Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Getting started on the garden

So I finally got some seed started a couple of days ago. I decided to go the lazy route this year and buy a seed starter tray. It's the type with the compact, netted soil discs that you add water to. All of the tomatoes that I'm doing this year are heirloom varieties that I'm carrying over from last year. I'm also starting some peppers from seed that I got from last year. Last year I harvested a perfect zucchini that I had planned to get the seeds from for this year's garden. It was about a foot and a half long and 3-4 inches in diameter. It mysteriously disappeared after I came home from a weekend camping trip while I was letting it dry out. The wife likes to throw away anything that's not nailed down when she goes on her little cleaning sprees. Apparently she thought that it had gone bad because it had been sitting out for a week. Gotta love having a wife that normally tolerates everything but isn't on board.

Anyway, the plan is to fill my planters with the normal fare. I have four 4x4 planters that I've been using for the last few years. One gets filled with peppers. Another gets filled with radishes, turnips, carrots, etc. Another gets filled with lettuce and the last one with summer squash. I usually try to fit a couple of bush bean plants in each box. I rotate what goes in which box every year. I've tried tomatoes but they usually do horribly in the planters with the exception of a yellow pear tomato plant that I did one year. That's one of the tomato varieties that I'm going to try to carry over this year. My peppers don't usually do very well in the planters, either. Of course last year my shi-tzu decided that he liked the taste of young pepper plants and ripped into them. That only happened once. This year I might try planting them in another spot.

On the other side of the yard, where I usually plant my tomatoes, I'll be attempting a couple of three sisters garden plots. I really don't want to grow sweet corn. It's just not worth the effort to me for a few ears. I'd rather do some type of popcorn or something that I can use for corn meal. Unfortunately, it's damn near impossible to find a retailer that sells anything but sweet corn. I'd also like to use an heirloom variety but, once again, anything but hybrid corn is impossible to find. I haven't been able to find any runner beans, either. Once again, I'd really like to use an heirloom variety but I can't find anything but bush beans. Fortunately, I've got plenty of squash varieties to play with. I've got a weird italian heirloom variety called cucuzzi that I'll be trying. I'll fill the rest out with delicata, acorn, butternut and buttercup. I'm tempted to try sprouting some store bought popcorn. If it sprouts then I'll just plant that. If any seed retailers want to send me some samples then I'll happily take them off of your hands and give you a plug. Email me at artyboy at gmail dot com.

I've also been doing some reading about sunchokes. Apparently, this is an edible weed that grows well in northern climates. It grows in any type of soil. It doesn't need very much water. It does a very good job of easily taking over other types of weeds. It does well in full sun or partial shade. Once it's established you don't have to pay much attention to it at all. Basically, it's a low maintenance edible that you'll have a heck of a time getting rid of if you ever decide to plant it. The plant itself is a type of sunflower. They grow to be 6-10 feet high. It isn't pretty. The flowers are small compared to the rest of the plant so you definitely want to plant them in a low traffic, out of the way corner of the yard. If you've got livestock the plants make excellent animal feed. The edible part for humans is the root. It's a tuber that's kind of like a cross between a water chestnut and a potato. It can be eaten raw or cooked in any way that you'd eat a potato. Some say that it's a natural cure for diabetes because of the types of sugars it contains. Do your own research on all of that if it interests you. Plant the bulbs a few weeks before the last frost of spring and harvest them after the first frost of fall after the plants die off. Only harvest what you're going to use. They stay good for a couple of weeks in the fridge but you can harvest them all winter if you leave them in the ground. Anyway, I've got the perfect spot for them. If you're going to grow them make sure that you can keep them contained. It's a weed so it will spread and you'll have a hard time getting rid of them once they've become established. They also cause gas with some people. They seem like a very good SHTF crop or even a guerilla garden plant. I'll report back with my results.


Anonymous said...

Living in an apartment, without a deck makes it challenging for me to grow any kind of a garden.

I have been thinking about just growing in 3-gallon containers that I can get from work. Their original use was for muffin mix. They are sqaure instead of round. This allows them to find on the ledge near a large window in my bathroom, which faces west,and gets pretty good light. Also it is humid in their,and the moister would be good.

I just need to figure out what to grow,and fast, the season is upon me.

The Urban Survivalist said...

Carrots, radishes and turnips are all great. Lettuces (especially leafy, spring mix types) are also good. I would imagine that bush beans could work. So could peas if you built a trellis for them. They've both got pretty shallow roots. Some varieties of tomatoes are bred for containers. The last few years I've been growing patio tomatoes to good effect. Herb gardens are pretty easy to grow inside. I have a small herb garden in my kitchen that just consists of a few small clay pots.

If I lived in an apartment and wanted to get into gardening I'd probably go a different direction than trying to make a container garden in my bathroom. You could talk to the management about planting containers on the roof. You could also ask about landscaping. I've seen people using things like squash and lettuces in their landscaping recently to good effect. You might also look into helping out in a community garden. There are a few of them in my area that I might go check out just to share some info about growing in my area. You could also try guerilla gardening if you have a suitable area nearby.

Anonymous said...

J. artichokes are an excellent choice in marginal areas, for a leave it alone Guerilla type approch.IMO. I don't regret putting them in. I simply mow them down if they are out of bounds. A buddy I passed a couple to loves them.
Popcorn from the grocery store has not done well at all when I tried it; spindly plants with small ears that did not pop well (hardley at all)--- "cute"-- tho'---- not worth doing except for the experience. C57