticed that water seemed to be oozing over the liner along one edge of the bog. Turns out that was the problem. It has been three or four days since I pulled the liner higher and the water level is not dropping. Now why didn't I notice that when I looked at the bog? Would have saved a lot of work. Embarrassing.

So far what is actually in the garden are the lettuces and greens that I planted in the glass covered frame. With the exception of one row of lettuce everything there is coming along nicely. I planted spinach and peas and the spinach is coming up but no sign of the peas yet. It has been a while since I grew peas so I don't know how long it takes them to germinate. I did see one seed that was on the surface of the soil and was just beginning to germinate. I have been freezing some of last year's garlic and some of them had begun to sprout so I have planted those in the garden. They won't grow very large (the ones planted in October are growing quite nicely) and I have scattered them around the garden partly to help repel pests. I need to make a note to freeze the garlic a little earlier than April. Then today I set out the six broccoli. Most of the rest of the beds are covered with straw. I am working on sifting some compost out of my compost pile and dig in small amounts of that just before I plant.

Inside, the tomatoes are just beginning to germinate. Chinese cabbage and pak choi (both of which I have had trouble growing by starting in the garden) are up and growing under the lights. A lot of my indoor space is currently occupied with milkweed seedlings being grown for Monarch butterfly gardens.

The three rain barrels in the garden area are set up and full and with the pond not needing so much water this year I should not lack for water for the garden.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's Too Nice To Do Nothing

Yesterday was sunny. Today I am tired and sore. There is a relationship.

It is a little early to plant although I wouldn't be surprised if people have already planted spinach and peas and other early spring vegetables. My soil certainly can "be worked". I'm thinking of planting peas tomorrow and maybe spinach. I looked in the "lettuce frame" today and see that the broccoli raab is beginning to emerge along with one of the lettuces.

But, yesterday was a clean-up day. I have a three part composter (I believe the plan came from Crockett's Victory Garden) that receives garden waste and those kitchen scraps that don't go to the composting worms in the cellar. I used to make compost fairly quickly when I could layer the garden stuff with my neighbor's newly mown grass. But most people mulch their grass these days and if the grass is really growing nicely it means that chemical additives are likely creating the lushness and that is something we don't want in the vegetable garden. So I no longer experience that early spring joy of a steaming compost pile. I still get compost, it just takes a lot longer. But one job yesterday was to break up the accumulated flower and vegetable stalks from last fall and move everything to two of the three sections. That job didn't quite get finished because the material in the lower half of the soon-to-be-empty section is still frozen.

I also spread straw over most of the vegetable garden beds. My son left behind the better part of two bales of straw (from the cob oven he constructed in the back corner of the yard) last fall and I used those. I have read several sources recently that strongly suggest not leaving any part of your garden uncovered.

My son also collected more bricks than he needed for his oven. Actually he used some of the bricks that I had lining the sides of my raised beds for the oven and brought in others that he gave me to replace those. I spent some time on my hands and knees replacing the bricks that he had removed.

We are removing the yellow raspberries that we have in the garden and planting another variety. I spent some time - on my hands and knees again - digging around some of the stumps and pulling them out.

Three days ago I set up two of our rain barrels and they both filled during the rain the next day. I have three more to set out. The purpose for the rain barrels is to provide non-chlorinated water for the garden and for the two ponds. One of our ponds has a circulating pump (not yet started up for the season) with the water then running down a stream bed to the pond, the other pond has no circulation. Toads gather in our ponds at mating time and lay their eggs. One year we saw thousands of our tiny, tiny toads develop and then leave the pond to seek their fortunes. But then recently we have seen eggs, tadpoles, and then nothing. One year we believe that grackles ate the tadpoles. But we also believe that they may be sensitive to chlorine and that when we add water from our faucet to the ponds we may be killing them. This year will be a test. If we see lots of little toads hopping away from our ponds it will suggest that the chlorine was the problem.
Anyway, one of my knees is sore, my back was stiff, and one wrist felt weak. Today is a day to rest up so I can wear myself out again tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Nice Days for a Nice Beginning; The First Frog

Yesterday (Saturday, March 14th) and today were very nice days - in or close to the 50s in temperature and sunny. Yesterday I planted lettuce, zen (a very nice green), broccoli raab, and swiss chard outside in a wooden enclosure with a glass top. This had been sitting in one of the garden beds all winter in the hope that some lettuce seed that I planted in late October would begin to grow. Several previous years I started lettuce in September and had seedlings to transplant into this bed and they would grow for a while, sit there all winter, and then start growing again in the spring so that we had edible lettuce in April. But last year I was too late (back injury). The soil in that enclosure was warm and certainly ready to work yesterday and so I expect that the seeds that I just planted will germinate and grow.

