While the rain just pours down outside, there's not much that can be done in the garden. The row covers are up and protecting the beds, the soil is soaking in as much moisture as it can, the plants that are growing are taking in all the available light (which isn't much), the bees are hunkered down deep into the middle of their hive and eating their stores of honey, and the chickens just dig themselves a nice hole in the dry sawdust to wait out the rain. I think we're all feeling the need for some sun; but in lieu of that, it's time to make a plan for the coming year.
By now, I'm sure you've perused all the plant porn that has ended up in your mailbox; I imagine it's even more enticing for those of you whose gardens are covered in a deep layer of snow. I myself gave away all the old seed I had in the refrigerator and ordered everything new (except what I saved myself from last year), as the first step in my 2017 plan. It's good to order seed from a seed house you trust; if it's organic, even better (seeds that come from organic farms will do better than conventional in our own organic gardens, as they were raised to withstand our practices), and if it's local, well that's the best of all. I tend to order most of my vegetable seeds from Renee's Garden in Felton, CA. It's the closest seed I can find that is raised and collected right where they are located, in their test gardens. Another great CA source is Bountiful Gardens in Willets. Many seed houses sell seed from other gardens, so make sure you know the origin of what you're ordering. Two great sources from the middle of the country (and great selection - I confess I ordered from them, too) are Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Seed Company. This year I also ordered some hybrid seeds (for disease resistance and production) from Johnny's Selected Seed. They have both conventional and organic, hybrid and open pollinated.
The greenhouse is ready, and I've started setting up a more elaborate seed-starting table; Tom will be building a lighting panel for that this weekend.
All of this is to meet our 2017 goal. We've chatted a lot about our plan for the year and what we want to accomplish. The first thing we could both agree on was
1) More Tomatoes.
That's an easy one. We're already out of everything I canned and only have one jar left of frozen sauce, as well as some cubes of frozen tomato paste. We use tomatoes all year round, and it would nice to have enough canned that we didn't have to buy any at the store. (And I mean we would buy canned, not fresh, in the winter and spring months - who wants to eat an out-of-season tomato? Yuck.) Our lack of canned tomato product might have something to do with our unseasonably cold August. I can't imagine that is going to happen again, but if it does, than the only answer is, plant more to begin with! That way we'll have more supply in July at least, and the potential for a huge harvest all summer long. We'll plant only a few cherry tomatoes, with the lion's share being paste and slicers. We want enough to can everything we need for the whole year, plus plenty to eat fresh, everyday.
After we decided that, we really started to see that we needed more product, period. More peppers (also all gone at this point, except for one lone bag of sliced green in the freezer), more cucumbers, more lettuces. More potatoes, more squash, more beans! More basil, more cilantro, more dill. In short, our true goal is to ramp up production.
But we don't just want to continue planting as we have, and get iffy results. Some things are working perfectly: Our irrigation is dialed in. Our soil is perfect and getting better all the time. Though we have a smallish yard, we have all the room we need to grow what we need for a family of four with extra. The missing piece seems to be
2) Planting Efficiently.
This is really the overarching goal for 2017. Being more efficient all the way around. Figuring out how to have one crop in the ground, with another one in the greenhouse, ready to go in, and another one in the house, starting to sprout. Succession planting, but not the way I've been doing it, not just this hodgepodge of sowing. We really want to maximize our time and resources.
So this is a perfect time to work all that out. You've been seeing the bits and pieces of it, with my planting schedules, the building of the greenhouse, the setting up of the light table. But it all started with some discussion and an idea: More Tomatoes. Which really meant, Planting Efficiently.
Do you have a plan for your garden for 2017? Maybe it's to have more flowers for the native pollinators. Maybe it's to reduce the size of your lawn. Maybe it's to have enough apples to make and freeze applesauce. Maybe it's just to begin! No matter how far along you are in this homesteading journey, it's important to have a goal and a plan. I believe this is what guarantees success.