Sunday, January 31, 2016

Garden plans for 2016

Got all our garden seeds ordered, and have received nearly all of them now. All told, we will be planting 25 different veggies. While we are not expanding our garden (much) we are trying a few new things each year, and here are the 2016 additions.

"potato" or multiplying onions- These onions are supposed to have multiple bulbs, and if subdivided at harvest, can provide both onions to eat and seed bulbs for the next planting. Never have to by onion seeds or sets again! Kind of like perennial onions. That's the claim anyway. We've tried both sets and seeds, with fair results, but onions from seed take forever.  It's actually getting close to time to start onion seeds. They are best planted in the fall, which we did. We'll see what comes up this spring.We will still be starting onions from seed as well.

Flint corn- Corn takes up a lot of room, and is a heavy feeder, but we are trying various corn types because sweet corn is a traditional summer food here in the midwest, and can be canned or frozen and preserved. But flint corn is the best for making your own corn meal, so we are trying the Floriani red variety, as I read a good review in Mother Earth News. 

Beets- Can't believe we hadn't got beets in the system till now. Finally going to plant them. We chose Red Ace variety, but just picked it more or less at random out of the Johnny's catalogue, and don't know how well it will do here. 

Hot peppers- We've done cayenne, jalapeƱo, and regular sweet peppers, but thought I would try poblanos to make our own chile rellenos, maybe make some ancho powder. The Tiburon variety is supposed to be medium hot.

Tomatoes- We'll try Mortgage Lifters this year. This is a classic, and we enjoyed the big slicers ( don't know the variety, we bought transplants from an Amish vendor) we had last year, so we'll do some again. Most of our tomatoes will be Roma tomatoes again, for canning sauce.

Seed starting in the sunroom- we did not do a good job of setting up the trays for warm loving plants last year, will do more to protect them on cool spring nights when the sunroom cools off. Our tomatoes from seed did terrible, that's why we bought additional plants from a local farmer.

The brassicas and other cooler weather plants did fine, but we'll use heat mats for the tomatoes and peppers more than we did last year. It was also a dilemma whether to move them back under lights for those long cloudy stretches. I think we'll just have to be more attentive and move them as needed more this time. A future project might be to install insulated blinds on the sunroom windows to close at night, but that will be a big project, and need to study the cost/benefit more before committing to.

Other new stuff for 2016- 

We are ordering some Korean pines to plant in strategic places. Korean pines are supposed to handle the cold here, and have large pine nuts, suitable for eating. I also want to beef up the windbreak west of the house, to help reduce winter winds.

Double dug spading for the potatoes and other root crops- I've heard about this John Jeavons promoted technique, but it's a lot of work. Will try to use the broad fork more as well, as most of our garden has fairly heavy soil. 

Bees- More on this later, but I'd love to reduce sugar purchasing, and use our own sweetener as much as possible. The box elder syrup worked fine last spring, so we'll do that again, but honey would have the bonus of boosting the pollinator population here. Just ordered the queens, and will be going with two top bar hives this spring.

Meat chickens- yes, we are going to try some Cornish Cross. Our first chickens, Black Australorps and New Hampshire Reds, did ok, but took forever to get to weight, and so the roosters were a bit chewy. The hens we kept are doing great as egg layers this winter, with production only dropping off a little bit. For the meat birds this spring, we'll plan to be careful with feed rationing and get them out on pasture as soon as possible to minimize the problems with Cornish Cross.

Rain water- will be collecting rain water off the pole barn roof, and gravity feeding to the garden to reduce well water usage. The north roof is already plumbed up and will water fruit trees, but the south roof will be for garden use. I have the storage tanks, but will wait till spring to install the piping from the gutter to the tanks.

As usual, I don't have much in the way of photos, but thought this might be fun to show. Off topic, but the pheasants around here are
the goofiest. I'm not sure if local hunters periodically stock the area, or what, but they are almost tame acting, and wander around seemingly aimlessly, making me wonder how they survive. They are happy to forage below our bird feeders right outside the window.

Days are getting noticeably longer now! Can't wait to get those first trays filled with potting soil.


  1. Hi Steve,

    Those onions, are they Egyptian walking onions? Dunno really so many things get renamed. I'm harvesting the bulbills now from that plant but the whole plant is edible.

    I'll be very interested to hear how your corn grows over time. That plant really is a very heavy feeder which sort of is a bit scary. Are you intending to grow the corn in blocks or rows?

    Beets are very hardy and tasty. The old timers used to grow sugar beets as they contain about 20% sugar and were an important source of sugar in temperate climates (next to honey of course).

    I won't make you too jealous but the tomatoes are just starting to ripen here! I grow cherries as the smaller fruit ripens much faster than the larger fruit - like mortgage lifter. Plus they have a very sharp and strong taste. I am very interested to hear of your progress with those fruits. The cherries may be more appropriate to your climate?

    Thanks for the tip on Korean pines. Stone pines may work well in your area too.

    Yes, the top bar hives are very much worth the effort. From my experience, I'd reckon they may need a summer season to get settled in and then harvest the following year.

    The pheasant is a very excellent sign of the health of your property. I have six kangaroos and a wallaby in the orchard this evening happily munching on the slightly greener grass. So any wildlife is an excellent. Honestly, it looks very cold in your part of the world! Brrr! :-)!



    1. Chris- Onions- I've also heard the egyptian walking onion term, but these potato onions are different. Check out info at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Potato onions are Allium cepa var. aggregatum and the egyptian are Allium cepa var. proliferum.

      Corn- We will grow in several short rows in close proximity to facilitate pollination. Does that count as a block? Yes, if we didn't have access to our neighbor's composted cow manure, I don't think we'd do corn, even with rotation after nitrogen fixing beans.

      Tomatoes- I saw the photo of your first ripener on your latest blog post! we are a good seven months from our main tomato crop coming ripe. I won't even start seed trays for a good while yet. We have done cherry tomatoes, and like them, great for snacking or tossing in salads, but they just didn't make the cut this year. ( If I still have a few seeds from last year, I might sneak a few plants in the odd corner)

      Weather- Our cold snap a couple weeks ago bottomed out at -18F ( -28 Celsius). It was up near freezing today, but we now have around 12" of snow on the ground.

      Take care and thanks for the comments.