Insane Planting, and Just How We Eat Our Yard Year Round

I’ve been crazy busy madly planting, starting, sowing and harvesting the last few weeks. I have a rough garden map courtesy of www.growveg.com (which I’m not affiliated with) but the variety of things I have makes it impossible to rely on something like that completely as I’m growing so much that it doesn’t all fit on the map. I very intensively plant and succession plant.

It’s a system that I’m still developing but what I love about it is that, unlike square foot gardening, I am able to use drip lines which helps conserve water and I can put it all on a timer and go on vacation. And hope that the water pressure cooperates and none of the tapes blow…

The intensity of the way that I garden lets me grow enough vegetables to feed my family year round using only a fraction of my 1/5 acre lot.

I’m hoping to inspire as many others as possible to grow much of their food if only for part of the year. What really made me realize this was even possible was reading a few books which I hope you’ll look for at your local library. They are Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting and Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long. If you are at all interested in growing food in the city I hope you’ll check both of these out.

I want to share with you what I’ve been so crazy mad busy starting and my starting schedule which I believe is appropriate to my Seattle conditions although I’m technically challenged so please click on the link to open the excel version of my seed starting schedule and list.

Crop Name
Crimson Clover
Camelina
Vetch
Wild Garden Insectary Mix
Sunflower, Tarahumara
Buckwheat
Sod Buster Cover Crop
Wheat Grass
Oats
Amaranth
Quinoa
Chervil
Cumin
Sage
Lemon Balm
Dukat Dill
Fernleaf Dill
Flatleaf Parsley
Cilantro
Anise Hyssop
Chamomile
Basil, Mammoth
Basil, Cinnamon
Marshmallow
Echinacea Purpura
Calendula
Borage
Soapwort
Horehound
Feverfew
Peas, Schweizer Riesen Snow
Peas, Cascadia Snap
Peas, Sugar Ann Snap
Peas, Maestro Shelling
Vit
Mesclun Mix
Micro Greens
Arugula
Provencal Winter Mix
Continuity Butterhead
Italienischer
Valmaine
Parris Island Cos
Flashy Troutsback
Oscarde
Merlot
Mascara
Chickweed
Claytonia
Sorell
Purslane
Orach
Magentaspreen
Strawberry Spinach
Malabar Spinach
Kohlrabi
Rapini
Collards
Red Russian Kale
Nero de Toscana Kale
Dwarf Blue Scotch Kale
White Russian Kale
Nash’s Red Kale
Winter Red Kale
Fizz Kale
Radicchio, Variegata di Castelfranco
Radicchio, Early Treviso
Belle Isle Cress
Garden Cress
Ruby Red Chard
Rainbow Chard
Bloomsdale Savoy Spinach
Beets, Early Wonder
Beets, Autumn Harvest Blend
Nasturtiums, Empress of India
Nasturtiums, Black Velvet
Viola, Johnny Jump Up
Fennel, Perfection
Celeriac, Brilliant
Celery, Utah
Cauliflower, Nash’s
Cauliflower, Galleon
Cauliflower, Snowball
Cabbage, Filderkraut
Cabbage, Beira Tronchuda
Cabbage, January King
Cabbage, Tundra
Cabbage, Red Express
Cabbage, China Express
Ching Chiang
Cabbage, Danish Ballhead
Broccoli, Purple Sprouting
Broccoli, White Sprouting
Broccoli, Rudolph
Broccoli, Fall Blend
Broccoli, Purple Peacock
Broccoli, Apollo
Brussels Sprouts, Rubine
Brussels Sprouts, Roodnerf
Mustard, Osaka Purple
Mustard, Tah Tsai
Mustard, Kyoto Mizuna
Carrots, Scarlet Nantes
Carrots, Purple Dragon
Radish, Minowase Daikon
Salsify, Mammoth Sandwich Island
Carrots, Autumn King
Parsnips, Javelin
Parsnips, Cobham Improved Marrow
Radish, French Breakfast
Rutabaga, Joan
Turnip, Purple Top White Globe
Corn, Golden Bantam
Beans, California Blackeye
Beans, Tigers Eye Bush
Beans, Empress Bush
Beans, Provider Bush
Tomatoes, Super Lakota
Tomatoes, Black Plum
Tomatoes, Scotia
Tomatoes, Cherokee Purple
Tomatoes, Jaun Flammee
Peppers, Mini Bell
Peppers, Wonder Bell
Leeks, Giant Musselburgh
Onions, Copra
Onions, Tallon
Garlic
Shallots
Cucumbers, Alibi
Cucumbers, Marketmore 97
Pumpkins, Small Sugar
Pumpkins, Magic Lantern
Pumpkins, Sweetmeat
Squash, Costata Romanesco Zucchini
Squash, Black Beauty Zucchini
Melon, Muskmelon
Melon, Prescott Fond Blanc
Melon, Blacktail Mountain Watermelon
Potatoes, Russets
Potatoes, Yukon Gold
Potatoes, Bintje
Potatoes, Red Fingerling & La Ratte

I’ve scheduled my start dates for both late spring/summer crops and my start dates for fall/winter/early spring crops.  This allows me to feed my family (and chickens) year round exclusively (and chickens partially) from my city lot.

I don’t have a greenhouse or special seed starting room.  Instead I use a simple re-purposed book shelf, fluorescent lights suspended from chain link and a 24″ Hydrofarm Jump Start T5 Grow Light System.

When it comes time to harden off I put the trays outside during the day for a week, bringing them in at night and keeping a watchful eye on them so they don’t dry out.  This time of year the weather can be tempestuous winds or torrential rains so I’ve rigged up some simple 72″ long wire pieces tucked inside one raised bed.  I’ve covered them with opaque plastic held in place with metal clips that I purchased from an office supply store.  On rainy or windy days I put the flats under cover.  I will also use this system to cover my tomato, basil and pepper starts until May once I’ve planted them out.

The question I get asked most frequently is how I find the time for the garden.  Realistically once you have the seeds planted (mainly during end of March/early April and then again at midsummer) and if you’ve irrigated the garden it doesn’t take up much time.  The harvesting and preserving, however, does.  Having made the choice to only eat foods if I know how and by whom they were grown means I would be spending that time at the farmer’s market, UPick or preserving foods someone else had grown for me anyway so growing as much as possible myself isn’t much more of a time commitment.  And the money it saves you will add up quickly.

Plus being outdoors in April and midsummer is something that I want to do anyway. Now that my kids are old enough to not eat their own caterpillar soup creations, they enjoy racing around the maze of garden boxes or digging in the mud hole I’ve incorporated into the front garden bed. We have plans to build the brick mud pie oven, garden spider orbs, and make a sundial together and we look forward to many a garden tea party.

I hope you are all busy planning your gardens and hope to meet as many of you next Saturday in my yard as possible.  The open garden is from 1-4 at my house, 5710 NE 56th St in Seattle.  The zip is 98105 and please do google it since the streets don’t all go through.  Also please consider carpooling as parking is limited.  The garden is in that in between phase where I have just recently harvested the last of the fall/winter/early spring crops but the late spring/early summer thing are just barely surfacing so it doesn’t have that lush mid-summer look but I hope you’ll still get ideas on how to pack more edibles into your own yards.

Happy gardening!

24 Responses to Insane Planting, and Just How We Eat Our Yard Year Round

  1. I would love to learn more about your irrigation system. That is what floors me. I just can’t get everything watered. The areas I water well get really lush and everything else suffers in July-August. This year we will be away much of August and will have to trust a house-sitter so things need to be easy.

    Looking forward to visiting next week.

  2. Another question…. in your excel spreadsheet, does TRANSPLANT DATE mean transplant to larger container or is that when you start to put them outside? It seems a lot earlier than I have considered safe on many plants.

  3. Hi Shannon, you can come have a firsthand look at it and I can explain.

    Here is a quick intro though: http://www.sustainableeats.com/2009/06/17/designing-an-irrigation-system/

    I will be redoing some of the zones this year because T tape takes forever to soak the beds so it needs to be it’s own zone. For simplicity’s sake last year I divided the yard into physical locations. I should have divided the zones into T tape and non-T-tape. Live and learn. But the zones are the easy part so most of the work is done. You can even get a rain sensor so your system won’t come on if it rains. It’s pretty neat!

