Monday, February 27, 2012

Getting the Garden Ready

I am so excited for Spring this year!  My poor garden really suffered from my pregnancy last year, and I can't wait to get my hands (and baby Mikey's) dirty this summer!

Right now, I'm planning what I'd like to grow and Mark is plotting a compost pile.  Thankfully, we have a wasteless friend without a garden, who set up and has been maintaining a worm compost system in her basement since the fall to help rejuvenate our tired soil.  It's a pretty amazing contraption which I'd like to learn more about and post on in the future...

I generally order my staple plants and seeds from Burpee and then supplement with a few "test" plants I'll find at a farmer's market, the Depot (Home, that is) if they actually have something that looks worthy, or the New Jersey Master Gardener's Plant Sale at Rutgers in May. 

My staple plants are the veggies that we eat all the time:
-Raspberries.  I got a stem from the Depot about 10 years ago and then two more from my in-laws (apparently a family heirloom) about 5 years ago that fruit on different schedules (not planned) and seem to do really well in our yard.  We eat them fresh, frozen, and I make jelly out of them, too.
-Tomatoes.  I order the plants from Burpee--I haven't had much success with the seeds for some reason.  I really like their heirloom mix package which has some really great varieties and is just our size (4 plants).  I've grown the heirloom mix at least 4 times and they do really well every year--even two years ago I had a HUGE haul when the rest of the eastern seaboard wasn't getting any tomatoes!  I definitely can my tomatoes, which I showed you how to do in this post (LINK).
-Cucumbers.  I grow the cucumbers from seed--it's just as easy.  This year I'm trying a bush variety, as the vines haven't really done so well for us, and Burpee says they're a great container option.  When I get a good cucumber crop, I make refridgerator pickles from my grandmother's recipe in addition to eating them fresh.
-Herbs.  There are rosemary and sage "bushes" that come up every year for us, and then I plant basil and cilantro.  I usually plant both from seed (start them indoors and then transfer outside), but last year I just bought the plants since I wasn't feeling well (and hadn't figured out why yet).  I actually plant so much basil that my husband has dubbed a section of the garden "Basil City".  I make basil pesto continually through out the summer and fall (learn how in this post LINK), and if I have any spare cilantro that I won't have time to use fresh I'll make a puree out of it and a tiny bit of oil and freeze it or refridgerate it until I can use it.  It's great.
-Peppers.  I usually get two bell pepper plants and two hot pepper plants--one chili for drying and one jalapeno.  Hot peppers do especially well in our garden for some reason...
-Eggplant.  2-3 plants depending on the variety.  I go for purple bulbous varieties.  Not into the white ones or the skinny asian varieties for some reason.
-Lettuce.  I get seeds, and usually go with Burpee's heat wave blend.  Our garden gets a lot of sun, and I like lettuce in the summer (typically lettuce likes it a bit cooler so spring and fall are high-lettuce periods) so the heat wave blend works well for us.  To save space, I plant it between the tomatoes--it helps to shield the lettuce in the summer from the sun, and allows them to get all the sun they need in the spring while the sun isn't as strong yet.  As I harvest my lettuces, I'll plant more so that we have a continuous harvest.
-Squash.  I have both started from seed and plant--just depended on my mood and what was available.  Because our garden is relatively small, I can only do one squash plant per year so I rotate.  Last year we had zucchini, so this year I'll probably do butternut or some other winter squash, and next year I'll probably do pumpkin.

My test plants are fun things I'd like to try.  Sometimes I plan it and sometimes I'll just come across something randomly.  Here are some things I've done in the past, and some I'd like to do in the future:
- Thai Basil
- Bush beans of some type
- Melons
- Pumpkins
- Lemon Basil
- Leeks
- Kohlrabi
- Spinach

I'll be starting the seeds soon, and I'll try to get some good photos for a tutorial. 

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