12 May 2010

and the garden begins...

Folks, spring is here. Even though it was nearing 80 degrees last month (I believe it was officially the warmest April on record) and lightly snowed last weekend, this is a Minnesota spring. Indeed, we've been harvesting rhubarb for a few weeks now (from our massive plant!), and earlier this week we had a dinner of sautéed morels on toast with roasted asparagus, all local!

I started to get in the gardening spirit a few weeks ago when I dug up my raised garden beds in our new backyard--I thought I was double digging them, but apparently didn't do it quite right, oh well-- something is better than nothing, right?! I added compost and topsoil and turned that in, and then walked a few blocks over to our old apartment to dig up my six lavender plants I'd planted there and a bunch of raspberry canes to transplant into our garden. As I was toting my rusty old wagon full of plants back across a fairly busy intersection to my house, I'm pretty sure I interrupted a minor drug deal on the corner (don't worry mom!). Oh the joys of urban gardening! I got a lot of funny looks.

This year, in my annual effort to have the best garden ever, I signed up for an urban farming class through a local nonprofit organization. Though much of the class seemed to be geared towards those who were set
ting up urban farms for profit (which I am not planning to do, at least not anytime soon), I did glean quite a few new ideas that I plan to try this year. Most of the interesting techniques I learned about were from a method called Biointensive Gardening, and Small Plot Intensive Farming (SPIN Farming)- and had a lot ways to have very productive gardens in a small space, including using techniques like companion planting and succession planting. (The Biointensive Gardening method is described really well in a book called How to Grow More Vegetables- even if you don't follow the method exactly, or at all, it's a really great resource for gardening in small spaces!)

Of course, my gardening space is so small, that pretty much everything is companion planted! After learning all of these new ideas, I began to feel a bit paralyzed about how to plan out my garden. Last week, I sat down with some books, my fresh 2010 gardening journal, and just began to sketch it all out. I'm not going to get so overambitious as to try to fully implement all of these methods right away-- in fact, that's not even always recommended (in How to Grow More Vegetables, he suggests just trying Biointensive Gardening on a 3'x3' area of your garden for the first year).

I did get my start a bit late this year, or maybe it just felt that way since April was so dang warm. In mid-April, I ordered a whole slew of seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, an organization I am really excited to learn more about and get more involved with. I also ordered potatoes, which are currently sprouting in my windowsill and will be planted in burlap sacks this weekend (more on that in a different post). It was too late to start seeds indoors, which I accepted I would just not have the wherewithal to deal with this year, given everything else I've got going on in my life, but I ordered everything I'd be able to direct sow into the ground, and some things (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs) will just be purchased as seedlings from local farmers at the market.

So...here's what I'm planting this year (vegetables):
Kale (Red Russian and Blue Curled Scotch)
Lettuce (various leaf lettuce varieties)
Silverbeet Chard
Beans (Green, Purple, and two kinds of dry beans for soup- super excited to try this!)
Squash (2 varieties of zucchini, summer squash, butternut squash)
Tomatoes (all different kinds of cherry and full-size)
Peppers (bell and jalapeño)
Potatoes (yellow and red)
...and Garlic bulbs will be planted in the fall.

I also have a whole list of herbs and medicinal plants that I'm doing as well, but in the interest of space, I think I'll save that for a different post! Like I said, I'm really excited to try some new vegetables this year (dry beans! winter squash! melon! potatoes and garlic!) and also to try some new planting techniques. I have more room this year as our new house has two raised beds (in addition to other space too) and I'll be keeping my plot at the community garden just a few blocks away (that will primarily be the squash patch!).

Tell me, what new things are you trying in your garden this year? I'd love to hear some of your ideas out there too!


  1. Here is very common to use the companion technique, and there is an organism (the agro technology institute, or something like that) that gives you seeds for free each spring and autumn.
    We have a small raised bed, we built it last month with Oz. We planted directly on the ground (we also lost it with the inside starters...).
    You can see it here:
    And the seed details is in the notes here:

  2. This is so impressive Julia! I started the spring with the best of intentions (including a few classes, elaborate sketches of our backyard, etc.), but I have seeds that have yet to make it out of their packets! And a lot of other seedlings failed . . . I ended up buying starter plants at the farmers market. I just need to cut myself a break and focus on the baby right now, I suppose!

    Can't wait to see all the (literal) fruits of your labor and what you do with them!

  3. Thanks for the great resources (especially the local Minnesota ones)!

  4. all so exciting! we put potatoes that were sprouting right into the ground and they have come up! that was new. i'm also doing a lot more container gardening which is new for me.

  5. Yay for gardening! Unfortunately, the bunnies already ate my cucumber plant. It was the only one I didn't get a fence around yet. Darn bunnies!

  6. Wow, what an informative post! I am balcony gardening (which is the main theme of my blog), and I am such a novice, it's pretty ridiculous. But, I figure I will learn as I go (though, I am pretty sure I am purchasing How To Grow More Vegetables!)

    I love that you have a rhubarb plant, I so wish I had one. And that is quite funny to picture toting plants through a seeming drug deal. Reminds me of when I lived in Baltimore. And you have raspberry plants? How neat.

    I love seed savers too - I ordered purple bean plants from them, and next week will be getting my tomatoes shipped, can't wait!

    Anyway, I am so excited to see your garden progress!

  7. You are really organised. I can't wait to sort out my garden and get growing. soon... soon...
    Looking forward to seeing it grow.

  8. yeah for a backyard garden! Ours is still small but since Lu is getting older I see it growing a lot next year. Having a dog seems to help keep the bunnies at bay in our yard. Our raised beds are also pretty high so we don't have many critter issues at all. Our carrot seeds just sprouted 2 days ago, they are such cuties!