Today I turned under the winter rye that I had planted in one bed last September and then I moved inside to start broccoli, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, parsley and chamomile. Back on the 5th I started leeks and scallions and they have already germinated and are under the lights in the cellar.

I am trying to do much better this year in keeping records of what I start (including the variety), when, and when the seeds germinate and when I plant them out. Hopefully at the other end I will record when harvesting begins and ends. That is where I have been really weak and so I never know when to expect the first tomato or other vegetable.

Other than one frog that slid across the ice on the pond three days ago when we pulled out the pipe that we used to allow gases to escape, we saw the first intentionally appearing frog today. So one, at least, of the 12 to 15 frogs that we had last year made it through the winter. We have also seen one that didn't. Since our frogs were not mature enough to produce tadpoles we needed the adults to make it through the winter. No adults survived the 2007-2008 winter so as far as our yard was concerned they were on the brink of extinction. So now we need only one of a sex different from the one that appeared today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

At Long Last

This has been a very long winter because it started in November and any break - like a January thaw - was pretty weak and short. But on March 1st I noticed that our pussy willow was showing the end of winter. Little fuzzies were beginning to emerge from the buds. And at the Edible Gardening meeting on February 28th several people reported having seen their first red winged blackbird. When I was a kid I always looked for the first robin as a sign of spring but some robins stay around during the winter. My wife's records for 2001-2008 show sightings of robins in all months of the year, although not necessarily every year. The numbers are less in the winter than the rest of the year, but they are here. But apparently the appearance of the red winged blackbird is a sure sign.

Another hopeful sign is that the dawn is noticeably earlier and dark noticeably later as the days pass.

So it is time to prepare for outdoor gardening. I am setting up a table in the cellar with fluorescent lights above for starting more seedlings than I have in the past. I think I have washed (and rinsed with a little bleach) enough little pots and six packs for all the edibles that I want to start, along with a lot of milkweed in connection with my wife's Monarch butterfly garden activities. [I never knew that Monarch butterfly larva only eat milkweed. No milkweed, no Monarchs.]

All my seed packets have arrived now - from four different sources. By the time I get them started the snow will be gone from the garden and the soil will be workable and it will be warm enough to be out there. I hope to see lots of other people doing the same.

Friday, January 30, 2009

My 2009 Planting Schedule

This is my planting schedule for this year. Obviously dates may vary depending on the condition of the soil, temperature, etc., so these are really my guidelines for the year. Some guideline is better than wondering each day what should be done in the garden. The "d" refers to days to germination. The (T) indicates that seedlings are being planted. The x" shows the distance between plants.

March 15 Indoor
Broccoli (6d )
Chamomile (need light)
Leeks (10-12d) 6” pots
Lettuce (6d)
Parsley (11d)
Parsnips(?) (17d)
Scallions (9d)

April 1 Indoor
Basil (7d)
Chinese Cabbage
Cucumbers April 15 in peat pots
Fennel, bulb
Ground cherries (14d)
Marigolds (6d)
New Zea Spinach scratch and soak first
Pak choi (?)
Peppers (18d)
Tomato (7d)

April Outdoor
Broccoli (T ) 4-30 18” Tolerates shade, interplant lettuce, cutworm collars
Claytonia 4-30
Dandelion (5d) 4-8 6-8” Tolerates shade
Fava beans 4-1
Garlic 4-30 4-5”
Leeks (T) 4-30 6” Partial shade, in trench
Lettuce (+T) 4-1 8” Tolerates shade
Pak Choi (+T) 4-15 (covered) 6”
Parsley (T) 4-30
Parsnips (+T) 4-30 Tolerates shade, seed into garden in late May, in cones.
Peas 4-1 Partial shade, in 3” x 6” trench
Potato 4-15 12” Full sun, acid soil
Scallions (T) 4-15, 4-30 Full sun
Spinach 4-1 (or earlier) Tolerates shade, New seed
Swiss chard 4-30 12”
Zen 4-10, 4-30

May 15 Outdoor

Basil (T) 5-15
Chinese cabbage (T) 5-30
Cucumbers (T) 5-30 Full sun, under black plastic
Cucumbers 5-15 Prepare area
Dandelions 5-15
Edamame (6d) 5-25 Full sun
Fennel, bulb (T) 5-15 12” Full sun
Ground cherry (T) 5-15 24” Full sun
Lettuce 5-15, 5-30
New Zealand Spinach 5-30 Transplants
Pepper (T) 5-30 12” Full sun, cut worm collars
Pole beans (5d) 5-15 (if warm) Full sun
Scallions 5-20
Squash, summer 5-15 Full sun
Swiss chard 5-15 12” Tolerates shade
Tomato (T) 5-15 3’ Full sun, eggshells
Zen 5-15, 5-30

