Back in the winter, I had a dream to have my own garden. I don’t mean a 4 X 4 plot of dug up dirt in the back yard, I mean a REAL for real garden. I should go ahead and throw out that I have never really planted anything that lived before and I know nothing about caring for a vegetable garden. But, I am passionate about fresh food and I take learning new things very seriously. It’s one of my most favorite things to do. Also, I’m very competitive. When I tossed this plan out to my friends and family and got scoffed at, it was just fuel to my fire. I. must. win.
I bought a book called The Kitchen Garden. It was helpful in my crop planning and understanding the point of crop rotation from year to year.
In the end, this is the plan I came up with.
My father-in-law owns a feed and farm store in Palmer, Alaska. Despite the cold temps, gardening is a popular pastime for Alaskans. They are fortunate to have nearly 24 hours/day of sunlight in the summer, so they grow stuff fast and big. He had a ton of leftover seeds from past years and quite a few from this year. I received a huge gift in the mail of about 60 packets of seed. I went through all of them, read up on them and then I made a spreadsheet for when/what to sow indoors, sow outdoors and harvest: SEED SEWING. I am all about some spreadsheets.
We were blessed with a warm March here, so we started a good many of our seeds outdoors, under cover. Not all of them transplanted well, but it was a learning experience nonetheless.
We don’t actually own a plow, but we do have neighbors that do. I live in an area where families have “family land” and build houses close to one another and these families all help each other out. When the crops come in, he’ll be the first to get a basket full on his front steps.
The area that he is plowing is actually much bigger than the plan above. When I marked it off with flags, my dad thought that wouldn’t be nearly big enough, so he doubled the width. So, we have about a 120′ X 45′ garden that was once a cow pasture. The dirt that he plowed was a deep brown color. The drawback – it grows weeds and grass just as quickly as it has our veggies.
My husband then dug into his research on how to build raised garden beds. He built me 3 16′ X 4′ beds for this year. Next year I’m hoping for 3 more!
On planting day (the Saturday before Easter) we put out a good chunk of our plants and seeds and filled about 1/3 of the entire garden.
Since then, we’ve added more plants as most of the seeds I started have become mature enough to plant out. We have purchased an apple tree, a pear tree, 4 grape vines, 2 blueberry bushes, a blackberry bush and a raspberry bush. We have 5 rows of corn. We have almost 100 tomato plants, 40 squash, an entire row of cucumber, an entire row of okra, 3 rows of bean varieties, strawberries, pumpkins and cantaloupes. One entire bed is dedicated to lettuces and onions. The next is completely full of brassicas (potatoes, beets, radishes, cabbages and broccoli). Then there’s the tomato/pepper plant bed that didn’t even begin to contain all the tomatoes that we ended up with. Everything is growing beautifully and I’m learning all about staking plants, controlling weeds (and currently losing, but I. must. win.) and getting rid of pests.
Last weekend, we harvested our first crop of radishes… which I tasted and promptly threw in the trash. Who eats those things, really?!?! Good to know I can grow them, but now I’m done with them.
In the weeks to come we’re surely to be overrun with tomatoes and corn, just to name 2. So I’m collecting and trying out recipes for several of our soon-to-be garden crops.
This one is a keeper. You don’t even really have to like quinoa to like this salad, though you should give quinoa a chance. It’ll be worth your while.
Summer Quinoa Salad (adapted from Recipe Girl)
– INGREDIENTS –
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed well through a fine strainer/sieve
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
3/4 to 1 cup fresh corn, cooked slightly, but still firm (sliced off the cob)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
– PREPARATION –
1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Prepare the quinoa according to package directions. Cool slightly.
3. In a medium bowl, toss the quinoa with the tomatoes, corn and cilantro. Add the dressing and toss to coat everything. Squeeze lime on top, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.
4. Serve with lime wedges, for extra limeyness.