Thursday, June 4, 2009

Root Cellaring

I've been thinking about how we make what we grow last a bit longer. Last year, we had two random acorn squash plants sprout from seeds that weren't cooked enough in the compost pile. We were able to store away about four or five squash and ate them periodically through the late fall and early winter. In addition, we also canned some homemade pickles that Sara cooked up (a few of those jars are still left).

Since then I have been thinking about root cellars and other ways of storing our veggies. I picked up "Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables" by Mike and Nancy Bubel at Essex Library and have been giving it a read through. There is material on everything from planning your garden for the right types of crops to root cellar designs to recipes for all those veggies you've stored away. The nice thing is that they offer designs for gardeners of all types who might live in places where the traditional basement abode is not practical.

I don't know how much we'll be able to store away, but I'd like to try my hand at it. This year, I think I'll focus on some winter squash, potatoes, and carrots. Of course, that assumes that the yield will be successful enough... that could be a pipe dream. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh?

I'm curious -- do you have a root cellar or know of someone who has? How have you made out?

For me, it's all part of this quiet, yet seemingly unyielding desire to be more self-sufficient even in the midst of suburbia; eat with the seasons more; slow down. Talk about a pipe dream...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Early June Update

Well, I finally feel like we're getting somewhere in the garden. Lots of activity over the past few weeks. Here's the run-down:


With three out of the four new beds built and two of those actually loaded up with our homegrown mix of soil, compost, peat moss, and leaf mold, we're getting some stuff in the ground. I still take a somewhat neurotic and structured approach to the planting plan as I continue to learn and experiment with things like succession planting, companion planting, etc. It's a hodge-podge mix of rows, square-foot blocks, and seed casting. Here is what's in:

  • First round of yellow onions were planted in the wide space in-between our strawberry rows. I plan to drop more in every few weeks.
  • First rows of silver queen corn. Four rows of 8 in the first quarter of our 8x4 beds. I plan to drop another quarter bed's worth every two weeks until it's full. This might be tight in terms of spacing but I felt I could have planted more last year.
  • All kinds of lettuce including a few transplants of butterball I forgot I started indoors about a month back. I planted a bunch of spinach in the same bed but that's been slow to sprout. Too late?
  • Most of the tomatoes are transplanted between our beds and a bunch of pots on the deck. I always do more than I need as I end up giving some away. Beefsteak, yellow, roma and cherries. Should be a good yield, especially since we're trying to freeze (or can?) some sauce away this season.
  • I've thrown some sugarsnap peas in for kicks. Going to see if it is still cool enough to grow.
  • Sara's new herb garden. See the pics below. Lots going on here: Basil, flat leaf parsley, mint, rosemary, lemon balm, lemon verbena, thyme, oregano, sage, pineapple sage and tarragon. We just received a few varieties of cilantro courtesy of Sara's mom that still need to get in the ground. (You can also see our concord grape on the side of the steps. This went in last year and has come back fantastically this year. Ultimately, I want to trellis it up somewhere in a more proper fashion. I can't wait to try our hand at jam...)


Hopefully, this weekend I can build that last bed, fill the empty ones and get some more stuff in the ground. The plan is to:
  • Transplant some broccoli and eggplant of varying ages that were grown from seed a few weeks apart
  • Get potatoes in. I'm going to try some of those spuds from Samson's Farm in Westport (that I think we bought at Lee's) that I've let sprout a bit.
  • Pole beans
  • First round carrots
  • Squash and zuchinni
  • Second round onions
  • Sunflowers that I hope to sell at the end of the driveway at some point


Giddy up! All of the roots we planted have sprouted as evidenced by the pics below. I've back-filled most of the asparagus rows as the spears grow tall, albeit extremely slender. We'll let the asparagus take its course this season and wait to see if we get a few pickable spears next year. As for the strawberries, we'll de-flower them so they focus on root development. When the time is right, we'll clean up the off-shoots.

That's it for now. Thank goodness there is some green out there! Hope your gardens are getting on well.