    Transplant date means planting outside. I will be doing a few things to protect the tomatoes, basil, peppers and cucurbits even though I’ll be planting them out. The cukes and squash will get a 1/2 milk gallon cut in half over them as a cloche and the tomatoes, peppers and basil will be put in on plastic covered dirt with a little hoop house over them to protect them from cold overnight weather.

    If you are doing everything safely all the time you likely won’t get many warm weather crops maturing before fall frosts hit. Gardening is one area of my life I like to be risky in. ;p

    Your blog is so captivating, every time I visit it I end up getting sucked in! You should bring W by one day to play with Lander.

  4. The plans are coming along nicely and that list of starts is mind boggling! I hope others are encouraged by your efforts to grow more of their own.

    I don’t think I am going to be available to make your open house but I was hoping to catch you later this summer if possible.

  5. Is anyone invited to your open house? We’d love to stop by. My husband’s really the one handling the garden, but it would be great for us both to see a work in progress!

  6. KFG – I’d love that!
    Tiffany, yes I’ll let just anyone come. :) I’d love to meet you and/or your husband.

  7. I’m watching closely, but I’m having trouble understanding how you can grow so much food and still have time to sleep. You must be a hardy soul. Do you live in an area with a neighborhood association? If so, how does that affect what you do. I do live in an area with a very active neighborhood association. I have found that they want to be involved in things that seem fairly small. Since I could not possibly have chickens at my residence because of the CC & Rs, I’m looking into chickens at our business property. We own a fenced property and shop area which may be appropriate. Not sure how the doberman / shop dog would deal with that. Still working out the details.

  8. Husband and I are so excited :) We’ve torn out half our front yard to put in a veggie garden, can’t wait to see how you’ve laid things out!

  9. Would love to see your masterpiece! But that’s not going to happen. I’ll live vicariously through this post. Amazing work! I am so excited for this year’s garden, making it bigger, making more beds. Love it!

  10. As usual, wow! I also need to work on my irrigation system so I’ll definitely check out your page about your system.

  11. You are truely and inspiration! I am so bummed I’m going to miss your open garden this Saturday as I’m going out of town. Do you think you might have another one in the future? My husband and I are about to rip up our lawn and start an edible garden of our own and I was hoping to take a look at yours for ideas.

  12. Hi LeAnn, we do have neighborhood rules from the 40s but no active association. Chickens are breaking the rules to be sure but my neighbors seem highly amused at them. I’d be hesitant to put chickens somewhere other than where you would be at night, especially if there is a dog but that’s just me. Maybe you can try to petition your association instead?

    Myrnie – how exciting! I would go to http://www.growveg.com and map it out for starters, you can always tweak it later but that will give you a good idea of how to space plantings and how many starts you can have. That way you could get started with seeds now. Until I did that I had not a clue how many things to start, it was very overwhelming.

    Julia, do you mean you are making your garden bigger? I’m living vicariously through many of your canning efforts this year as well! I’m just putting stuff up without time to make all the fun things you do. :)

    Sandy, on that page one of those two sites (can’t remember which one) had a nice booklet you can download explaining all the things you need to keep in mind like water pressure and how to do the zones. It was very helpful! My husband wisely made me design it myself so that he wouldn’t be forever stuck maintaining it for me and if I could figure it out then anyone can.

    Carrie, thank you! Absolutely – I can schedule a makeup one. There are others not in town this weekend as well. Maybe we can do one end of April before you need to get all your stuff planted in your own garden. And I’m always open to drivebys anytime too. :) I keep thinking I need to put up a sign that says “demonstration garden, come on in!”

  13. Your plans are amazing! This will be my first attempt at a good sized garden here in Wyoming after having smallish gardens in Oregon. It is quite a bit different with a much shorter growing season. I don’t even have anything in the ground yet! I do have some things started inside. My list of stuff that I’m growing is quite a bit shorter than yours (I think I have 38 garden varieties of items plus a few fruit trees and berry vines due to arrive in a week or two). I plan on implementing some of your great ideas (like growing the potatoes in bags with the young fruit trees) and hope to have a fraction of the results you do. Thanks for being such a great inspiration.

