The Fall Garden: Decisions, decisions.

22 09 2008

Earlier this year, I ordered shallots and two kinds of garlic to plant this fall.  Now, the question is, giving my limited space and the fact they will not finish growing until midsummer next year, how much space do I really want to dedicate to shallots and garlic.

This gets back to the question about what to grow.  I use piles of garlic every year.  If I grew garlic successfully, there is no way it would go to waste.  At the same time, I garlic is relatively inexpensive.  Shallots, on the other hand, are not.  I’m not sure why shallots are so much more expensive than garlic, but I tend to stave off buying them except for holiday occasions.  I wish this was not the case.   Today I planted ten shallots in the space where the pak choi had been growing.   Each shallot should give me 6-10 new shallots.  As a result, if none of them spoil and all of them grow reasonably well, I should have 60-100 shallots next year.  That would be pretty darn good, even if I save several for seed.  In theory I might not have to buy shallots again!

The question, then, is what I do with the remaining half pound of shallots and the two packages of garlic that I have.  The tomatoes will be coming out, and I could plant two rows of something there.  I also want to take out one row of chard, which would give me three rows.  The question is whether I want to dedicate that much of next year’s gardening space to garlic and shallots.  I’m going to wait another week or so before I start ripping things out.  Decisions, decisions.

On a happy note, back in March and again a few months later, I put down a couple of inches of composted horse manure.  When I turned the soil before putting the shallots in, I was very pleased with the condition of the soil.


Too much food.

17 09 2008

Due to two trips and a recent family crisis, I have been largely away from the garden and away from the blog.  Now, once again, I find myself with TOO much fresh food.    I had given the chard a serious trim two weeks ago, pulling out what amounted to 1 1/2 lbs of JUST leaves…no stems, but due to various life events, it ended up going to waste.  Today, I gave it another “trim”, and this is what I pulled out:

That ended up being two pounds of leaves after all the stems were removed.  That will make A LOT of ravioli.  I have started the process, and I will write about it tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I have had more tomatoes than I could have imagined, even from the now-recalled Dirt Sack.  The fall garden, which I haven’t really written about, also is growing MUCH faster than anticipated, so I have an unexpected bounty of pak choi that must be eaten soon.

All this from such a small space.  It kinda blows my mind.

What a treat.

23 07 2008

I had a perfect storm of family and friends in town over the last week. As a result, I spent minimal time in the garden. When I went by today, this beauty was waiting for me. There’s not much more to say.

How to make a small space actually produce enough food to make it worthwhile.

14 07 2008

I think the key to make gardening in small spaces it to choose smallish, high value plants that you can plant repeatedly throughout the year. In other words, if you have a 10X10 plot, zucchini is not exactly going to be your cash crop. It takes up a lot of space for a lot of time, and it doesn’t produce a lot of variety.

According to Steve Solomon, the top ten most valuable crops based on approximate value per square foot of garden per amount of time that the area will be growing the crop are herbs, carrots, beets, parsnips, lettuce, scallions, spinach, kale, swiss chard, and leeks. I believe him.

If you’re a home cook, not having to pay for herbs is invaluable. Even better, most herbs can be used throughout the year, either fresh or in dried form. In my personal experience, you can get a huge bang for your buck from swiss chard. Once established, you can cut the outer leaves off month after month. The plants regrow leaves at an astonishing rate. I have 12 chard plants, and they have provided me with a truly absurd stream of chard. This photo was taken AFTER harvesting a giant bunch of chard.

I think the other key is to have a plan such that once one vegetable has finished, you have another ready to seed in that spot. I started out this spring with loads of spinach. Once the spinach finished up, I put in tomatoes and carrots where it had been. Both my shelling peas and snow peas finally finished up, and I just replanted the area with pole beans, basil, and kale.

My general plan has been to provide myself with a steady stream of food throughout the spring and early summer. Now, I can still enjoy lettuce and chard while the beans and tomatoes kick into gear. This is also the time of year when many of the crops that I don’t have space to grow start showing up in the farmers’ markets. I pile up on the cucumbers, zucchini, and everything else that I just don’t have space for. Meanwhile, I am getting my fall garden into place with kale, brussels sprouts, more lettuce, spinach, and leeks. I transplanted my fall leek bed yesterday. I’ve never done this before, so I hope it works!