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June 5, 2014

We’re at that point we’re thinking summer is already over.  And it hasn’t even started!

overwintered leeks for seed

overwintered leek for seed

How so you ask?  We’ve already direct seeded some of our winter crops, and are about ready to start seeds for our winter brassicas.  Meanwhile we’re waiting on last year’s crops to make seed or dry down (garlic) for harvest.  Somewhere in all the spring, fall and winter crop planning and planting,  summer and summer crops kind of take a back seat.  We live for summer weather, so we can prepare for winter?  Haying and cutting firewood are the constant reminders that summer is fleeting.

garlic forest

garlic forest


Fourth bok choy seeding - a head a day requires diligence

Fourth bok choy seeding – a head a day requires diligence

Joi Choi forest

Joi Choi forest


brassicas rule

brassicas rule

Azure Star kohlrabi

Azure Star kohlrabi



Duty calls

Duty calls

The whirlwind is here, planting, weeding, trellising, harvesting, lather, rinse, repeat.  So now that most of the winter crops are seeded or at least scheduled, I can plant a few more summer crops, and maybe, just maybe, quit thinking about winter for a short while.  Especially since I spied a cute little summer squash or two last night at dusk…come on summer.



23 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    June 5, 2014 11:05 am

    Wow! Amazing what you have accomplished already! That is one beautiful looking cabbage! 🙂

  2. June 5, 2014 11:10 am

    Just picked up my first CSA Harvest Basket yesterday… the taste of summer springs to life! Yahoo!! 😀

  3. June 5, 2014 11:20 am

    Gorgeous garden. Up north here – most everything I planted is up – no pics of beautiful veggies til sometime in August tho 😊

  4. June 5, 2014 11:43 am

    Whirlwind. You said it.

  5. Pippa permalink
    June 5, 2014 3:04 pm

    Everything looks so good. Makes me envious !

  6. Bee permalink
    June 5, 2014 3:16 pm

    Yes, those “gurus” who tell you to live in the moment never had to worry about the winter food supply. You don’t plant it now as well as later, you don’t eat when the storms rage. I spend my time calculating garden, freezer and shelf space, juggling transplants and planning for next week, next month, next winter… The new big garden is finally in place, however, which will make things much easier: 4,900 square feet of soil with a nice clay layer underneath that will hold moisture, and it can be flood irrigated. Grandkids are cheering because there’s room for lots of pumpkins. One of the guys helping put in the fence commented “This is a BIG garden!” When I pointed out I was feeding seven people, he said, “Oh, maybe not so big, then.” be

  7. CassieOz permalink
    June 5, 2014 4:29 pm

    Such stunning (mouthwatering) photos as always Matron. We’ve had a really mild fall and are technically into winter but it hasn’t really been cold yet (but frost forecast for this weekend). Summer was soooo hot that a lot of the starts for winter veg wouldn’t germinate so they got a late start and are looking a little ‘underwhelming’ at this time despite the mild growing season over fall. The beans grew late so I lost a lot of seed because it didn’t mature before the plants died with the short days. Weird weather all around this year I think. Great to see yours looking so well.

  8. Mark permalink
    June 5, 2014 5:18 pm

    Beautiful looking crops!
    Have you ever considered hop plants? Your micro climate might be good for them and they have become quite in demand.

    • June 5, 2014 5:25 pm

      Mark, they are like a weed around here, we have some but…never get around to harvesting them. The most vigorous ones we planted are Tettnanger, and we have a few weak Cascades hanging on, they are the butt of hop jokes here. “The Elusive Cascade hop…”

  9. Karen permalink
    June 5, 2014 8:03 pm

    Crazy… planning for winter in the midst of early summer. “Do something every day…” Carla Emery’s words haunt me. Or as you say, “Lather, rinse, repeat.” It’s a standard that I hope to one day live up too. Thanks for the beautiful pics.

  10. Emily permalink
    June 7, 2014 1:43 am

    Can anyone point me in the direction of resources for understand the planning for full time food garden.I always get my timing wrong for winter crops and never have enough room for everything,How big is your garden Matron? I see Bees is almost 5000 sq feet.we are moving to more self reliance and need to work this out.

    • June 7, 2014 5:35 am

      Emily, it’s tough and to have enough space you need to have some fallow for winter planting. Fallow in that you’ve probably cover cropped and can work on weed pressure during the beginning of garden season and getting that space in tip top shape for winter crops. Whether it be beds allotted just for later planting or a portion of your gardening area set aside just for winter crops. For us, and that includes the milk cow’s root crops & room for seed saving, we have about 18,000 feet for garden type crops, that includes to unheated hoophouses for early and late crops, and some of the ground is not planted right now in preparation for later planting. You can accomplish the same thing with much less garden space, we are doing quite a bit of dryland cropping so our water needs are less but to do that you need wider spacings of rows and plants. Check out Harriet’s book for a smaller urban version of yearly food planning which works for town or smallholdings. Good charts on varieties for preserving and quantities needed. How you garden is up to you, first you need to plan what you need for the pantry and work into the garden space with that in mind.

    • Bee permalink
      June 7, 2014 11:15 am

      Emily, I’m a good bit behind the Matron in terms of food production; she’s been growing there since she could toddle to the garden and we’ve only owned this place for 8 years.

