Gardening in Zone 3 is a bit of a trick. In theory we have about 90 days frost free – pretty much hogwash for the ten years I’ve been here….. we’ve gotten hard frosts every single month of the summer. I watch the weather report obsessively – the tarps to cover the garden beds are never very far away. We’ve also gotten days upon days of heavy rain in a row, and days upon days of hot blistering hardpan sunshine without a raindrop in sight. So – first trick of the trade – grow anything and everything you think will produce in less than ninety ideal days, grow things that like pouring rain, grow things that love the baking sunshine, grow things that taste better after a hard frost. One way or another, you will get something to eat, freeze, pressure can or preserve in one way or another.
This year the whole gardening thing has seemed a fight. A fight to have the weather even remotely decent enough to plant in, a fight to have the garden beds thaw so we could dig in manure, and of course a fight to save the pathetic little sprouted plants when the mother of all caterpillar infestations hit and the only green thing in sight, were my garden beds. Ultimately we survived it, the garden beds survived it – save for half the buckwheat (who knew caterpillars liked buckwheat?), and several small just emerging potato plants.
I envy my fellow bloggers and facebookers their gardening prowess. I envy the fact that while I’m sitting here in the winter wondering if I should go shovel more snow or sit inside my toasty house and drool on seed catalogues – many of you are harvesting, some year round, and others are planting, others are at the weeding stage and others are getting their greenhouses set up. It seems sometimes – everybody south of our place is a month or two or ten ahead of me. Still – getting to see the trials and errors and successes of other gardeners keeps me going with the hope that at some point, the weather will change and I’ll get another years worth of food out of my own garden.
The Brown Mustard above – is something new for this year. I actually make and can my own varieties of mustard, love the stuff. It occurred to me that there was no reason I couldn’t try growing some of it…..wow! I’m going to have an awful lot of mustard 🙂
Dragons Tongue bush beans
Most all of our garden ‘beds’ are three plus feet high – soil to within six inches of the top. This serves a couple of purposes, one – weeding is extremely easy. I am long since past enjoying crawling around on the ground suffering sunstroke while I pull weeds. Once I pull the initial offenders and the plants start to take off, the shade they provide pretty much guarantees there are no more weeds to be had.
I have two four by six foot beds of these planted……we love beets and can never seem to get enough of them. This year I planted four different varieties with the idea that whichever grew the best would be the keeper for next year. Problem is….I can’t remember which I planted where 🙂
Buckwheat, Redbor Kale, Brocolli, Cabbage
No, I’m not kidding – this bed is about three feet wide, three or so high and about twenty feet long. I actually have good success with companion planting – that is planting like minded veggies with each other. Aside from hoping for an optimum growing environment, I also ‘crowd’ things as close as I think I can get away with. Again, it keeps the weeds almost nonexistent, keeps weaker plants from flopping about, creates some built in shade for hot days, and we water a lot less when the soil isn’t exposed to the sun for hours on end.
Cauliflower, Winterbor Kale
This bed is the same size as the one above…..but not as far along, as it is situated where it only gets full sun for about four or five hours a day. It is however, my favorite place to plant the cauliflower – which in my experience does not like to be in full sun once heads start to form. This may not be the case for everybody, but it works for me. You’ll notice the wire grid on the bed – stucco wire actually – there is stucco wire available for all the beds (I removed some for pictures) – because we have cats. Cats love fresh dirt – I don’t love them in my garden. It’s a catch 22 – we farm, we have lots of feed around, we have mice, we need cats.
Graffitti, Green, and Cheddar Cauliflower from last year.
These are the varieties I planted again this year, for some reason or other I can’t grow a white cauliflower to save myself. On the flip side of the coin – now that I’ve eaten these varieties, I wonder what I was doing eating the white variety in the first plate. This stuff is second to none for flavor!Kidney beans, Borlotti beans, lettuces
This is a glimpse into my wee greenhouse – I’ve tried growing these beans outside – but the season simply isn’t long enough. Thought I’d have a go at putting them into the greenhouse – and luckily – they shade the lettuces, which I usually plant outside, but didn’t this year for lack of room.
Tomatoes – all Romas, in the greenhouse.
I have a few plants outside, but always have better success in the warmth of the greenhouse.
This is the only thing I will plant in the ground – actually, I plant them in used up wasted goat hay. Sometimes we till it in, sometimes not – basically I toss them on the hay, cover with some more hay, water on occasion and voila! Again, I plant close, which is a pain when I have to fork hay in for hilling, but easy to avoid weeds. I generally don’t panic over weeds in the potato patch – grass I’ll pull out, but pigweed or nettles generally get to stay around – good for the soil, edible anyway, and if they start to take over I simply pull some and toss it to the pigs. There are five varieties in there – (sorry, not good on the technical names) – purple, Yukon Gold, Russet, Red Norland, and pink fingerling.
Last, but not least – our ‘dual blade’ lawnmowers Sam and Sahra, and the calf Dilly, playing at the ‘mom I’m starving‘ game with Daisy Duke 🙂
Until next time – hope everybody is having an awesome gardening, farming, summer!