Yep, this year, I’m back to my old ways and preparing to garden with a vengeance. My goal? To grow and store all the veggies I’ll need to survive until Spring of 2010 without shopping at Whole Paycheck. Save money, eat better. You get the idea.
If I can’t eat it, I’m not growing it. I don’t give a rat’s ass about a lawn, tulips, daffodils or the rose bushes in the back yard. In fact, if you want any rose bushes, let me know and you dig, you own. I gotta make way for all the veggies.
Here’s the plan: Rented a 19 x 30 foot plot in Naperville’s community garden and will attempt to outsmart the shade, rabbits and squirrels in my own back yard. Considering renting a second 19 x 30 plot for just squash since it takes up so much room. Store everything either by canning or preparing a cold area of the basement to be a root cellar like the one grandma had in Kentucky. AND grow as many heirlooms as I can given the recent research on the crappy nutrition of corporate veggies.
The only downsides to the Naperville program are:
- No hoses allowed (so I’ve got a rain barrel in the back of the van and will use that to refill my watering can rather than traipsing back and forth to their spigots located not all that close to my plot).
- Can’t over winter veggies or grow perennials like asparagus or strawberries.
- No organic plots left. They have limited designated organic plots anyway and claim to not have anyone express further interest in more. So I’m stuck with a plot used by who knows who using god knows what last year and next to who knows who using god knows what this year.
Yes, I’ll be eating up a lot of mileage driving to and from Naperville but by next year, the Forest Park Community Gardens should be up and running and they’re just a few blocks away.
It appears the only things I’ll still have to buy will be:
- quinoa (yeah, I know I could grow it but I just can’t picture myself thrashing a plant and then sweeping it all up and separating it from the cat hair)
- dried beans
- bananas (we’ll see if I can’t kick this habit and go more local)
- mangos (ditto)
- avocados (oh man, I don’t know if I can ever give up avocados)
- maple syrup (Illinois is close to Canada, right?)
- vanilla extract
- soybeans (strictly for making my own soy milk)
- Temptations® brand ice cream (hey, it’s local)
- liquor and wine
Here’s a list of seeds I ordered and most are already in trays attempting to sprout (keepers for winter are marked with *):
- Mary Washington Asparagus (heirloom): Won’t see any results from these until next year so they go in the back yard.
- *Morris Heading Collards (heirloom): Will last through a light frost in the fall but then I’ll freeze or can the rest. Rumor has it you can dig up whole heads and store them in a bucket, with dirty root ball still attached and a little dirt in the bucket through part of fall and winter. They won’t grow because they’ll be in the dark but if kept lightly damp, should last a while.
- *Italian Heirloom Kale (heirloom): Will last through a light frost in the fall but then I’ll freeze or can the rest. Rumor has it you can dig up whole heads and store them in a bucket, with dirty root ball still attached and a little dirt in the bucket through part of fall and winter. They won’t grow because they’ll be in the dark but if kept lightly damp, should last a while.
- Gala Mache: Did you know these grow under tough conditions? They’re not as delicate as they appear!
- Green & Red Romaine
- Stupice Tomato: Not an heirloom but this will likely be the only year I grow an early tomato. Next year, I should have plenty of dried heirlooms to get us through July.
- Black Prince Tomato (heirloom): Plan on making flavored oils with this one.
- Green Zebra Tomato (heirloom): Eating fresh for summer/fall and drying for winter/spring.
- Black Krim Tomato (heirloom): Eating fresh for summer/fall and drying for winter/spring.
- Persimmon Tomato (heirloom): Eating fresh for summer/fall and drying for winter/spring. Also will can just plain crushed tomatoes.
- *Principe Borghese Tomato: Plan on growing shitloads of this one and drying them for use on sandwiches, salads and pastas through next winter. Supposed to be the BEST flavor for drying according to the Italians who hang whole plants upside down over winter.
- *Italian Costoluto Genovese Tomato (heirloom): Will make home made marinara and can at least 40 jars to store in the cellar (basement). Planning on one jar a week throughout winter and spring 09/10. Will use for casseroles, pastas and lasagnas.
- Brandywine Tomato (heirloom): Eating fresh for summer/fall and drying for winter/spring. Also will can just plain crushed tomatoes.
- Marvel Stripe Tomato (heirloom): Eating fresh for summer/fall and drying for winter/spring. Also will can just plain crushed tomatoes.
- *Long Keeper Tomato: Can keep up to 4 months in root cellar so long as they don’t touch and are completely unblemished. Not heirloom and not as tasty as those ripened under a steaming hot sun but supposed to taste better than the red Styrofoam at the grocery.
- *Keepsake Tomato: Can keep up to 2 months in root cellar so long as they don’t touch and are completely unblemished.
- *Alpine Strawberries (heirloom): Strawberries are expensive to buy, especially if you buy organic. My plan is to freeze these babies in batches sized to make smoothies for a week. So that’s about 32 quarts since we make green smoothies with strawberries every day for breakfast. Gonna have to really outsmart the rabbits and squirrels on this one. Maybe I can get DH to make me one of these. The 6-foot one would be awesome! Then I’d staple wire screens over all the dirt before planting to keep the squirrels from digging.
- *Tomato Pepper (heirloom): The only hot pepper I’m growing this year. We just don’t use a lot of hot peppers and these little round red ones are my faves because they’re a little hot and still taste like a pepper.
- *Admiral Golden Bell: Will can or freeze some for winter.
