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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The 2017 Lineup

I mentioned in my last post that I have been making plans for redoubling my efforts to get more food out of the yard.  I want to definitely add rabbits this year (more on that in another post) but not until much later after I've got the garden going.

The first thing I did was order my seed for this year. After discovering that some vegetables that I like to grow and eat were part of the reason I was getting sick, I was disheartened and lost a lot of focus and interest in my garden. But Steve and I have recently discovered bok choi, which I bought on a whim, and lo and behold we really like it.  So now I'm going to try growing it and a few other asian and domestic vegetables we've never tried before and this prospect has me all fired up about gardening again.  I can't wait!

But to order the seed, I had to first decide which of the many catalogs I receive in the mail I'm going to actually use. I cut this list down to the below.

Then I wrote down all the seeds that interested me.  The things I need to know to make a decision is the vegetable, the variety, the seed company, the days to maturity (more on that later) and any features and benefits that interested me in the first place.

Then I wrote down all the information from all the different seed companies in alphabetical order of vegetable name so that I could choose the best of the lot, or in some instance, a close second. The seeds that I highlighted are the seeds that were chosen.

Pursuant to all this was the thought that I'd better start doing a better job of organizing and keeping my seed so I came up with a plan. I created a seed record card and I'll print one for every different variety I have. The seed will go in a quart freezer bag (because I currently have ton of these and won't have to buy anything) and the card will go in with it. Then all the seed will be organized by the month I need to start planting it. I mocked up a sample card for myself, and as I washed dishes or folded laundry, something else that would be good to have on the card suggested itself and I'd get up and write that down.  Here is what the final cards look like:
You can use this as a PDF from here if you like.  The idea is to print this on card stock or at least very thick paper and cut it into four cards. I split each of the plant and harvest dates into two because I figure I can squeeze ten dates each into the same space.  Five dates for some items is just not enough.  Obviously, this will necessitate re-writing the cards for next year, but all the pertinent information will be there including the results.  The other thing I plan to do with this is to get a days to maturity on those varieties where the seed company did not divest that information, and then I can carry that information forward to next year's card.

Days to maturity is probably the single most important thing to know about your seed variety, in my view.  It's right up there with who owns the seed company or where they source their seed, and whether it's F1 or OP or heirloom. Days to maturity is important because it could make all the difference on whether you get food out of your efforts or not. It's more important for those of us with short growing windows. Actually, the Willamette Valley where I live is pretty blessed with a long growing season, but that growing season is better suited to growing cabbage and kale than it is tomatoes and eggplant, and I want to be able to grow those hot weather vegetables and get food from them, so I need to make sure I'm getting early varieties.  Our summers are fairly unpredictable anymore.

The other reason you want short season varieties is that if you plan on doing any succession planting in the same spot, you'll have better luck if the first vegetable is well out of the way when it comes time to plant the new one. And lastly, the best reason for growing short season varieties is something I learned from Carol Deppe in her wonderful book The Resilient Gardener, which is that there were two major reasons that folks survived The Little Ice Age which started somewhere in the 1400's and finally ended in the 1850's: short season varieties and crop diversity.

And whereas the current climate change we're experiencing does not seem to be tipping us toward another little ice age (ask your local polar bear if you don't believe me), it did occur to me that the same strategy would probably work just as well for the climate changes we're all going to have to come to grips with eventually. And maybe not so eventually; climate change could be the reason our summers (and winters, for that matter) are becoming unpredictable.

At any rate, the bench in the garage where I usually start seed is all set up and ready to go.  I also have a new soil blocker and soil blocker tray from Johnny's Seeds to get seedlings off to a good start.  I've never used a soil blocker before, but the advantage to using soil blocks is that as the seedling roots grow to the edges of the block they are air pruned, so the root ball is concentrated; you don't have the roots hitting the sides of a pot and growing round and round. This way there is no transplant shock and the seeds are off to a rip roaring start once they're in the ground.  I'm always of a wait-and-see attitude, but even if all else fails, I won't be fiddling with trying to get a seedling out of a container, and that appeals a great deal.  Just dig a hole, plop in the seedling, soil block and all, tamp around it and water it in. It should be a lot easier on my back.

So- there it is: the 2017 lineup.  Tomorrow is the first of February, which means I can get started. I'll start on the 2nd and 3rd (because I'm still using planting by the moon to break up the work) and I'll plant: asian greens, broccoli, cabbage, chard, choi, endive, escarole, kale, lettuce, mustard, parsley, and peas.  On the 13th through the 18th I'll plant garlic and shallots , and start beets, carrots*, and onions.  I'm still on the fence about whether or not to plant potatoes, but if I do it will be in some sort of grow box; I am definitely not putting them in the ground. Potatoes are the gift that keeps on giving, and that'll be great if they are coming out of a grow box, but not so much if they are coming out of a part of the garden where I want to grow something else. Which is what usually happens.

* I know you're wondering about starting carrots because we all know you can't transplant carrots. I saw a guy on YouTube who does it in toilet paper tubes and then plants the whole tube, so I'm going to try it as well. This is just to get a head start on carrots; I'll direct sow when the soil warms up enough.

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