Sunday, May 29, 2011

Junque Yard

It's Memorial Day weekend, and in my neck of the urban woods, that means it's planting weekend. Our frost free days start around this time of year, though you wouldn't know it from the temperature this Spring. I've complained enough about the lack of warmth, and the excess of rain, and I shan't do it again here (yes, I said shan't).

My house has very little natural sunlight peeping into the windows, and my years' past attempts from starting my garden from seed indoors have been failures. Yes, I've tried grow lights, fluorescent, etc. and all I get are thin, leggy stalks that struggle to survive. If one of my herd of cats doesn't dig into the soil and kill the burgeoning seedlings, they are too weak to make it outside. So unless I seed directly outside, I buy starters from the local Farmer's Market. I am lucky enough to live in an area where farms do good work. Tomatoes and peppers are must haves in my garden. DaMan and I have found that we enjoy Roma tomatoes for canning. We just put them up plain to turn them into sauces at a later date. I have a fondness for banana peppers, which I pickle and can vast quantities of, but love to slice them fresh and put into salads, or just dress with vinegar and a little oil, maybe a wee bit of onion for a quickie side dish.

Bell peppers are a staple in this house hold - all colors of the rainbow. The price of bells in the grocery store have doubled and sometimes tripled over the winter. I can't swallow paying $3.99 for a red/orange/yellow pepper. I plan on doubling my production of those this year, and freezing them for cooking with later on.

Cucumbers are another thing that I enjoy growing. I don't buy starts of those, as they are a warm weather plant, and I can seed those direct. I'm going to be trying out a bush variety that is supposedly more compact than the vine variety. The plan is to pick them small to make pickles, but there's always a few that hide under the foliage, and grow GI-NORMOUS.  Those will go towards making pickle relish. I made both sweet and dill relish last summer, and ran out of the sweet sometime after Christmas.  They made handy gifts, and were well received.

DaMan has a fondness for green beans. Unfortunately, we get lazy, and let the bean grow too large. Then they get tough and stringy, and not very palatable. Lesson learned. Pick your green beans early and often!

This year we are going to be trying potatoes. DaMan will be growing them in a set of tires. Yes, tires.  Potatoes grow in an interesting way.  You get starter spuds from the nursery, and cut them up so they have at least one eye each. Place the tire where you want to grow (where they will get at least 6 hours of sunlight a day), and throw some compost, or well amended soil, or heck, even rotted straw in the bottom. Lay the potato pieces eye side up, and cover with more soil or straw. Water well. The eyes become the stalks of the plants. When the stalks are about 6 inches high and leafy, throw more soil around them, mounding them up. Continue to do the same, and when the stalks and leaves wither and brown, yank them out of the soil, and count how many new potatoes you have!  The tires (or you could use a clean dark colored garbage can) act as a warmer for the soil (black draws in the heat from the sun). But it also serves the purpose of growing something else that isn't taking up space in your garden. And here at the urban micro-mini ranch, space is at a premium.

I haven't even touched on our fruit bushes, the lettuce "patch", or the herb garden...yet. :)


  1. Small change to the plan. We decided against the tires. Instead I made a hoop out of hardware cloth. If I want the extra heat I can wrap that in a black garbage bag. The advantage is that that at the end of the season we can just clip the joint at the seam, unwrap the potato column and harvest. I'm a little concerned about how wet the hay needs to be kept but the roots should be in the soil so maybe it's not critical. If this produces a bumper crop at least some of them will be used in the dehydrated potato experiment later this year!

  2. Things move quickly here at the faux-ghetto micro-mini ranch! :)