Monday, February 1, 2010

Garden Plans

I can tell that it's almost gardening time here in Seattle because, as Jeff and I take evening walks around our neighborhood, we see that people have been weeding their raised bed gardens. I've just ordered my seeds hoping that I'm not starting too late.

I spoke with our host family the other day asking what plans they have for their backyard garden this year. They said that it's completely mine to use since they expect to be too busy to work it. This is rather exciting news!... though it's also been a bit overwhelming because this will be my first real gardening project so I've needed to do lots of research.

Years ago I had a raised bed garden in California that measured 3'x6'. Sure I thought it went pretty well but I had simply bought some plants, placed them in the dirt, watered them and luckily they grew. This time I'll have an in-ground garden measuring 10'x24' to work with. Besides the increase in space, two major changes will be that I plan on preparing the soil before planting and will be starting with seeds as much as possible instead of just buying plants.

The two gardening books that I'll be using for reference are:

area specific: Maritime Northwest Garden Guide
by the Seattle Tilth which gives a month by guide as to what needs to be done in the garden and

production specific: The Postage Stamp Garden Book
by Duane Newcomb which addresses the issues of both organic and continual harvest gardening

I want a garden because gardening seems like a great way to get fresh, organic produce while also getting some exercise. I'm also curious if I can really lower my food bill, break even, or will spend even more by trying to garden year round. It's been difficult to decide what to plant.

I've chosen some of these vegetables because they're expensive to buy. For example, I enjoy eating heirloom tomatoes and red bell peppers, but since they aren't offered at prices that I enjoy paying, I usually pass them by for less expensive versions. I want to make sure that I'm getting my money's worth from the hard work that I'll be doing.

I've also chosen some of them because they're odd so it seems like they'd be fun to grow. Like the golf ball sized carrots, zucchini that are also small and round, the melon with the dark blue/green skin and some edible flowers.

If I find that I'm actually good at gardening then whatever we don't eat, or share with our host family, I'd like to sell at the local farmers market. I've also heard that several of the nearby neighbors always have gardens so I hope to get the chance to meet them, share gardening experiences, and to trade produce.

I've ordered more seeds than I think I'll need to give me extras to use in case of problems. I figure that the worst that can happen is that I'll either trade my extras or I'll have some leftovers for next year.

The vegetables and edible flowers that I've chosen are:

- beets
- carrots (golf ball shaped)
- microgreen mix
- cilantro
- mesclun (early lettuce)
- mache (lettuce)
- red bell peppers (bite sized)
- zucchini (ball shaped)
- heirloom tomatoes (4 types, 1 plant each)
- melon (a hybrid w/ dark skin weighing only 2 lbs each)
- soybeans
- borage (edible leaves and blue flowers)
- cucumbers
- peas (for Zoe!)
- nasturtium (edible leaves and flowers)
- pole green beans

In the coming months I'll be giving you updates and photos explaining what I've done and will also report monthly whether my gardening efforts have lowered my purchased food expenses.

At the end of the year
- I'll show the total that I spent setting up my first garden
- vs how much I would have spent if I'd purchased what I'd grown
- vs how much I'd been spending for food before gardening

If you have any gardening tips then please write me a comment...
especially if you're an experienced gardener living in the Seattle area. Thanks!