Here's a lot of iPhone photos of carrots. They are not chronological. We harvested carrots from, let's make a wild guess, late October through late February? I planted Nelson Hybrids and Merida Hybrids from Territorial, and harvested all of the former (65 days on the packet) before we went to Mexico. The latter (240 days! That's most of a year!) we finished eating long after the sequential freezes had done their tops in but before they had started much spring regrowth. They were both just fucking delicious, crunchy carrots the whole damn time. I am sorry, but goooo hybrids! I needed an easy success this fall-winter in the garden, what with all the utter slacking and the nasty cold dry weather and ugh, winter, and these puppies were it. Double dig, throw down some fancy comes-in-a-bag harvest supreme, seed, water, thin... win. Also the spinach that I am still harvesting. But that's for another day.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
When we started in this yard, I put one tomato plant in every row. As soon as I read anything about rotation, I realized this wasn't going to work out. I think I wanted the whole garden to be shaped like a giant yin/yang. Or paisleys? I wanted, basically, a food tangle. Whatever the permaculturists say, a tangle is hard to rotate.
On the farm, Jeff loved the Eliot Coleman books, because they were all about infrastructure and measuring. All the rows have to be exactly the same width so you can build special harvesting carts for them. Better yet, build the rows for the carts! And the tomato trellises and the watering systems and the hoop houses. Everything is straight and even and functional. That is some Jeff-style gardening.
The only reason I can keep doing this, all the time, year after year, is that things don't just slide to the left. I struggle with guiding the tangle into rows, and I delight in helping the rows explode into tangle, but it is the dynamic tension between the two processes that keeps me interested. I have the garden super-ego: expectations, plans, seed packets and (I just did this, seriously) even an excel graph. I have weather underground, which I ignore completely (doh!). And then I have the delicious, delighted, devouring id: yum yum! plant more! plant more!
I have such a small space. I always want to grow more than I can fit. I want to use the seed I have, because I almost never use a whole packet in a season, and yet I want to build on what I learned from the year before. There is ever unpredictable weather, the slow or fast arrival of seasons, and the hurrying and waiting to take advantage of the golden moments for each variety, which are all a little different. There is the history of the bed and the history of the crop - how it grew, how it was used. There is the future of the season: when we'll be in or out of town, how much watering and attention I am willing or able to apply. There is the now: what space is ready, what time I have, what I am excited about. And, of course, for me, always, the aesthetic effect.
I do think ahead, most of the time. And whenever there is a hole, I fill it with whatever is close at hand that I think I will be able to harvest. Which turns three long, dimensionally identical beds into five or ten or fifteen oddly shaped patches. And in this way I triumph over Eliot Colman, Jeff Whitaker, and all other straight-edge suckas. Also in this way I make regularly scheduled whole-bed rotations very challenging.
What I want is to be alert. To balance on this rolling ball of seasons and days and turn, with quick feet, to face the sun as it slips past my shoulder. I want to brush with my fingers the compound mystery of the soil as it churns out life and death in an indivisible pile. I want to not just see it or eat it or smell it. I want to be part of it.
I am sitting down to do this now, with the reminiscing and the photos, because I have lost the thread of the rotation. I got a little distracted over the winter, and spring came so quickly and I just started planting seeds. I had a sense that row 3 needed to be in legumes. Then there were a bunch of volunteer sunflowers in row 2, and I had a lot of sunflower seed, so I thought I'd just... and pretty soon I realized that I was planting a bunch of brassicas in the row that was brassicas last. Which is a big no no. Keep the brassicas moving. Rule 1.**
Rule number 2 is Keep the Tomatoes Away from the Brassicas in Both Time and Space. So when I got the surprise gift of a few tomato seedlings, I threw them mostly into the North beds, which god let's just not bring that space up right now. But the biggest, nicest I put in a hole between the peas and the favas, and now those are done and what will happen with that row?
The cauliflower and sprouting broccoli in row 1, if they are not stunted by symphylans, will still be there in September. I should stop the madness and not plant anything else cruciferous there, so no overwintering. The sunflowers, beans, squash and anything else I can manage in the deep shade of the overgrown sunflowers, in 2 will have to come down in time for garlic and favas to go in. So row 3 is overwintering kale, cabbages, etc. But I planted that damn tomato there.
The tyranny of kale! Maybe leave the tomato, do a little greens and flowers (which seeds I have and need to spend anyway), seed the kale once the tomato is winding down, and cover row 3 (brave, brave) for the winter. Then peas in row 1 come spring.
Yes, I think yes. Worth trying, anyway.
*Things never happen as quickly as you would like. You wish that a summer crop could go in behind the peas and favas. But no. Or that you could just get the damn garlic out of the ground in an efficient manner and fit a crop of bush beans in. But really, in Portland, the ways in which you can get two chances in one row in one year are limited to spring (favas, peas, overwintered brassicas, greens or alliums) and fall (greens and alliums and brassicas). If you want summer (corn, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans), then that is all you're going to get. That and a cover crop, or a sleepy, slimy pile of leaves.
**Brassicas are the mainstay. This is the Pacific NW, after all. There are your spring planted brassicas and your fall planted brassicas. You can't put the latter where the former were because that will break the rule. But you don't want two full rows of kale. So you - I - end up with brassicas interplanted, coming and going, with other things that have a similar time span and don't mind. That is lettuces and other salad greens, chard, calendula, violets, nasturtiums, herbs, and sometimes bush beans. Which is great. But then you have two of three rows in brassicas, which out of three leaves you only one row you can plant brassicas in the next time you plant. Fuuuuuck.
Posted by devon at 10:59 PM
Monday, May 6, 2013
Saturday, February 23, 2013
So, yes, it's been a while since - what? - September? I have been in the garden, and we have been eating, but some other things have been going on also. And I do have photos of some of those other things. But nothing kills a project for me faster than being behind and trying to catch up. So fuck it. Pretend we're all caught up.
Here's what I did on Wednesday.
Harvested the bits and bobs. (Why did so many of the kohlrabi grow in tube shapes? Why can't I grow beets? I mean, the blasted leaf miners had their way with the tops last fall, but should it affect root growth this much? The carrots did so well in the same bed!)
(Still two more cabbages. And the kale is looking great, though it'll be raab before the equinox.)
Cleaned up rows 2 and 3, all the way. Lightly fertilized. Chopped it all in. Raked it smooth.
Planted negretta favas in the front half of bed #3. (Should have planted them last fall. Should have planted garlic. Should have cleaned up the blighted apple tree leaves last fall. Etc. Was busy with other - not pictured - things, etc.) Anyway, that bed needs some time in legumes.
Cleaned off the deck, because it's hard to know when the next dry day might be.
Thanked my helper for her patience, and went back inside.
Posted by devon at 8:46 PM
Sunday, October 7, 2012
The fall harvest begins. Less and less fruit, more greens and roots.
It is dry as a bone here, more late summer than fall. I have to water, still. Worth it for the blue skies, which are unmarred and utterly reliable. Worth it for the bare feet. I'll do almost anything for bare feet.
Posted by devon at 9:08 AM