- *Vidi Crimson Bell: Ditto.
- *Valencia Orange Bell: Ditto.
- *Butternut – Waltham Squash (heirloom): These will be hanging from the rafters in pantyhose, knotted so they don’t touch each other or a hard surface. Rumor has it that they keep longer this way. May end up canning or freezing some.
- *Thai Dill (heirloom): Will dry most of this and move a small plant indoors for the winter. Either growing in the kitchen window or under grow lights.
- *Wild Zaatar Oregano (heirloom): Ditto.
- *Table Bush Queen Acorn Squash (heirloom): Again, will store in pantyhose as long as they last. May end up canning or freezing some.
- *Yellow Scallop Squash (heirloom): These won’t keep long in the cellar so I may freeze some.
- Early Purple Vienna Kohlrabi (heirloom): Not sure how to store these or how long they’ll last into next winter. More research to do here.
- *Italian Pesto Basil: PESTO PESTO PESTO!!! Lots of it, frozen for winter. I think there’s a freezer chest in my future. (DH, hint hint, birthday coming up!)
- *Cameo Container Basil: More pesto but will also attempt to transplant these indoors for next winter.
- *Italian Gigante Parsley: Dry and freeze.
- *Stowell’s Evergreen Sweet Corn (heirloom): Can pull entire plant when ripe and store upside down in pantry into winter, ‘cept I DON’T HAVE A PANTRY! Will most likely freeze or can this as DH may freak out with too many plants hanging in the basement.
- *Jaune Paille Des Vertus Onion (heirloom): Great winter keeper, will braid the dried leaves together and attempt to make ropes. Will also try the pantyhose trick and see which lasts longer through winter.
- Honeydew-Orange Flesh (heirloom): Likely will freeze what’s left in fall in portions for smoothies.
- *Minnesota Midget Muskmelon (heirloom): I’ll see how much of this will keep into fall but likely will freeze.
- *Half Long Guernsey Parsnip (heirloom): I’m hoping to grow these in the backyard so they can stay in the ground over winter since Naperville doesn’t allow winter gardening in the community plots. Keeping in the ground during a frost supposedly makes them sweeter and allows them to keep. The trick is to dig them up before the ground freezes solid or before they sprout new leaves in the spring.
- *Rainbow Chard: Can take some light frost into fall, may have to grow in back yard due to the wacky Naperville rules again.
- *Pot of Gold Chard: Ditto.
- *Catalina F1 Baby Leaf Spinach: Not an heirloom, still looking for a baby spinach heirloom. If anyone knows of one, PLEEZ tell me. Will freeze some of this for green smoothies over winter. Again with the 32 quarts, 1 quart per week.
- Baby Mesclun: Will grow under tomato plants in the plot but also under lights during winter and see if I can get greens without going to Whole Paycheck.
- Heirloom Mesclun Mix: Ditto.
- *Tricolor Pole Beans: I’m not a big bean fan but DH is. And these will be pretty. I’ll freeze those that I want to maintain color and can the rest. Never canned beans before but I have my pressure cooker at the ready. I remember not liking grandma’s canned beans but that may be because she always cooked the bejeesus out of them and smothered them in lard, butter, salt and pepper. They were sorta an army green mash. In fact, maybe I’ll just freeze them all instead of canning any. Hoping to grow these along the fence in the back yard so I don’t have to build a contraption at the Naperville plot.
- Merveille de Quantre Saisons Bibb Lettuce (heirloom)
- Green Feast & Red Robin Scallions: Will chop and freeze these in small quantities for winter use.
- *Slow-bolt Cilantro: Dry some and make cilantro pesto with some.
- *Clarimore Zucchini: Freeze for winter, chopped for salads.
- *Golden Dawn Zucchini: Will freeze but also will try dehydrating long slices for use in winter lasagnas.
- *Raven Zucchini: Will freeze in 2 cup batches for baking but will also spiralize and freeze for winter spaghetti.
- *American Purple Top Rutabaga (heirloom): Can leave in ground over winter similar to the parsnips. What? You’ve never had rutabaga? Oh man, you GOTTA try mashed rutabagas or Tom’s rutabaga soup and rutabaga fries!
Yet to buy:
- garlic to repel Japanese Beetles, just gotta remember not to plant too close to beans
- chives and nasturtiums to repel aphids, and we can eat them on salads.
- thyme and mint to attract good bug
You may ask, “how the hell are you fitting all this into a single 19 x 30 plot?!” Simple, I’m not planting the entire packet of seeds but will save unused seeds for the following year. AND succession planting. NOT everything gets planted at once. But yeah, I may have to get a second plot just for the squash.
Sources for seeds and supplies
Support small businesses and those focused on organic and heirloom seeds:
- Renee’s Garden
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: dang it, shoulda ordered that tiger melon!
- Reimer Seeds
- Use Hay Barn’s classifieds to find a farmer in your area selling straw bales.
Plans for low maintenance
- Mulch with 10 layers of newspaper covered by straw.
- Grow backyard annual veggies in straw bales
- Grow backyard perennial veggies and strawberries in place of roses, tulips and daffodils.
And in case you missed it, here’s a great article from Mother Earth News about storing veggies for winter.
Now, what the hell am I gonna do about fruits? We have no land for an orchard so I’m looking for a pear tree to rent similar to how these folks rent out their apple trees. This should do it, assuming of course that I get all the strawberries I need for winter from my own yard.
Remember, just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it was vine-ripened.