Frustrated with our short growing season, I’ve been combing piles of seed catalogs and trolling Google in search of specific cold-hardy, early fruiting vegetable and fruit plants that will… if not thrive up here in windy East Idaho, at least produce something before winter rears its ugly head in like, SEPTEMBER. I’m also really interested in extending the growing season by choosing veggies that will overwinter well, do well in a greenhouse, or grow in cold frames (or without winter protection). I’m also looking at a lot of foods we’ve ignored in the past that will keep well in cold storage or in a root cellar… or even under the snow without protection.
Here is the latest garden plan, illustrated rather barrenly in Photoshop by yours truly. Plans are mostly to scale. The illustration is a snapshot of the back northwest corner of our 1 acre lot.
You might notice we’ve moved some things around since the last time I posted a garden plan picture.
The greenhouse is being built as I type, though everybody is freezing in the process (I think snow is in the air). It is a simple 2×4 construction (treated wood at the base) and will have a vented roof and three doors. 6 mil plastic will make up the outside, though we will likely have to replace it each year, if not throughout the year, as our high winds shred it to ribbons.
Inside the greenhouse, I am planning on some cold-frame type beds for lettuces and other winter-hardy veggies along with some seed tables for sproutlings. New lettuces we’re trying this year are Brown Goldring, Paris Island Cos, and Marvel of Four Seasons (also called Merveille Des Quatre Saisons Lettuce) which are all supposed to do well in our cold, short growing season and winter over well. My goal is fresh lettuce in December. I’ve been reading Fast Grow the Weeds for the past year and am pinning all my greenhouse hopes and dreams on what I’ve seen El do with theirs. Just kidding, I think she’s in zone 6, but I’m still hopeful.
This year in the corn patch we are trying Stowell’s Evergreen Sweet Corn. At the end of the summer season, the plants can be pulled up by their roots and hung upside down somewhere dark and cool. The ears are supposed to last throughout the fall, I suppose we shall see.
Here’s what we plan on planting in the garden beds (8 and 9 will be new this year). All our seeds are open pollinated (non-hybrid) as I really want to master the art of Seed Saving. Most of the seeds we’re trying this year are brand new to us. I’m super nervous, but can’t wait to see if all my research will pay off.
- Blue Lake Pole Beans and Little Marvel Peas.
- Tomatoes all trained up strings or netting. I have a cherry and beefsteak variety already growing in seed trays, but we’ve also ordered Long Keeper Tomato seeds as well. We’ve always purchased tomato plants from a nursery, so this ‘from-seed’ stuff is new for us this year.
- California Wonder Red peppers (73 days, fingers crossed!), Casper Eggplant, and Waltham Butternut Winter Squash — all trained up strings or netting.
- Minnesota midget melon, Petite Yellow Watermelon, Blacktail Mountain Watermelon, Golden Midget watermelon. The year of the melons. We’re determined to try all these early, cold hardy varieties in box 4 and see if any will do well in our area as the seed packets promise.
- Red Russian Kale, Snowball Y Improved Cauliflower, Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Di Cicco Broccoli, and Pak Choi (I think I want to get Baby Pak Choi to try for the greenhouse).
- Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach, Fordhook Giant Chard, Ground Cherry (anyone tried these?), and some of the lettuces we’ll try in the greenhouse (or all of them if we don’t get the greenhouse done).
- Egyptian Walking Onions, Harris Model Parsnip, Little Fingers Carrot (maybe Danvers too), and American Flag Leeks. I’d like to try a purple carrot and possibly garlic if I can.
- More Potatoes!
The boxes with question marks in the illustration are boxes I’m hoping to get built soon. The smaller one I’d like for Early Glow Junebearing Strawberries and the larger one I’d like to devote to herbs. I’ve uprooted the oregano that was growing in box 7 and would like to transplant it there. There are lots of herbs I’d like to try growing besides just oregano and basil, but I won’t bore you (further) with the list.
I’m also trying a few berry bushes this year (shipping later). I’d really love to plant the big ugly wall of the shop that faces our backyard with lilac bushes and tons of berry bushes: elderberry, gooseberry, red currants, and more. But since I’m not sure if we’re staying here long term, or not, I’ll satisfy myself by planting some berries along the chain link fence. I’ve ordered berry plants that will supposedly work well in zones 3 – 7, and fruit early: Patriot Blueberries and Autumn Bliss Raspberries that are supposed to give us a crop midsummer and in the fall. I also have Garden Huckleberry seeds coming, but there are two nervous making reviews, so I’m not sure how they’ll do or if we’ll like them.
I would really, really like to order Somerset Seedless Grapes, but think that might need to wait until we move. If we move. Augh. If we stay here, I’ll be so mad I didn’t plant them this year. Hmm.
We haven’t had good luck with pumpkins having enough time to mature, but I do have a packet of Heirloom Jack-o-Lanterns and some white pumpkins along with some summer squash. I’m not sure where I’ll put either yet. Possibly in box 3.
As most of you green thumbs know, we’ve been using the Mittleider method. We are still using grow boxes, obviously, and will still plant things close together, and train even large stuff like pumpkins up strings to maximize space. But! Instead of using the mineral fertilizers that really do a fantastic job, we’re going to try to feed our plants with organic matter this year. Not organic as in ‘certified organic’ but in stuff we compost or stuff our animals make.
We’re tilling in chicken poop, and heaps of rotten grass clippings that have miraculously turned into what looks just like manure. We’ve got some soil testing kits and may end up fertilizing anyway, but I want to try to garden without relying on stuff we’d have to purchase from a store. Self sufficiency and all of that.
Holy weeds. If you read all that, you deserve a cookie. Unfortunately I don’t have one. I’ve been burning weeds in the yard all day and think I sunburned my lips. In March! In Idaho! I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole!