Saturday, January 28, 2023

2023 Garden: Planning

 I am trying to get an early start on my garden planning this year.

One of my goals for this year was "Learn more about permacultures and gardening" and do it.  Part of this just stems from the fact that my gardens here have been marginal at best, which is likely due to a combination factors:  poorly chosen plantings (what grew in Old Home will not grow in New Home), erratic water management, some distressingly hot Summers, and dumb luck (always bad).  Part of this also stems from the fact that overall, our suburban home landscape is set up just like everyone else's around here with grass (that never quite gets enough water for the Summer except in an exceptionally wet one) and no sprinkler system (which makes aforementioned watering a chore, as well as expensive).

I have been reading, of course (my solution to everything). A book that I recommend and fully intend to review (makes careful note to do so) is Gabe Brown's Dirt To Soil, which talks a great deal (almost exclusively) about soil restoration as path to topsoil rebuilding, soil improvement, and water retention.  These are all things that my garden - and my yard - would benefit from.

So the "Plan the Garden" project has turned into "plan the garden and improve the entire yard" project.

In terms of the garden, I think it wise to pull the total amount of area I was planting.  Readers from last year may recall The Red Neck Raised Bed, the pile of decaying wood pellets from my rabbits that I attempted to grow sweet potatoes in (and failed badly).   This would not only focus my efforts a bit more, but especially allow me to get my watering more under control

Another note is that the lime trees got hit by the cold snap we had (yet again) and shed their leaves (yet again).  They are going to come out this year for sure; I got one good crop of limes but never another (and I had no idea why they are marketed in my part of the country).  If I can find a mandarin tree that would be even better as they have a lower cold tolerance (but no luck to date) - but even then, I am not planting it in the same place.

What that will leave me with is one section that is 20' x 2'8" and a smaller section (now with the aforementioned lime trees to be removed of 16' x 3'.  That is a total square footage of 61' - which should be enough for me to do some good if I just focus on that area (to more or less the exclusion of all else).

The rest of the yard?  I am really given consideration to treating it effectively as "pasture".  Long time readers may recall I attempted to seed with clover some years back (which did not really take hold).  Brown's book has given me more to think about in this regard - to be fair, the soil hereabouts has largely all been "lawn" for almost 30 years and a monoculture anywhere will strip out certain nutrients.

To be frank, the other thing I am looking for is ease of management.  Assuming the world does not fall apart between now and the end of Autumn (would that this be true), I will likely be away for a bit.  I would like to have something that, with a bit of automated watering, can still be managed even though I am not here.

So I am re-reading my gardening books and my permaculture works and looking at the Baker Creek Seed Catalog and really trying to make hard decisions on what will grow and what we will likely eat.

Gardening:  A practice where hope truly can spring eternal, even in the face of repeated failures


  1. Anonymous4:23 AM

    Several mandarin selections have resistance to Citrus Greening Disease which is an emerging disease world-wide. I would not look for just any mandarin but look for one that was resistant to Greening.

    If you were willing to take a whack at grafting, you might be able to find budwood/scion from California Rare Fruit or maybe Home Orchard Society

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! For some reason I have problems securing in state mandarin trees.

      I have never grafted anything in my life - one of those things that I understand the principles through books, but not the practice.

  2. Nylon124:42 AM

    Never too early to plan, is it? Seriously thinking of letting my small plot lie fallow this year, just add compost and other stuff.

    1. It never is Nylon12, it never is.

      My thought is that if I focus my attention and my time I can do better - and to your point, spent more effort on soil improvement.