Broccoli 6-1
Chinese Cabbage 7-1 (covered) 12” Partial shade
Collards 7-15 6”=18”
Cucumbers 7-1 Direct sow
Garlic 10-1
Kale 6-20 1”=8” Cover until germination
Spinach 7-4 1”=3”=6” Tolerates shade
Summer Squash (2) 7-1
Zen 6-15, 7-1

Marigolds go with beans, potato, tomato.
Nasturtium go with broccoli, cucumber, kale, squash.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Not As Much Fun As Gardening

As a joint initiative toward straightening up the cellar and preparing for this year's garden I have spent a couple hours the past three days cleaning the little pots, six-packs and trays that I use for starting plants from seed. In addition to vegetables I will also be trying to germinate a lot of milkweed for Monarch Waystation distribution. As a result I need to clean a lot of pots and six-packs. I generally use little green 2-inch pots for vegetables and will use the six-packs for the milkweed (and maybe the marigolds and nasturtiums). Each tray will hold 36 pots or 8 six-packs.

I wash out the pots and six-packs with warm soapy water, trying to dump out any potting soil left from the last use first. After they have soaked for a couple of minutes I clean them out as best I can with my fingers and transfer them to a basin with warm water and a little clorox bleach. After that I set them on trays and let them dry for a day and then stack them up ready for use. It's not exciting but my hands are pretty clean when I am done.

I have space for two trays of seedlings under fluorescent lights in the cellar. But with the milkweed (and the increase in the variety of vegetables that I plan to start indoors) I will need to set up more space for more trays. That's one of the reasons to start cleaning up way in advance of the time (around March 15) when I actually start seed germination.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cover Crops

Rarely have I used cover crops. But almost everything I read recommends them either for enriching the soil or weed control. This past year I did plant winter rye in most of one bed. It grew thickly and quickly. Other than that I have left the garden beds empty for the winter. I have never planted a cover crop in the spring.

Now I see that there are cover crops that can be planted in the spring and turned under in the summer so that a fall crop can be planted in the same bed. One recommendation for a spring cover crop is buckwheat. There are also cover crops that can be planted in the summer and turned under in the fall. One source recommended sweet clover. Annual rye can be planted in the late summer and turned under the next spring. It apparently does not survive the winter and I am not sure why it would be preferable to winter rye. The only recommendation of winter rye I have found is in Rodales All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening where it is listed for late summer or fall planting. That book also lists annual ryegrass for spring planting where other sources list is only for fall. I believe I planted annual ryegrass one year and it did not do well.

I need to make a note to dig the winter rye under in early spring - probably about the same time as the garden is ready for spinach and other early spring crops.

Winter rye and buckwheat would be "green manure" as opposed to alfalfa or clover that are legumes and add nitrogen to the soil.

Soybeans are also listed as a green manure. I assume that means that when my soy beans have been harvested I should dig the plants into the soil as opposed to adding them to my compost pile. Or do I dig the roots into the soil and put the rest of the plant in the compost pile? Another question to try to answer.

So now back to the garden plan to see what is appropriate to plant in the spaces that have been left for cover crops or that have only a spring or a fall vegetable crop.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Plan Early, Change Often

Planning the garden would seem essential to making really effective use of the available space. My past practice has been to plant whatever is ready to be planted in some open space. This sometimes means that short plants later end up in the shade of taller plants. And, if there is something to companion planting, with some plants next to incompatible plants. Sometimes I don't consider what will happen as plants grow. Last year, as an example, I planted the cucumbers on one side of a four foot wide bed and soybeans (edamame) on the other side. The cucumbers used the soybeans to climb on but the soybeans didn't benefit from this. I should have anticipated that.

This year I had a plan complete in late December. But then we chose a few new crops; I read a little more about companion planting; read that the winter rye in the bed where I planned to plant potatoes in mid-April needed to be dug in for a month before planting; and then we decided to dig out the asparagus after the 2009 harvest. These changes required re-planning the garden. I also wanted to be able to just rotate the beds north one bed at a time each year. That meant making sure that I didn't plant something like tomatoes in the same location in two different beds such that tomatoes one bed didn't rotate in the next year or two to a place where tomatoes had already grown. [I have trouble with leaves wilting and plants being less productive.] So now I have my second detailed plan for this year. Since I have already ordered seeds perhaps I won't have to change the plan again.