Monday, March 30, 2009

Don't blink or you'll miss it. + Random experiments

Alright, so we're done then. With the garden planting.

After half a year of mulling and hatching and wringing of hands over seed catalogs, the garden is planted - and with much less fanfare and drama than one would expect from my Second Most Anticipated Event of the Year.

The first being the ripening of the #1 tomato, you know.

So funny, that.

I can wear out my brain thinking about corn varieties and soil amendments and should I try to start my own tomato plants even though I know they're only going to die when I forget them outside for nearly six months and then, when the moment arrives, it's over in 10 minutes and the only thing to do is sit back and admire and then go take a nap on the lawn with the dog.

I see some saucy parallels in this scenario that I won't detail for you, but I think you know what I'm saying.

What I will detail for you, however, is the contents of the garden. An activity that I'm certain will take longer to type out than it did for me to actually complete.

One day, this picture should be more green than brown.

Bed 1 (left to right): Silver Queen Corn
Planted in blocks rather than rows according to direction from my corn-growing pal, Kris. Thank you, doll - I'll endeavor to not fuck up my first crop of corn, although I have heard horrible stories from people about the terrible fates that befall corn crops. And here I thought the big worry was keeping weird kids out of the vegetables. Hmph.

Bed 2: Lemon cucumbers (2), Kentucky Blue Lake beans (on the tepee) and 2 rows of Black Seeded Simpson lettuce (under the tepee for shade)

Bed 3: Better Boy tomatoes (2) and Sweet Basil (6)

Bed 4: For 1 more week, fava beans, but after this coming weekend, same as Bed 3: Better Boy tomatoes (2) and Sweet Basil (6)

Before I get ahead of myself, I should tell you that I planted tomato and basil seedlings rather than seeds because,
  1. I am not good at hardening off tomato plants. As you know.
  2. My basil seedlings aren't ready yet.
So don't get mouthy with me about it. These are my shortcomings and I hold them close to my heart.

We're still awesome even if we haven't lived in the breakfast nook for two months already.

New this year is The Random Tomato Experiment where I turn under a whole crop of fava beans (sorry, no Hulk Hummus until the farmshare comes through) into one tomato bed and then pit it against its neighbor plants in the non-fava bed to see how boosty that nitrogen fix really is.

I've heard that if you turn under fava bean plants BEFORE they make beans, all the nitrogen they sucked into their roots will go into the soil and make it Super Boosty (scientific term, obv.) rather than waiting until after you've harvested the beans to turn the greens back into the soil.

We shall see.

Perhaps it will just make big bushy leafy plants that produce the same amount of tomatoes (an obvious theory), but since I just came upon this advice while trying to decide whether to pull the favas so I could plant tomatoes or just leave them there to make beans for me, I'm opting to call this an experiment so that I can get the tomatoes underway in a manner that makes me seem strategic rather than wasteful of beans and impulsive.


But really, when you even try to compare fava beans to tomatoes, those beans hardly stand a chance, so tomatoes it is. Plus, random experiment! Fun!

If you'd like to say your farewells, I won't judge you.

Bye bye.

And while I was getting all experimenty with the plants, I decided to take it to the next dorky level and do something the Kitchen Gardeners International did last year, which was to track the cost and results of their home garden to see what kind of value they were getting from their crops.

What? Track things via spreadsheet AND grow vegetables at home? Together, at once in one fabulously A/R activity?

Yes. I will do this.

So, my goal at the end of the season is to be able to see what I've grown, how much it cost to grow it and how much I saved by growing my own rather than buying it elsewhere. Plus, I'll see where it all goes (canning, giveaways, composter, etc) and whether we really ate everything we thought we would so that when I sit down to do my six months of mind-grinding mulling over the seed catalogs, I'll have a little more information with which to make my decisions.

Also, I'll be able to tell Bubba in no uncertain terms that while cantaloupe sounds like a fabulous idea in springtime when he hasn't seen a melon (the fruit kind, you naughties!) in six months, growing them in the garden is a waste of space since someone never eats as many as he says he will.

Whatever. It's fine. I liked my melons. Hah.

So, let us begin the year when spreadsheets and gardening became one.


  1. It occurs to me as I look at the photo of your garden that you really can't plant any way OTHER than in blocks. Unlike in my garden, where we can plant loooong rows. So your corn would probably have been okay regardless.

    Also? That spreadsheet idea? I want to do that, I SHOULD do that, but . . . I probably won't do that. We argue all the time about the value of the food that comes out of the garden and it would be nice to have some hard numbers to back up my assertion that all those sweat-soaked hours in the dirt save us lots of $$$$, but I'm not good with things like spreadsheets. They bore me. So I'll just have to keep making my unsubstantiated claims of vast savings, and track your spreadsheets with voyeuristic glee.

  2. I'm with Kristin, I've thought about tracking the costs, but I know I won't. Unless I make it a homeschool project. Unfortunately though, Joey has the same attention span as her mommy. Can't wait to see what you come up with.

