I am a man that believes in insurance so I invest in many different kinds; auto, boat, house, life, and food insurance come immediatly to mind. Yes food insurance and the way things are today with the Kung Fu Virus I am starting to wonder what will happen with food availability in the future. Well no worries, as I invest in food insurance by growing approximately 80% of our yearly need of vegetables in our garden.
I have written an article or two about this subject in the past and am being told to do it again by the good Lord. What I am going to share works for us in our area. I live in zone 5 which means that the last frost for my area is around May 21st. Nobody in my area plant above ground seedling’s till Memorial Day weekend because we have experienced frost up to that date. Just look at the photo header taken this past Saturday morning at 0700 hrs eastern.
Below ground vegetables like, carrots rutabagas, beans, etc can be planted around the end of April here. I reserve my raised beds, which I have three for early lettuce and radish crops because the raised beds soil is warmer and if there is going to be a frost I can cover those beds easily. The above mentioned vegetables I sow directly in the soil but because my farming season is so short, I start above ground seeds inside typically around St. Patrick’s Day.
I only use heirloom seeds and keep seeds from one year to the next. Folks in our group trade same specie seeds every year to keep the strain vibrant. I start out growing inside with tomato seeds then move to sweet peppers. The peppers seem to take the longest to germinate. Once I have those seeds started I move to cucumbers – Pickling and salad of course. I found the easiest way to start the seedling’s is to poke a hole is foam egg cartons, add potting soil, and place 1 to 2-seeds in each nook then cover with a light layer of soil. Then put the egg cartons in plastic trays under my growing lamps with cellophane over to keep the soil warm and moist which acts as a mini hot-house. Depending on variety, the seedling will start to show themselves after 7 to 14-days. Once the seedlings have sprung from the soil I remove the cellophane from the plants.
Once the seedlings have lost their baby leaves I transplant the seedlings into Solo cups. I do not know why but the plants like the Solo cups to grow in. I keep the cups year after year so I get my moneys worth. The bottom of the Solo cups I perforate with my pen knife so they drain. Once the seedlings have 2-sets of leaves I only water the plants from the bottom. Since I have perforated the bottom of the cups I keep about 1/2-inch of water in the pan and they self water themselves. Doing this helps to develop a great root system. By the beginning of May, I move my trays of plants to a makeshift green house outside. At night I have an electric heater that has a thermostat to keep the temperature in the green house at around 68 degrees F. By mid May I do not use the heater anymore and allow the plants to harden.
While this is going on I get the garden and raised beds ready for planting. In early April I rototill the garden. Once tilled I clean out the manure from the chicken coop. The manure collected in April is just enough to spread around the garden and till into the soil. Depending on the weather I hand turn the soil in the raised beds and toss my lettuce, radish, cilantro, and dill seeds onto the soil. The seeds are followed with a light raking to set the seeds. By Memorial Day we start to have fresh salads. If frost is predicted it is very simple to drag an old sheet over the plants to protect them.
Right after I plant my salad seeds, I plant potatoes and rutabaga seeds. I use the tire method for the potatoes to make taking care of them a lot easier. The rutabaga seeds get planted about 6-inches apart and 1/2-inch deep. Then I cover the rutabaga seeds with two sheets of 50# 48″x 8′ newsprint paper with slits in the paper to match up with each row of rutabaga seeds planted.
Many folks use the black planting cloth for their gardens to minimize weeds. It works great however, it is expensive and although all the manufactures claim it lasts for up to 5-years – It doesn’t. Well at least not for me. Instead I use 50# sheets of newsprint paper 48-inches wide and cut to 8-foot lengths doubled up. This means you are putting down 100-weight paper. It last all season and gets tilled into the soil in the fall where it disintegrates over the winter.
When I first started raising vegetables in earnest about 2012, I used the book Maximizing Your Mini Farm by Brett Markham to guide me. Very good book for beginners and experienced folks alike. Once I started to save seeds from one season to the next I bought Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. Both great books.
I plant my garden in 4’x8′ plots with 2′ between each plot. I plant my garden based on a plan. I do this so there is separation between like plants so they do not cross pollinate. I have records from year to year and I try not to plant the same vegetable in the some plot for 3-years to minimize mineral depletion and bug larva to congregate in the soil for that is particular vegetable. To keep the weeds at bay between each plot I run a 18″ walk behind rototiller several times a season usually in July and August.
If the summer is a dry one and especially during the sprouting of seed directly sowed into soil period, I water the garden using two lawn sprinklers. I wait to water the garden till an hour after dusk so the water doesn’t evaporated as quick by the sun as would happen during the day.
Off to the side of my big garden I have another one that is 20’x20′ that I use for asparagus and herbs. It is partly shaded during the day in the summer which helps with the more delicate plants.
This year I am growing the following,
- Amish paste (2 plots)
- Brandy Wine (1 plot)
- German (1 plot)
- Cherry (1 plot)
- Rutabaga (2 plots)
- Yellow Summer (1 plot)
- Zucchini (1 plot)
- Acorn (winter 1 plot)
- Butternut (Winter 1 plot)
- Potatoes (Yukon Gold 1 plot eight tires 4 high)
- Pickeling (1/2 plot)
- Salad (1/2 plot)
- Bush Beans (2 plots)
- Cheese (1 plot)
- Jack O’ Lantern (1 plot)
- Sweet Peppers (1 plot)
- Basil (1/2 plot)
- Hungarian hot peppers (1/2 plot)
- Watermelon (1 plot)
In the raised beds
- Mixed greens
- Strawberry’s (New This Year)
- Jalpanio Peppers
In the herb garden
- Asparagus (new)
All vegetables bolded are from the previous years vegetable harvested seeds.
The last thing I want to cover is a fence. Our main garden has a 3-strand electric fence surrounding it. One of the strands is about 4-inches off the ground. This seems to keep the rabbits and deer out but not the chickens. For the chickens I use 36″ high plastic poultry netting. This seems to do the job nicely. The herb garden has 48-inch galvanized fencing surrounding it.
With the Kung Fu Virus now part of all our lives I truly believe that everybody needs to grow a Victory Garden. The mistakes learned this year will benefit you next year when the necessity to raise your own food will be much greater.
Freedom Through Self-Reliance®