Monday, January 23, 2012

How do you decide what to plant for small spaces??

Monday, January 23, 2012

Living on a golf course, there are rules we have to follow for meeting the “standards of the community.”  Basically, this means that our veggie garden needs to look pretty.

My husband was concerned that the “landscape police,” as I call them, would come calling if we plowed up the backyard and put in a row garden as we recall our grandparents did so we knew the old fashioned approach was out.
The solution was to intersperse the veggies in the flower garden and in the flower pots on our patio.  Flowers are good for your crops as they attract pollinators.  So, it is a win-win for beauty and productivity.  I have been reading lately on companion planting that gives different flowers that are particularly good to plant with your veggies.  More on that in a future blog!
We have to be choiceful on what to plant since we don’t have much space and there just isn’t room to grow everything that looks great and I would love to try.  There are so many cool veggies you can grow from around the world.  The choices are just about limitless.
When I first started veggie gardening three years ago, I did as most new gardeners and wanted to try a little bit of everything!  A couple of seasons have taught me what is most productive for our small space and what I will buy from the local farmer’s market.
This year I will plant for the two of us-3 tomato plants (Juliet, Yellow Pear, and Brandywine), 1 zucchini, 1 cucumber (for salads and pickles), 1 chard (for salads and steamed greens), a few kale, 1 acorn winter squash, 7 pepper plants (3 sweet peppers for salsa, 1 cayenne for salsa and drying, 1 pimento for salads, 1 pablano/ancho pepper for chile powder), various lettuces, various spinach,  a couple parsley, 3 cilantro, 1 dill, various beets, 3 basil, 10 garlic, and egyptian walking onions.
We grow the lettuce, spinach, chard, volunteer red giant mustard, and parsley year round for fresh salads and steamed greens.  We reseed around 4-5 times a year to keep a steady supply of lettuce and spinach. The lettuce does reseed, but not as frequent as needed to keep us in lettuce year round.  We assist by broadcast seeding with the reseeding done naturally. The red giant mustard reseeds itself as does the parsley.  The chard is a perennial so as long as you only take outside leaves, it stays forever (it has been in our garden three years now).
I look for varieties that are compact or recommended for pots.  These tend to take up less space or are adapted to pots.
I am not growing broccoli or cabbage this year.  They take up a lot of space, take a long time to mature, and are relatively inexpensive to purchase.
Peas were great if you wanted to do the snow peas.  Regular peas require many plants and lots of time shelling for a small quantity of peas.
My bush green beans didn’t do well so I tried pole beans last year.  I grew them in pots with a trellis for them to climb and with petunias so it was ornamental, too.  They did decent.  I had some that did really well.  These were the ones I remembered to cover with inoculant that improves their productivity before planting.  They all had pretty flowers.
I still have turnips in the freezer from this past year so we did not eat many.  I’ll just pick up a few at the farmer’s market.  Turnips do not take up much space and are easy to grow.  
I grew 6 tomatoes this past year.  5 of the 6 were the bigger slicing or paste tomatoes.  They do not seem to produce nearly as much as the Juliet and Yellow Pear.  I am cutting back to 3 tomatoes, 1 slicer and the smaller tomatoes.  This will be all we need to eat in the summer for salsa, salads and burgers as well as canning for sauce and freezing for salsa.
My advice is to think about what you eat frequently, look at the space they require, where you can place them, how long it takes for them to mature.  Lay out a plan and just try it!  Even if you only plant 1 or 2 things, it is fun to watch it grow and nothing tastes as good as fresh off the vine/out of the ground.
I’ll get into what to put in pots versus in the ground in my next blog.

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