Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dreaming of Gardening.

I've been burying myself in gardening books. I've read two new ones cover to cover in the last week and a half. And today I've all seven of my gardening books laid out on the bed. Maybe it is because we are expecting a high of four tomorrow with seventeen below zero at night. The wind is to bring in some snow and will no doubt pile it into drifts. So though I should be hauling large quantities of coal and wood for the fire, I'm instead dreaming of gardening. Who wouldn't want to be transported to a warmer time of year with such a bleak forecast?

Yes, I might take a few pictures tomorrow. But the truth is, I'm running out of pictures of vegetation to take. We haven't much foliage at the best times of year. And though I'd like some more bison pictures and a few of ranchers feeding stock, I think I might just hunker down tomorrow and work on my gardening plan along with clean house, paying bills, bake muffins for Kirk's lunches, etc. etc. etc.
While I had Kirk held captive in the car this past week as we traveled for hours to family birthday parties, I presented my loosely developed gardening plan and read lots of snippets from the new books. They've sent my brain down enthralling avenues. I've convince my sweet hubby that we need to add eight feet to the width of the garden, (we added four feet to its length two years ago), and so I was surprised at how easy a sell enlarging the garden was. Plus he was right with me on working on extending our harvest. He's obviously given up on his suggestion that we might want to shrink the garden's size since the kids are gone, knowledge does that. This blog might be an eye opener for many of you who order from major seed companies. Their seeds are almost all coming from one place, a seed broker. It is a sad story of greed for power and control which will have a scary ending for all of us if we don't do our part to stop it. http://notdabblinginnormal.wordpress.com/ That's why I buy most of my seeds from a small company that started out in the Bitterroot valley in Montana and sells organic seeds, many of which are heirlooms. It is called Irish Eyes Garden Seeds now based in Washington. This blog encompasses the reasons I've decided to cultivate Grandpa's Kinghorn Wax bean which not too many years ago was in the major seed catalogues.

But I'm getting off onto another subject and though this is a big part of why we are increasing our garden size, I think you can also blame the ten inch pumpkin blossoms that transfixed me last summer and the huge pie type pumpkins that were the results. Along with the dramatic increase of crop production we've experienced since I've started studying and implementing soil improvement through natural methods. Kirk and I have caught the vision where even in this part of Wyoming with its harsh weather and horrible soil, we can grow much of what we eat insuring a safety level and superior flavor that you can't find at the supermarket.

The one thing my husband insists is that this year I finally conquer my failure to grow a decent crop of cucumbers. I bought two new gardening books with that intent but the A.D.D. problem or add as I call it because I just keep adding on to things I want to do and learn since I'm so easily distracted. It is because of that, that I've so far not found out much about growing cucumbers, - but I will fulfill my promise to my sweet hubby to do better this year. Today though, I'm devising a plan for carrots.

How can I get carrots to winter over in our area so we can be eating our own produce for at least eight months and then save seed so I'm not buying it? In this manner the carrots would be better adapted to our climate and soil through the breeding process. I've a head start, I've done the winter over carrots part and produced seed from them but I can't say I did it well. Actually it was quite the opposite.

You see once upon a time a long ago, I had a cold frame that extended about a foot in the ground. I put tomatoes and various heat loving plants in it and then I got the brilliant idea, or so I thought, of over wintering carrots in there and using my own carrots all winter . The next spring the ones I hadn't used grew. They weren't the most desirable carrots or I'd have already used them. Despite this fact, my curiosity got the best of me and when they started to grow, I allowed them to continue rather than pluck them from the soil as I should have. They formed these beautiful flowers much like Queen Anne's Lace which I'd seen growing wild all over the Black Hill in South Dakota. Since the flowers are equipped with a boy and a girls you know what happened as they sat snuggled tightly against each other. Indeed within a couple months seed rained down and I had carrots emerging the next spring. I thought this was an awesome plan. So I let those carrots grow and go to seed and so on and so forth. It was just too good to be true, for each year the carrot's quality was less desirable than the year before and by about the fourth year, I had an infestation of bugs drilling holes in my roots and the carrots ranged in color from white to a pale orange. The texture was woody and inedible except in cases where we might actually be starving.

Lest you think I'm down right dumb, I did know better. I've read about rotating your crops so you don't deplete the soil because different plants need more of one nutrient than the other and the bad guys, like carrot rust flies find out where you've stashed the goods and after sending in a few scouts, the rest of the army shows up feasting until they've ruined your crop. I'll admit that I ignored the advice and wise council and let my curiosity and okay, laziness rein.

But with the purchase of the two new gardening books and seed catalogues galore filling my mailbox, I've got a plan forming. I'll plant an early type carrot. One that is reported to take fifty days. I say that because our cold night time temperatures slow down the growth but none the less in our area they will be an early carrot. I'm thinking a Little Finger which is a 3 1/2 inch long, heirloom, and suppose to develop the orange color early so you can pick it while it is small. Then also plant in another area a Chantenay which is a bigger heavier carrot, with a 6 - 7 inches long root, but takes a little longer to grow and most importantly it doesn't mind heavier or shallow soils. It is also an heirloom type and is good for placing in a root cellar -if we had one, - for freezing, juicing, and canning.

This is where the movable hot houses we're designing comes in. We'll use them for the cucumbers. Thought I'd completely forgotten about them didn't you. Then, I'll plant a late crop of carrots. I'm thinking about the first week in July and then two weeks later. They should be smaller in size by September and a smaller cored carrot winters over better than full sized ones. Well cover them with a mulch and then put the movable cold frames over the top. From these we'll dig carrots for eating this winter and the cold temperatures will sweeten them intensifying the sugars. Then if we did things right, come spring we will have carrots to choose from to replant in a new location and allow them to develop seed. How I'll keep two different types going when they have to remain a 1000 feet apart to remain pure I don't know. I've ideas brewing but haven't a concrete plan. And what my seed saving books fail to discuss is an extended breeding program. With such a small genetic pool, I eventually am going to end up with the same problem I had before. So I've got to join a seed savers group or something so I get a new set of genetics like with the stock the need to bring in a new buck, bull, or rooster.

I've presented a general outline of my plan and I'd love feed back. Some of you may have already tread this path and I'd appreciate your council.

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