Cabbages and Potatoes
“Elves and Dragons! I says to him. Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
I am the first to admit it - I do not have a green thumb! In fact, quite the opposite. Ian and Rachael are the gardeners in the family, so when it comes to gardening, I quietly take a back seat and leave the whole project in their capable hands.
Before choosing the site for your garden I would recommend watching the sun move across your yard. Most vegies and fruit trees need a full six hours of sunlight a day and you will struggle to get anything to grow in deep shade. You also want to make sure that you have easy access to water, and that the area is well drained.
Rachael started our vegetable garden by enclosing the area where she wanted to create the beds with large cinder blocks. After tilling the existing soil and raking it to remove grass, rocks, and weeds she filled the bed up with a generous amount of mulch. She then laid a path between the beds to allow for easier access when weeding and harvesting.
When choosing which vegetables to grow choose ones your family will eat and enjoy; and if you want to save money, start with seeds. Rachael planted her tomato, squash, and pepper seeds inside to get them started 8 weeks before the last frost of the season was forecast. She then transplanted the seedlings into the beds. At the same time, she sowed her carrot, potato, onion, and lettuce seeds directly into the beds, making sure to follow the directions on the packet as to spacing and depth. After an initial watering to help establish the seeds, she just kept a general eye on them. In Oregon, Spring is fairly wet which meant that the beds didn’t need much in the line of watering, however they did have to be weeded weekly.
While Rachael worked on our vegetable garden Ian dug holes in a small paddock near the house to plant our orchard. Fruit trees should be planted in early spring or late fall. When picking which trees to plant diversity is key. A mature tree can produce over 75 pounds fruit. That is a lot of fruit! So, unless you plan on selling your fruit or have a lot of friends, you don’t need more than one or two of the same type of tree. It is also important to consider which trees grow best in your climate and whether the trees you are planting are self-fertile or require a pollinator.
Since the fenced area we chose for our orchard was fairly small we planted espaliered apple trees, grape vines, and blueberries along the fence line. Espaliered trees are great space savers as they can be pruned in such a way that they fan out along the fence rather than spreading out to form a canopy. We then planted dwarf peach, plum, and pear trees. Dwarf trees are grafted onto a root stock that will not allow the tree to grow as large as a standard size tree (a standard size tree has a 20 foot spread and a dwarf tree has a 10 foot spread).
I may not have a green thumb, but I still feel a thrill of satisfaction when I walk out to inspect our trees. There is something tremendously satisfying in knowing that you have made a long term investment that will bear dividends for years to come. Bon appetite!