It's mid June, and we're starting to nibble from the garden already (radishes and lettuce). That's a couple weeks earlier than last year. This will be year two of vegetable gardening for us. We still feel like beginners, but certainly bolder and more energetic beginners. My memory of last year's gardening season is still fresh, eating produce from the backyard (augmented liberally from my father-in-law's garden 30 minutes north of us) for the months of July, August, and September without needing to buy much from the grocery store. What we did buy last year, we bought from the local farm market in town, or from one just over the county line to the north that we can get to on our bikes four miles on a rails-to-trails path. That's not food independence by any stretch, but it's a step in that direction, and contributes to our smaller footprint.
The idea of becoming food independent is intriguing to me, and I get a kick out of seeing how much production I can squeeze from our postage stamp, city lot. Not enough for true independence, that I know, but it's entertaining to see how far we can go none-the-less.
Since we have limited ground, we're trying some new things this year to go vertical. New project number 1 is potato towers. I've got russets planted in three wooden boxes next to the bean garden. As the shoots poke through the soil, I add compost and straw to lightly cover them up, and put another stage onto the boxes to grow them vertically. I've made the boxes two feet square out of scrap (untreated) lumber and some 2 x 10's that I bought. The idea is that the shoots will continue seeking the sun and will follow the boxes up until they can leaf out at the top. As they climb to the surface, offshoots branch out below and grow more potatoes. At least that's how it's supposed to go. I'm a tad worried that I let the shoots leaf out too much while away on a canoe trip. When I returned, I saw quite a bit of green in my single stage boxes. I've since added two more stages to each box and covered the shoots and leaves. I'm hoping I didn't do them in by waiting too long.
New project number 2 is vertical tomatoes. I'm trying four of the Topsy-Turvey upside down tomato growers (purchased at our local garden store), hanging from posts at the corners of the squash and cucumber garden. I have some misgivings about that one too. I think I might have waited too long to get my potted Early Girl and Beef Steak plants into the upside down growers. I had to mash up the root balls a bit more than seems healthy in order to stuff them through the hole in the bottom of the grower units. The cherry tomato plants were smaller, and so I think they will be fine. I'm watering them every day and crossing my fingers that I don't have to start over.
One thing I've wised up to this year is getting more from our shorter growing season in northern Michigan. I've started peppers and broccoli inside in a sunny window in the kitchen rather than waiting to plant the seeds outside. That occurred to me about six weeks after some of my gardening friends had already started their seeds, but I feel like I'm starting to get it. This food growing business is definitely an art learned over time. This fall I'm planning to try to lengthen the season on the other end using solar covers for a few of the raised beds.
We also have five hens growing in a coop in the back yard. Hopefully egg production will begin in a couple months. In the mean time, the hens are entertaining to watch. I move them to a different patch of grass every day, so they don't destroy the lawn but to trim it down and fertilize it. So far it's a pretty good deal. The eggs will be a bonus.