I’m a December baby, so yes I do love my winter season you probably know me, the nut job who wants to go out when everyone wants to stay home. I love driving in this weather cause in my location people stay home and then I’m usually the lone owner of the highways and byways. Then there is that wonderful delivery of spring and summer that just brightens my day. The seed catalogs came in the mail. Oh, the pages showing glorious blooms, brilliant fruits and the full spectrum of vegetables. While most are out to party give a kiss goodbye to 2010 and hello 2011. I’m at home planning the seeds of growth for 2011. It’s something I have enjoyed since I was thirteen, no I’ve never gone out in my life on New Years day and I don’t feel anything amiss about it either. As everyone is enjoying celebrations in the dark, I’m curled up under a throw in my recliner scouring pages with my notebook planning.
I’ve already inventoried my few remaining supplies, tools and the work that’s ahead. Yes, I know the catalogs are wasteful in this age of going green but I do recycle them. I have accounts online with each catalog company, Park, Burpee and Gurney’s the list goes on some 33 in all. I enjoy the assortment that you can’t find in some farmer’s markets or grocery stores. In 2009 doing 4 multiple rotations small-scale vegetable gardening I produced some $400 in estimated organic produce. I expanded it in 2010 to include varieties designed for container gardening and increased the gather/replant rotation to produce an estimated $1,000 in organic produce.
Now that’s a victory garden to go easy on the wallet in this economy. This year I want to up the scale and see if I can produce enough to last all throughout the year till next season. I’m gardening in the suburbs here a home with nothing more than 1.3 acres with a bed about 16 by 12 and containers. Michelle Obama is the smart lady touting the White House Garden but in reality the “Victory Garden” saved may Americans from starvation during the “Great Depression times” and a “World War”. It’s just now seen a revival as the effort to go local, organic and vegan is pressing forward this old moniker of the homegrown kitchen garden. Kitchen gardens was the survival staple to colonial America an essential element that provided everything from food to medicine.
I’m thinking about going edible landscape instead of azaleas in the front replace them with blueberry bushes and instead of planting boxwoods maybe pomegranate shrubs. I can see pulling down the English ivy and maybe growing hops for a little kitchen brewing. Now that’s the type of kitchen time I would enjoy sampling my work — umm homemade beer. I’m getting ahead of my self here as I don’t know how nor have ever brewed the nectar of the hops. An honorable practice dating back to ancient Egypt but gosh the possibilities are endless. Edible gardening is slowly sweeping now with a trend to go for a greener environment, as most ornamental plants require lots of watering.
Another garden staple is yanking out the drain spouts and go rain barrel or underground rainwater cisterns. I stopped to write this article and come to my senses cause I selected so much stuff my catalog browsing that the cost well large and the fact I don’t have hundreds of acres. A very addictive hobby I can hear the sighs and feel the eye’s roll gardeners the whole insane lot of them just out hoeing in the dirt. I guess a lot of people think we spend too much time baking our brains out in the sun as unwise instead of lounging by the pool but you can’t even eat let alone drink the water. So, huh!
If you think that you can’t grow organic veggies without a yard, so mistaken. My sister grew basil, tomatoes, bell peppers and squash out of pots on her apartment balcony just fine. The seed catalogs have a variety of selections just right for container gardening it just takes some planning. We did not buy a lot of stuff I used old cooking pans to grow my spring mix lettuces the local county dump/recycling center provided the compost and topsoil to make my own gardening soil mix free. An old storage container box with a broken lid was recycled for growing heirloom lemon cucumbers. I didn’t even use peat pots to start my seeds it was newspaper rolled into cups. The great thrill that a balcony grower will lack is cursing at grey squirrels and chipmunks as I did this past summer as they dug up carrots, radishes and went after my sweet peas. This year I’m prepared I’m ordering hot pepper plants to make my own hot rodent repellant and some salsa too.
I’ve included the best three seed catalog websites for the novices and I recommend one book on container gardening book from Nicholas Garden Nursery “The Bountiful Container” if not available at your local library. It’s the best one around with so many to choose. I only wished it was available when I first started with box planters at my parents city apartment some twenty-five years ago, before container hybrids. The easiest to start for a container is chard, peas, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers and eggplant. High yield vegetables in containers go with cherry or plum tomatoes, zucchini or patty pan squash and yes there is mini blueberry bush variety called sunshine. Also, those great kitchen herb kits you may have gotten for Christmas even the Chia herb kit. Funny, I remember the first time Chia Pets came out and failed miserable for me.
For the seasoned gardener with some serious beds this January the list is long isn’t it. Harvesting (winter cabbage, rutabaga, celeriac, parsnips, leeks, endive, Brussels sprouts, kale, winter radishes, Jerusalem artichokes, sprouting broccoli, and winter cauliflower. The tough jobs are winter pruning, sweetening the soil with manure or compost, cleaning pots/seed trays and starting seeds indoors. It’s worth it for the stress relief to watch those seedlings sprout I hope I’m not the only one who shouts at me seedlings “Grow My Children Grow!” which is kind of wrong since I do plan on eating them. I must come with another catch phrase that doesn’t sound so cannibalistic in the end.
This year as there is a hint of concern about e-coli in commercial grown sprouts. I plan on growing an array of them for gourmet salads and sandwiches; alfalfa, broccoli, mung bean, spring wheat, garbonzo bean, lentil, adzuki and fenugreek. Estimating $1500 in organic produce this year not that I’m producing more but better gourmet quality like portabella and shitake mushrooms. Then oriental greens such as mizuna and rhubarb, chard or kohlrabi. Don’t forget fruits like blueberries, pomegranate, strawberries and goji berries all while anticipating rising food costs.
Here is the breakdown I still have seed left over from last year for every $16.00 in seeds pending a poor harvest (bad weather and pest infestations) you get a return of $250 or a good season $400. Just think I was giving a few items away so if I do go overboard this year, you might see me at a farmer’s market one day selling blueberries now my azaleas have never done that for me before! Want to go even cheaper and find great treasures use your search engine to find seed exchanges. Thousands of garden enthusiasts trading seeds and plants around the U.S. some even retiring form gardening happy to offer them to you for free you just pay the postage. I wish ever gardener out there novice or seasoned green thumb a Happy New Years of Greener Resolutions for 2011!