Each winter I sketch out my Potager plan. Each year I try to add at least one new vegetable or flower. I often end up adding several because I am very ah, let’s just say, enthusiastic about gardening. When I sketch “the plan” (I say that somewhat loosely because all good plans fall apart somewhat with shovel in hand), I have a companion planting chart I downloaded from the web as well as Louise Riotte’s book, Carrots Love Tomatoes. Aside from trying to rotate my families, i.e. Curcurbitaceae, Brassicaceae, I also try to plant friends with friends. It is good brain exercise and I use pencil because it is erasable – rarely do I get everything just right the first draft. Last fall I prepared a special bed because I plan to introduce asparagus to the Potager. I moved one of my support structures to accommodate the new (perennial) asparagus bed. I also moved some of the makeshift tomato cages because I had some idea of where the tomatoes would end up this year. Here is my sketch for 2013. (See previous year here.)
Somewhere I would like to add a “surprise bed,” an idea I came across reading. A surprise bed is where you might put any volunteers from the compost or other areas of the garden to let them mature and see what they become. In 2012, surprise!, ornamental gourds grew from what looked like squash seedlings.
What’s on the new-to-try-list this year? Amaranth, kohlrabi, celeriac, shallots. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten kohlrabi – all the better to try it. We just received a celeriac root in our “healthy box,” (details of which I will save for another post). Their root isn’t very pretty so I won’t have any hesitation in digging one up. Cubed, boiled, smashed with garlic and some butter and broth, a dollop of plain greek yogurt, sea salt and pepper … this celeriac tasted delicious! I dare say I may prefer it to potatoes.
Because I have been growing vegetables for a few years now, this year I also sat down and went through all my seeds. Anything from 2010-2011 I added to my compost. There are ways you can test for seed germination, for example, by placing the seeds on a moist paper towel in a sealed plastic bag. Me, I will see what unplanned surprise comes out of the compost. Then I determined what my staples are such as KALE, and made sure I had enough of those seeds. Then I wrote down what I would like to try (the new-to-try-list).
I’ve limited (ha!) myself to ordering from three seed companies. Over the past few years I have discovered some great seed companies in my area of the country so I try to stick to those that are closer to my location instead of ordering from a company in Oregon or California (although there are some really great ones). I also tend to order from seed companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge, who are committed to growing and sustaining non-genetically modified seeds. I have gone through and compared each item that I want among my chosen three and compiled a list. Ideally I would have liked to already ordered. Hopefully the items on my list, especially asparagus and potatoes, haven’t already sold out – there would go that plan.
The cold frame is still green – amazing given our below zero temperatures. This is what I’ve gained from my experimentation so far. I planted too late, just as I suspected, because I think nothing is actually going to grow during the cold winter months. If I would have had more mature plants coming into December and January, I could slowly harvest the lot during the winter. As it is now, I can hope for a very early spring crop of spinach, kale and other cold hardy greens. They will start growing again in March I think.
This post reminded me to start sprouts … be right back. There, I’ve started some sprouts. I especially love a toasted hummus sandwich packed with sprouts. I could make one right now, place my seed orders, go over my plan again. Knowing that when spring is in the air, and the birds are singing, and I dig into that fresh dirt that I’ll become feverish, disillusioned – I have way more space – over zealous – I can squeeze in a few more plants right here … I’ll follow most of my plan, but the rest? It’ll go to seed!