    I just recently pulled out all my old seeds. I still have almost a month and a half before I can put anything in the ground.

  3. Your garden looks great and I am positive wondrous things will grow, inundating you with so much food you'll be standing on the street in front of your house handing out bags of free food. No one in your neighborhood will go hungry.

  4. I have often thought about tracking how much I spend in the hopes that it will amount to showing that we are saving lots of money. Honestly I am scared that it will show that we aren't saving any money at all and that my gardening obsession is just as bad as my husbands technology obsession! Have you ever read the book "The $64 Tomato" I haven't yet, but I hear it is good...

  5. Yeah !! This post got me so excited for my garden! (in which I will not be able to plant for two more months). but still.... looking forward to seeing the results of your work :)

  6. Sarah: "The $64 Tomato" was a RIDICULOUS book. Ridiculously dumb, I mean. The way he calculated that cost was irritating, adding in the cost of a professional landscape architect to design his garden and all kinds of machinery and things that a normal gardener doesn't need. Dude pissed me off, trying to scare people away from gardening like that.

    Not that I have an OPINION on this or anything. Ahem.

  7. Oooh, I'll be very anxious to see the final tally on the spreadsheet. Our gardening (or lack thereof) has always been on such a small scale that it didn't pay. I think bigger, like yours though is much better. And thanks for linking to our melon post -- I missed it the first go-round, and may I just say what very fine melons you have (had?)!

  8. Wow! Organization AND home-grown goodies! I look forward to seeing how your garden grows as last year's posts were very interesting. Can't believe you are doing a spreadsheet and all that, tho! Trying to make the rest of us look bad???

  9. Nice spreadsheet!!! Looking forward to tracking the progress - and, without trying to sound pessimistic, seeing if you're able to keep up with it. I think you'll do a much better job with this than I have. The last couple of years I've had the best intention of tracking everything I bring in from the garden, but that loses it's excitement REAL quick!

    RIP Favas!

    So how many corn seeds across in your raised beds do you think you'll put in? Are those three foot wide beds?

    My word verification is "farsts". Sounds too much like "farce" and "farts" all in one!

  10. Kris - Yeah, it's true. I get blocks regardless of my planting method, really. I guess I could have just planted two rows in the one bed, but that would have been a sad waste of space. So - I have blocks inside the block. Let's hope it's OK :)

    Maybe you can justify your voyeuristic glee by letting me try this out for a year to see how bad/effective it really is. Then you decide for sure ;)

    I'm hoping for some semi-impressive results.

    Wendy - Thankfully I'm wildly anal retentive and love spreadsheets and tracking almost as much as growing tomatoes. It's a sick life I lead.

    We'll see if I can stick with it.

    Junie - They never do - there are so many of us with veg gardens that it makes its way around the neighborhood or gets donated to the food banks.

    Although thankfully I'm not growing squash, so I don't have to door ditch zucchinis on my neighbor's porches. No one likes that.

    Sarah - Definitely see Kristin's comment on this - basically, that was based on a flawed method, from my POV.

    I don't think most people who are really trying to get the most from their vegetable garden pay a professional landscaper to design their space. In my house, I'm the landscaper, gardener, harvester, seed starter, pest remover, irrigation specialist, and so on.

    Anyway - read it and see what you think - everyone has their own ways.

    But if we get to the end of this season and my tomatoes come out costing $64 each, I'll eat my laptop.

    Trailing - Cross your fingers, babe! These better be some cheap tomatoes.

    Kris - Yes. Anyone who buys a $215 mower to "mow their garden" is retarded. Plant your seeds closer together and avoid mowing altogether. And $215??? Try a garage sale for godssake.

    Anna - Why thank you! They have many fans around our house. And when I say "many", I mean Bubba is their biggest fan. I'm hoping for some good numbers, too. Let's hope I don't have a bum year.

    Liz - Oh, believe it, friend. I love spreadsheets and tracking almost as much as I love gardening. And that's a lot. Bringing the two together is almost too much to bear ;)

    Jeph - Yeah, we'll see how far I get with the tracking, but given how good I've been with our budget tracker (I have records going back to 2001), I feel pretty good about it.

    I planted the corn in 3, 3x3 squares. So, 27 seeds total. We'll see if such a small crop will bring in any food. It might be useless, but at least it only cost a few cents to plant.


[2013 update: You can't comment as an anonymous person anymore. Too many douchebags were leaving bullshit SPAM comments and my inbox was getting flooded, but if you're here to comment in a real way like a real person, go to it.]

Look at you commenting, that's fun.

So, here's the thing with commenting, unless you have an email address associated with your own profile, your comment will still post, but I won't have an email address with which to reply to you personally.

Sucks, right?

Anyway, to remedy this, I usually come back to my posts and post replies in the comment field with you.

But, if you ever want to email me directly to talk about pumpkins or shoes or what it's like to spend a good part of your day Swiffering - shoot me an email to finnyknitsATgmailDOTcom.