Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Garden in my Head

I've been gardening since I was very young. Everywhere I have lived, I have put in some sort of a garden, even if it was just a couple of square feet with a tomato and some lettuce. Mom canned when she felt good enough to manage and I've carried on canning something most years.

It's a bit of a challenge since moving into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where I live at around 5000 ft. While we are blessed that our soil is not the usual clay, it is however very sandy and at some sort of slant from slight to extreme. And lots of rocks. Some of our 2 acres is just rock at ground level. A big flat slab of rock with lichen. Sometimes in the winter when the sun is strong, I go out and sun myself on the rock. It's usually not real warm but it sure feels good.

And canning at this altitude is sort of scary unless you have a pressure cooker. I struggle with the whole energy used thing when canning. There is so much boiling for so long that it feels very inefficient. But the results are usually so wonderful. It feels like such a triumph over winter to put up homegrown produce.

I will want to do some canning this year. But I have to get empty out several cases of canned foods we moved here from Iowa 15 years ago. How did that happen? I don't remember. I think the jars of stuff were good when we moved them here. Somehow they got set aside and well, now they are way to scary to even contemplate using. I know the jars are still good but I puzzle over what to do with the old food. If I dump it out of the ground, I am afraid the chickens will get into it and possibly poison themselves. I don't want to put it down the septic either. The only thing I can think to do is empty them into a 5 gallon bucket and pour into a hole the I dig somewhere. And cover up. It's all just mostly canned tomatoes. Why didn't we use them when they were good? What a waste!

In the basement we have a freezer that hasn't really been used for years. We got a new fridge with a side by side freezer when we got married in 2001 and it became much less used. Then we started renovating our little house in 2004 and the door got blocked by stuff carried down to store. My plan is to empty the freezer of the food which I am sure is no longer good and fill it with produce this summer from the fabulous garden M and I are growing. It is just about making me ill to think about tossing so much food, but after so many years it has to be ruined. A waste of energy as well, keeping it running all these years. blech. What a waste.

*stopping the self-flagellation now!*

The compost we spread last fall has settled in well. I have watered it a couple of times this winter on warm days. We have had a tiny bit of snow, we are hoping for more. I would have spread some rye seeds for cover crop this week, it's been unseasonably warm so I watered. It would be good to have something to hold down the compost as the winter winds can be ferocious.

We've decided what we are going to plant and I still need to make it into a spreadsheet. Then we need to look at what we already have and the viability of the seeds. It's dry enough here that at least in my experience, we don't loose a lot of viability in the seeds until after about 5 years. I found my old seed box and there are seeds from back as far 1996. I plan on setting a few out on a damp paper towel to see if they sprout just out of curiosity. There are a lot of seeds. I have a problem with buying seeds. It's a weakness.

I am thinking companion planting is the way to go. We get a lot of grasshoppers who can do an immense amount of damage. But they tend to leave really strong scented things alone. I plan on putting out 4 or 5 flats of: basil, thyme, borage, marigolds, and calendula to hide yummy plants such as lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, etc. I also plan on setting out "trap" plants. Those are extra plants without the companions to lure the bugs to them where the bugs can get smooshed or the entire plant can be destroyed. But mostly with the intensity of the sun and as dry as it is here, I am wanting to not have any bare soil. Better than mulch are plant leaves.

Someday I hope to grow the garden that I see in my head. Or Jamie Oliver's garden. Now that's a garden.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree that companion planting is the best way to go. I have been thinking a lot about ways to preserve food that don't consume so much energy. What do you think about drying? Our climate certainly lends itself to dry...