  3. Anonymous6:21 AM

    Weirdly, the "Comment as:" only lets me chose Anonymous.
    But I'm still John in Philly.
    We reduced our garden tasks again at the end of the season last year.
    We had grown day neutral strawberries using soiless media and a non-recirculating hydroponic system. But after a larger number of years of gardening, we are now moving towards less work.
    We gifted the entire system to friends at the end of the growing season last year.
    Our lessons learned begin with realizing that if it won't grow here without a lot of work, we don't spend time trying.
    We installed weep irrigation years and years ago, and the entire garden is covered in non permeable plastic. That means we turn one valve and the entire garden gets watered.
    The ever increasing deer density means that this year we will replace the four foot tall snow fence that is atop the garden fence with much heavier actual deer fencing.
    The real answer is an electric fence, but that is phorbidden in Philly.
    Things we no longer grow.
    Grapes. Even with heavy netting, we only fed the birds.
    Apples. Dwarf trees, but not enough useful yield to be worth it.
    Blackberries. Rust spots and they must be pruned.
    Strawberries. Covered already.
    Things we still grow.
    Blueberries. We built a bird resistant house around them.
    Red raspberries of the everbearing variety. Great results.

    The topic is way to large to cover in a comment, and remember, at the age we are, we are aware of the ticking of the clock, and we are no longer willing to spend time and effort on things that don't yield some sort of return.

    Gardening hopes do spring eternal, but they often founder on the hard shores of unrealistic expectations.
    The tasks of aligning expectations and reality is not so easy.

    1. Ah Blogger, the random initiator of issues for no reason. Hi John!

      Your thinking mirrors my own (as it often seems to, friend!). I really do enjoy gardening (yard work, not so much) but find that I want to spend my time efficiently at this point, which largely means a smaller and more intensive garden. I have a pretty good idea of what will succeed here (and what will not), but am a little obstinate about be willing to "give things up" when likely I should.

      Water - The emitters are likely something I will need to go with this year as the larger "System" I tried last year was not terribly efficient. I am not thrilled by the path of an over-ground line, but I think at this point the likelihood of it being chewed is low - fortunately, Poppy The Brave does not chew like she used to and we are blessedly free of pests.

      Aligning expectations and reality is indeed challenging.

  4. Anonymous7:53 AM

    I’ve grown a garden for many years in different western states. The best results I’ve always gotten, was when I improved the soil. Each place I lived, the soil needed something a little different.

    1. My soil in my garden is in fair shape; everything around it is not as it has effectively been monocropped for 30 years. But in general, I need to spend a great deal more effort on it.

  5. As to sprinklers, there is nothing stopping you from installing them without an electric system to run them. You can set them up "manually", or they make little timers that work too. I've thought about using a water hose hooked to a makeshift manifold instead of a bespoke irrigation system. I'll dig around and see if I can send you a link via email. My headspace is quite unruly today.

    1. STxAR, I have used the timers for last years run using a manifold and it worked okay, but there was still a lot of wasted water. I want to try and see if I can trim down that usage a fair mount. Thanks in advance for any suggestions you send!

  6. Sweet potatoes grow best in sandy soil. Lots of that in Louisiana (but not at my house), so that is a commercial crop here.
    Never anything wrong with soil amendment.
    If I had anything else to add, I forgot..
    Good luck, TB.
    You all be safe and God bless.

    1. Linda, I have had pretty good luck with sweet potatoes in my "regular" garden. Something definitely to double down on.

  7. I really like the idea of planning the garden and improving the yard. Also, ease of management. Those make sense to me. With a yard, there a all kinds of lovely perennial edibles to landscape with. I've been trying to incorporate more of those in our yard, but our hot dry spells every summer make it a challenge. You've done a lot of good experimenting so far, though, so you've got a start.

    1. Leigh, Gabe Brown really provoked my thinking on this (thank you for the book recommendation!). American lawns are basically a mono crop - and our hot dry summers make either watering it essential or finding a way around it ( Brown writes of how soil improvement really helped his overall ability to retain water). And, frankly, trying this method seems a heck of a lot cheaper than re-sodding every few years. I am giving thought to how to replicate ruminants as well.

  8. Thank you for the recommendations - Soil service data has come up more than once. I have seen some Master Gardner related items at local festivals - and yes, they have an amazing amount of knowledge.


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