Nothing portends the coming food growing season for most folks quite as well as finding the mailbox stuffed with new seed catalogs. Ours have been coming since early December. Though their arrival tells us we have a whole host of things to start doing to get ready for the coming year, food growing for us is really a year round endeavor and each month something involving the garden is going on.
On the topic of seed catalogs, virtually all the major seed suppliers have both a printed catalog as well as an online version and if you aren’t getting their catalog in your mailbox they make it easy for you to request one by going to their website and filling out a request form. Yes, even though we store the bulk of our own seed each year we still order seed to maintain a greater genetic diversity in our seed stores against the time when we won’t be able to order seed. We also like raise some hybrids and it’s always fun to experiment with some new varieties each year.
You may want to do some research and make sure your supplier isn’t supporting GMO seeds, and no, hybrid seeds are not the same thing as GMO seeds. You owe it to yourself and the integrity of our future seed stores to get educated on this topic.
I have reached the point in life if I don’t write it down it didn’t happen. I used to write an annual garden evaluation, after each years harvest was stored, to document how that garden went but I always seemed to forget the little things and they would come back to bite me in the ass the next season. Anymore I just keep a running garden log, jotting things down as they happened and then condense that into one cohesive document, usually in November.
This garden review document forces me to think about what I did, what worked, what went wrong and what I might do better the next time. It also helps me keep track of what needs to be done each year.
To make managing the myriad tasks of a new season a little easier we break them down into groups sorted by month. This grouping isn’t ironclad because life and mother nature both have their own tempos and there is not much we can do to alter the natural rhythm of things.
Before we get to the next garden we actually have several tasks from last years garden, mainly the sorting of our bulk storage checking for rot and making sure the things we are overwintering are holding up well. Some of them are…
Rotating the potatoes out of their bins and checking each one for rot and sprout. Normally we would store our spuds in trenches in the garden but we got concerned about them freezing with the low temperatures we had the first part of December and moved them to inside storage. We still have around 500 lbs of viable spuds though the reds don’t seem to be holding as well this year and except for what is being kept for seed, will have to be used up or tossed by the end of the month.
We wipe each of our squash and pumpkins down with a rag dampened with a vinegar solution. This helps keep molds and rot from forming on them. Some of the ones that were starting to rot had their seeds pulled for drying, sorting, cataloging and storage. With nearly two hundred fifty left we won’t be running out any time soon.
The last couple dozen eggplants got tossed on the compost pile. I don’t know why we even bother to grow the damn things, we hardly ever eat any and end up tossing the bulk of them out each year.
Each of the onion strings got felt up checking for any that have started to go bad, it’s a simple matter to clip out the bad ones and we don’t have rot spreading to all the others the way we store them.
Our carrots and beets being held over for seed growing this year are sleeping along in their boxes of sand. A light misting of water all that’s required.
Somehow some of our drying chili peppers have started to mold and need to be tossed. They were a heavy fleshed pepper and I can just about guarantee it’s my fault for not making sure I opened them up enough to dry adequately. We also take the time to collect dried seeds from some of our other peppers. I may have mentioned this before but subjectively, we have greater viability when we let our pepper seeds dry in the pod versus harvesting them out of fresh peppers.
Put a fork in ’em, they’re done, the last of the tomato plants we hung up to let the green fruit ripen need to be tossed, really should have been done a couple weeks ago but we like to eek out every bit of vine ripened tomatoes that we can. Now we are on stewed and frozen tomatoes for the rest of the year. (I have to admit to buying a fresh tomato now and again but it’s like eating colored cardboard compared to what we grow)
On to this years garden, we’ve actually been planning this years garden since the middle of last years garden as we evaluated what went well and what didn’t work but January sees us kick this years garden planning into high gear.
We will perform an audit of our seed stores and verify our seed counts against what our spreadsheet indicates we have. There will be heated discussions between my wife and I over what and how much of what we are going to grow. There will also be some tug ‘o war over what new things we would like to grow with each of us having our own preferences on what to grow in the space we have to try new things. We’ll also go through the tedious process of selecting which genetic strains will get used this year.
All the garden equipment will be pulled into the shop for a check out and some run time. I no longer winterize my engines and have instead opted to give them run time every two months with a shot of fresh fuel. I’ve done this for the last several years and everything fires up each time with only a pull or two on the starter rope. It looks like I need to order a new set of tines for the tiller. This is to replace the full set of spare tines I keep on hand, you never know when the opportunity to order a new set will be lost. This is also time to inventory replacement belts, parts and lubricant stores.
On the topic of inventory, life circumstances got in the way of completely taking down last years garden. I have thousands of feet of lines lying on the ground that I know will need to have the emitters replaced due to freeze damage, time to order in bulk.
Kind of boring stuff but part of the whole food growing effort.
Til next time
I owe all of you and especially foodgrower an apology. Several people have written asking he was on a winter hiatus (fancy word, huh?) or what. Nope, it wasn’t him, it was me.
He sent me an outstanding post a couple of months (yes, months) ago for posting, pictures and everything, all in PDF form.
I tried to post it and it didn’t take. I don’t know why – maybe I was screwing something up, maybe it was a glitch in the new version of wordpress that I had recently installed, maybe it was something in the theme that I use.
This was during the busy time of our year at work, plus I was looking at a restraining order hearing coming up so I put it off to the side to figure out later when I had a clear mind. It’s still sitting there, something I was going to try to get figured out and posted tomorrow now that shit’s calmed down.
I have to give foodgrower some props here. He never lost patience with me and for that I thank him. And I thank you for your patience also.