      I have a kitchen garden of about 1,000 square feet, which was my first step. I use succession planting, intensive gardening and similar strategies to get as much food as possible out of a limited space. I haven’t been able to grow the real space eaters, such as corn or winter squash (which is why we finally got the big garden put in), but concentrate on things that are highly productive and/or lend themselves to succession planting — lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, summer squash, greens, cole crops and the like. Nor am I trying to feed the house cow from the garden. I can buy grain screenings (what’s left after the grain is ground) very inexpensively from the local mill only 35 miles away.

      I also garden in a different zone, where I have to irrigate in summer, but have more of an extended season without greenhouses (although I’d like a small one to start things like tomatoes). This place has two “official” orchards about half a mile apart, both of which had been neglected for at least 50 years. So we are well-supplied with plums, pears, apples, blackberries, a few apricots from one tree and asparagus from a bed that desperately needs to be renovated, not to mention the widely scattered wild fruit trees all over our 185 acres.

      We’re still buying hay for the cows, as it’s been a long, slow process building up the neglected pastures and getting the irrigation system resurrected. We could probably get to the point of grazing year round if we keep the herd really small.

      I have found John Jeavons’ “How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine” very helpful in my gardening efforts down through the years. When I was young I had limited time to garden and now that I’m older, I realize I won’t be able to work a huge garden forever.

      Nita, what a cool book; I hadn’t run across that one. Thanks for sharing!

      • Emily permalink
        June 8, 2014 12:01 am

        thank you for taking the time to reply Bee and Nita you paint a wonderful picture. I think that the inter seasonal thing is defiantly about experience in a location as much as skill.neighbors are great like that.
        I know the book by jevohns and its a popular method here i find Steve Solomon a good balance thanks to Nita on that one.
        We are in New Zealand, we are looking to buy land so the climate is flexible in that we can basically buy anywhere,my husband is a builder and that makes work fairly easy to come buy.unschooling gives us great flexibility as well
        New Zealand has the extreme from sub tropical in the north to cold and icy in the south so we would be aiming for that middle ground.
        We would like to establish the land for our children to take over so that effects our choices in location, elevation,size.
        I always thought it would be a great idea to have supported farming opportunity for families,where they could spend a cycle of the seasons working on the land to see if it fits them,land is quite expensive here its a big financial commitment.
        we are pretty clear about our wants as far as land goes,size is something that gets tossed around a lot, Bee did you buy your land new 8 years ago and was the size a big part of your decision? did you get to choose your location? what compromises came up for you?

  11. Bee permalink
    June 8, 2014 7:23 am

    Emily, I’m not sure what you mean by “bought it new.” If you mean, as opposed to an inheritance, then yes, we bought it new and chose the location. It’s about 35 miles from where we lived before, and I’ve lived in this area most of my life, so I know the climate, culture and towns.

    It wasn’t size so much as the water. This place has seven major springs and a number of seasonal springs, at least four ponds (one of which we didn’t even find until we were clearing brush three years after we bought the place) and two good-sized year-round creeks. In our mostly dry area of far northern California, that’s sort of like hitting the mother lode. It allows us to irrigate without using sprinklers and the land contours are such that the water seeps or runs down the hillside and keeps a lot of forage going even when it gets hot. I figure I can build soil, but if i don’t have water, I’m in trouble. Nita is well into the Pacific Northwest, but I’m on the southern fringe, so water is a constant concern.

    The biggest compromise was that we bought it with our daughter, son-in-law and his parents, as none of us could swing it alone. So there’s constant negotiation (and some knock-down, drag-out fights on occasion;-). But there are also benefits, as we bring a diverse set of skills to the table and no matter what the issue, one of us has the necessary skills and knowledge. Another was money; we wanted to pay it off as soon as possible, so the monthly payments are steep. But we should be free and clear in about 8 years. We live on the ranch with our daughter and her family, so the grandkids are hands-on in most of what we do. Son-in-law’s parents live about 25 miles away and don’t want to move up here because they run their business out of their home. Still another compromise was housing. The only “home” on the place was an OLD mobile home is lousy shape, so we’ve been living in a fifth-wheel trailer (I think you might call them caravans?). The kids are currently building their house and ours is next. And i guess the final compromise was health-related. My husband had to have back surgery a couple of years ago, which, with complications, became three back surgeries. He does his best, but his best is a lot less than he could accomplish when we first brought the property. So I’m constantly looking for easier ways to do things and recognize that our original timetables have been permanently elongated…

  12. Bee permalink
    June 8, 2014 10:46 am

    Thanks, Nita, I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to put my blog on your blog, so to speak. Blog manners weren’t in the etiquette books when I was a youngster!

    • June 8, 2014 11:35 am

      Bee, I got tired of maintaining the blogroll, so I removed it. Doesn’t mean I don’t still read good blogs 😉

  13. Cody permalink
    June 12, 2014 11:02 am

    I am desperate for suggestions on how to grow brassicas. What are your secrets? Every one that I put into the ground gets mauled by caterpillars and is a holey mess. I am considering row covers for fall. We are in NC. Any suggestions?

    • June 12, 2014 11:59 am

      Cody, they are heavy feeders and like a neutral soil. Lime and composted cow manure are my secrets. If the plant is getting what it needs it should be resistant to the bugs. But that being said – row cover is a sure bet until you get your soil in order.

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