  14. Hi Millie, I’m a compulsive planner if you can’t tell. ;p Hopefully it will all turn out but if not it will be a great learning experience. I’m so lucky to have this temperate climate here. I remember watching Frontier House a few years back (ok, many years back now) and wondering how the heck they could start crops basically at midsummer and get anything to eat before the first frosts hit, and enough to eat to last them all winter/spring/early summer at that. It’s amazing people in those climates survived but I think they just didn’t eat what we are used to eating. When I read through the Little House cookbook there is not much fun veg in there and it seems most winter/spring veg is pickled. I can’t imagine the amount of crocks it would have taken to do that though!

  15. I would LOVE it if you scheduled a make up! I’m so bummed I can’t come this Saturday. If not, I’d thought about emailing you the next time I was headed down to Seattle to see if I could stop by for a garden tour. The invitation is open next time you’re up in Everett too!

  16. Totally new here. I’m Myrnie’s sister, and she pointed me over here. Absolutely amazing!! We are moving to the Seattle area in two months, so I doubt that we’ll be able to get anything in the ground this year, but our new place has two planting boxes, and I plan on planting the heck out of it! (I sure hope it gets sun! LOL)

  17. Brittney, email me with a good Sat afternoon for you and let’s set it up!
    Aunt Lolo – good timing to start your winter garden! When you get to town and you’re ready to get gardening (hopefully by 4th of July) email me and I’ll point you towards some easy and good things to grow here. Or you can look on my spreadsheet and anything I’m putting in 6/21 is a winter crop and the varieties will do well here with little or no protection. I get all those winter seeds from http://www.territorialseed.com. I hope your move goes well!

  18. Wow, impressive post. When do you sleep, or do you? ;-)

    Love seeing what other folks are planning to plant and their plans of attack. Look forward to reading about your progress.

  19. Hi Annette,
    Wish I could click on your garden map so I can see it bigger and appreciate everything that you have in your plan.
    Keep up the good work and inspiration to us all!

  20. I really look forward to seeing your garden. Wow – your list is impressive. Did not know you could grow quinoa out here. I feel like I pack a lot in my garden bed and deck – excited to see how you pack in even more!

  21. Tom,you hit the nail on the head. ;p I need to ping you, I think I’m killing my second meyer lemon & the violetta bordeaux fig. The fig looked great, leafed out in the garage and then you said put it out where the leaves immediately got sunburned and no new figs now for over a month. The lemon same thing so I bought a replacement and think I didn’t water it enough. It’s still inside but all the leaves are falling off. I’m no good with things in pots!
    Gabriella, I wasn’t able to put most of this on there since I have so many varieties and growveg only has 1 icon for each thing. For instance, dukat dill is huge and tarragon is small but they just have a random “herb” icon so the whole thing would have been very vague pictures all the same size and wouldn’t have all fit on the map. I’m hoping to figure out how to put up a virtual tour so you can see better how everything is fitting. It really does! I’d almost rather squish a lot of things in and then do some pruning to make them fit than have fewer things with room around them.
    Anna Katherine, I can’t wait! I doubt I’ll get much quinoa, it’s more an experiment. I know you can eat the leaves and the chickens will eat it all so I thought I would give it a whirl to see if it makes sense to devote more space to it next year. See you Sat!

  22. Oh, I see you posted it here! I should have read it first. See you Saturday.

  23. Thanks for sharing your spreadsheet! I’m a newbie Seattle gardener, and it’s super helpful to have a guide to tell me when I should be doing all this stuff.

  24. Maitreya – good luck! This was last year’s spreadsheet. I’ll be doing this years soon hopefully and it will include even more early varieties since we are likely to have another crummy summer (so says Farmer’s Almanac).

    So I’ll be concentrating on more greens and cool weather crops like peas and potatoes. Those take less effort to grow anyway so I’ll have more time to enjoy summer when it comes!

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