The Snarky Gardener writes an abundance of words about abundance. Imagine that.
To the Snarky Gardener, abundance means having plenty (even too much) of a thing. Often people are concerned with what they can’t grow or what’s not doing well because of pests, lack of sunlight, or poor soil. But if you take this “problem” and turn it on its head with abundance, your mindset totally changes. The question, “What can I grow a boat load of?”, offers up all kinds of possibilities. I believe food growers should build upon their successes, with new and experimental plants taking only a small amount of total resources, and removal of those that produce poorly. At Snarky Acres, that means growing more sunchokes, turnips, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, peas, kale, garlic, onions, greens, zucchini, corn, Swiss chard, comfrey, and herbs (especially perennials like mint, lemon balm, oregano, and sage). It also means growing less (or no) broccoli, watermelon, peppers, eggplant, spinach, and beets. It’s hard to stop trying with those fruits and vegetables we love to eat, but not everything grows well everywhere, even in the same relative climate.
How to create abundance:
1. Grow a lot more of what grows well.
2. Look for alternative resources (weeds, trees, native species)
3. Create environments where abundance happens naturally (perennials and self-seeding plants)
4. Save seeds, plant extra starts (tomatoes, etc), and start new plants from cuttings.
5. Grow in non-optimal spaces (shade, poor soil)
6. “Invasive” also means “Abundance”
How to utilize abundance:
1. Find trading partners (food swaps, seed swaps, time banks, neighborhood barter systems)
2. Learn to preserve (canning, freezing, drying)
3. Find other uses (dynamic accumulators, medicinal)
4. Learn to create products from your produce (extracts, salves, pesto)
It’s been an eventful 2013 spring for the Snarky Gardener. He has learned humility and patience, especially since it’s taking forever for everyone to know how wonderful he truly is. Mother nature has given many lessons this year, and it’s possible the Snarky Gardener won’t make the same mistakes next year. Here’s the summary of highlights and lowlights (is that really a word?) for this spring.
Starting my own plants
This year started with much (probably too much) enthusiasm as January can make a gardener in Ohio a little nuts. Overall it went well, with lots of tomatoes, and basil plants to plant and trade. I do need to improve on starting dates, labeling, and hardening off. All of these issues come down to one thing – patience. I tend to want to start seeds earlier than they should be, forget to label and/or record properly, and to rush plants outside too soon.
Spinach was a little hard to get germinated (maybe one in two seeds actually sprouted). I used the AeroGarden starter kit, so maybe spinach just doesn’t do very well with that system. I’ve done some research on soil cubes and could go that direction for spinach and others next year.
Frosts and freezes
Last year we in Northeast Ohio got spoiled with an early spring with warm weather in March and April. This year we had freezes and frosts into late May and I lost quite a few tomatoes and peppers. I’ll make a concerted effort not put out the majority of my frost intolerant plant until late May next year.
This is the second year I’ve had issues with groundhogs in my garden. Last year in July, a little guy (named him Woody) terrorized my garden for a week or two until I finally caught him in the act of trespassing and theft. He took out half my early corn and green beans before I was able to finally capture him. Let’s just say that he’s in a better place now.
This year the fun started earlier in late May as a momma and her little one moved into Woody’s old house, which is a burrow under a stacked pile of pine trees 5 feet behind my garden. It began with a few carrot tops missing and culminated with the loss of spinach, peas, kale, broccoli, and even Jerusalem artichokes. I called in the experts this time as my own trapping efforts were getting me nowhere. First morning we had a raccoon, who had been stealing my trap bait of corn and apples. My trap is obviously cheap and worthless. Since the raccoon, we caught two more raccoons, Mama and another baby groundhog. On July 4th, I added some 3 foot chicken fencing to the north side with 1 1/2 feet on the ground and 1 1/2 feet attached to the current fence. This will keep future groundhogs (there will be more) from digging under (crossing my fingers).
My long-term plan is to remove the wood either by having the landlord move it or by acquiring a chain saw. The cleared area will make a good place to expand my composting efforts.
Overwintering and collecting seeds
I overwintered several different plants this year, mostly because I wanted early spring produce. Carrots, kale, onions, mache, and turnips all made it back for 2013. I let the kale, mache, and turnips go to seed with a concerted effort to collect the Seven Top turnip green seeds. I ended up with a giant bag of turnip green seeds on 7/14 (more than I’ll ever use), so if you want some, just let me know and I’ll figure out a way to get them to you. I’m still planning to collect tomato and bean seeds for sure, with a possibility of collecting peppers and eggplants this year too.
Note – “plantmanity” is like humanity but with plants.
May and June have been tough on my gardening nerves. May gave us several frosty low temperature nights (including a hard freeze on 5/24/2013). The pots and leaf mulch came out to cover tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. Unfortunately, the coverings weren’t enough for some and those plants didn’t make it (cue the violin music). I lost 5 or 6 tomato plants plus 3 eggplants. A few of my potatoes also got frozen but they have grown back since. Fortunately, I hadn’t planted my peppers yet, since they seem to do better when planted after the weather has warmed up (think June). Also, the Snarky Gardener has been overzealous this season with plant starts, so replacements have readily available. All in all, not a complete disaster but I will consider this next spring when starting and planting my tender little friends.
On May 31st, my dog River and I discovered some furry friends in the garden. I had this issue last year, but it took me a week or two before figuring out that I had a groundhog. Half my corn crop, not to mention my spinach, my carrots, my cucumber vines, and various other tasty treats were lost before trapping the little basta . . . . critter (aka Woody). This year, I noticed some of my carrots had been nibbled down (both inside and outside my fence), but I really knew I had a problem when I saw the tiniest little guy scurrying from the garden into the stacked up logs behind the garden. Bucky (yes, I named him Bucky) was so small he could run straight through my 2″ X 4″ fencing without skipping a beat. A few days later, we noticed a second, much bigger groundhog (I named her Mamma), who had dug under the fence to get in for the free buffet. I currently have a trap set up inside the fence near that opening with delicious apples and corn as bait. So far I’ve lost a little spinach, all my broccoli, all my Tuscan kale, some carrot tops, and lots of peas plants. On 6/4/2013, I picked all the spinach just to be safe. It was starting to bolt anyways, so I’d rather eat it then have fuzzy little creatures make a salad with it.
March has been a cold and dry month. I was hoping to have more in place by now, but my houseful of starts means April should be busy. Last weekend did give me the opportunity prep the tomato/pea cages and the pea/corn mounds. The corn mounds are my version of a Three Sisters Garden with early bush peas replacing the pole beans. I could also go with climbing peas but then I would have needed to plant those after the corn had been planting (timing is everything). Also, it’s official – the rosemary is dead as it didn’t overwinter. But I did find rosemary arp at a local garden center, which is supposed to be perennial in Northeast Ohio (fingers crossed for luck).
The Snarky Gardener will be direct sowing in the next week. Included will be kale (Toscano and Red Russian), kohlrabi, Swiss chard, lettuce, and peas (bush and climbing). Leeks, kale, spinach and lavender will be transplanted from hardened off starts.
Snarky Gardener definition:
“Hardening off” means taking your starts outside more and more over time to get them acclimated to the outside world. All the wind, sunshine, and temperature swings take some getting used to for your little ones.