Menu Planting

One of the goals for our garden is to meet our defined needs of fresh, nutritious, organic produced food, for canning, pickling, freezing, and winter storage.  We also wanted to meet our food likes and prepare meals from the fresh foods and stored foods from the garden.  Hence the concept of Menu Planting.   We like beet greens, so we plant beets just for the greens two to three times through the season.  We love Hodge Podge so we plant green and yellow bush beans, peas, and an early potato.  We are very fond of a Grilled Caesar Salad. so we plant Romaine Lettuce.  We like eating roasted vegetables, grilled vegetables, love Italian food, enjoy stir fry and of course need salsa.  Menu planting is simply planting for the meals you enjoy.

You can menu plant easily in any garden. A common method is to use a raised bed for specific needs, such as a salad garden, salsa garden, Italian garden, etc. We will have some special beds, but for the most part, our menu planting is throughout the garden.

  1. Salsa Garden – Some vegetables to include in the salsa garden are tomatoes, tomatillos (need two plants for cross pollination), bell peppers, chile peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro.  Your personal taste will determine choices of peppers from mild through super hot varieties.  Use colour, such as red onion, different colour tomatoes and peppers.  Remember, if you want garlic, it is planted in the fall. Here is a sample salsa garden produced with the Garden Planner.

    Salsa Garden (Garden Planer)
    Salsa Garden (Garden Planer)

Fresh Garden Salsa
Use a medium sized bowl to combine
• 4 cups finely chopped tomatoes
• 1/2 cup minced onion
• 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
• 1 jalapeno minced or bell pepper for milder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
• 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
• 1 lime (juice and zest)
Mix well,  place in the refrigerator a few hours before serving. Enjoy in your garden!

Grilled Vegetables Kosher2. Grilled vegetables – Grilled veggies accompany pretty well all our BQ meals.  Our favourites include asparagus, green beans, carrots, corn, egg plant, onions, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, green tomatoes, zucchini and Romaine.  Keep it simple, slice veggies to size, toss in olive oil, add salt and pepper and place on the heated grill.  Grill time varies.  General rule is the harder the vegetable, the more time on the grill.  Check for tenderness and nice grill marks, garnish with chopped basil, oregano, or rosemary and chow down.

Here is a grilled salad that we enjoy.

Grilled Caesar Salad

Ingredients (Serves 8)
Ciabatta Bread
8 – 10 slices pancetta
3 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus shaved Parmesan for serving
4 heads romaine hearts, sliced lengthwise in 1/2
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Preheat grill to high.
2. In a blender, combine the garlic, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Drizzle in 3/4 cup olive oil to emulsify. Add the Parmesan and pulse.
3. Cut ends off bread and save for another use. Cut bread into 16 slices and lightly brush both sides with Caesar dressing.
4. Grill bread for approx. 10 sec. per side or just long enough to toast and pick up grill marks. Remove from grill.
5. Heat pancetta for 10 sec. on each side, (use a pan on the grill)
6. Cut romaine in half length wise, drizzle romaine in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 minutes, until grill marks appear and the romaine becomes wilted.
7. On each of eight salad plates, arrange Romaine lettuce halves, pancetta, ciabatta toasts.
8. Drizzle with dressing, add pancetta, garnish with shaved Parmesan and serve.

3. The Italian Menu – Vegetables needed for our love of Italian food include tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, greens, beans, squash, zucchini, asparagus,   Required herbs are basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley.  Besides enjoying fresh ingredients in our Italian eating, we can tomatoes, tomato sauce, roasted peppers, and beans.  We also dry herbs and garlic for use through the winter.  If you are gardening with children, help them create a pizza garden and of course,  make a pizza from the bounty of their garden.

Here is a link to a sample Pizza Garden.

Plant and grow what your family likes to eat and plan your menus around the food you grow.

Herb garden, stir fry garden, pickling garden?

 

 

 

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Garden Experiments for 2015

Today we are experiencing a late winter snow storm and is a good time to do some more thinking and planning for the garden.  Each year we try new things.  If they work, we will continue to use them.  This year the plan is to try two new vegetables and three different growing methods.

We have chosen five gardening experiments for the 2015 season.

  1. Asparagus bed – We have put off this for about three years, so this year it is time.  Roots are already ordered so no turning back.  Two varieties we selected are, Jersey Giant and Purple Passion.  The roots are sent to us in the spring for planting time in our growing zone.
  2. Sweet Potatoes – We have chosen Covington, an early variety that will mature in short season areas. Unrooted vines are shipped in the late spring.  With proper care we will be enjoying sweet potato fries this fall.
  3. Straw Bale Garden – Plan to experiment with about four bales and try to grow a variety of vegetables. A wood crate structure will confine the sides of the four bales. The plan is to then use the Square Foot Garden Method to plant.  More information on Straw Bale Gardens can be found here.

    Vertical potatoes
    Vertical potatoes
  4. Vertical Potatoes Have always been intrigued by this method to grow potatoes.  If successful, we plan to build more towers and eliminate the rows of potatoes from the garden to free up space.
  5. Sawdust bed – We were traveling in south-west Nova Scotia when first observed huge vegetables growing in sawdust.  The key as we found out, was old sawdust.  Old was very old, like 25 years or more!  Well near the homestead are the remains of an old mill.  There has been no production for over 40 years and there is also a huge deposit of old sawdust.  Our plan is to check it out and seek permission from the land owner (if we can find them) and see if we can make our sawdust gardening experiment a reality.  We will build a raised bed and again use the SFG method to grow a variety of vegetables and flowers.  We are also going to use a mixture of sawdust and compost for our experiment.

You are invited to follow us as we update our experiments through the growing season.  We also welcome any advice you have on any of our gardening experiments. Please use the comment section on Facebook or on WordPress.

Come on spring!

Tom and Di

Satisfying the Gardening Itch

Our planning and preparation continues.  Seed inventories done, and browsing seed catalogs and seed websites continues.  New asparagus roots ordered, vegetable seeds ordered, and some seeds have already arrived.

Both gardens now have four feet of the white stuff snuggling them.  Hard to believe that spring is only nineteen days away.  There are some positive signs that spring is near, the light of day has grown longer and the warmth of the sun continues to increase, spring training has started in baseball, and there are only two months left before the Stanley Cup Playoffs are over.

The other sign for gardeners is that itch Garden 003to get scratching in the dirt.  The desire to get started and smell the earthy aromas of soil and rotting compost.  Here in New Brunswick we will have to wait another six to eight weeks. There are, however, some things you can do to help satisfy those urges.

  • March is the time to start seeds indoors. White, Red and green onions will be started this week. Several of our flowers will be started as well. Check the frost dates for your area and the planting instructions on the seed pack.  Generally seeds are started indoors four to eight weeks before the last frost date.  We use May 15th as a guide, so if the seeds need to be started six weeks prior to the last frost, we will start on or before April Fools’ Day!
  • Get a start on new projects you are planning for the gardens.  Our new plans include:
    • 2 trellises for the cucumbers
    • Stacking boxes for the vertical potatoes experiment
    • Crates for the straw bales experiment
    • New stakes and row markers
    • More tomato cages
    • New cold frame for large raised bed.
    • 2 new raised bed boxes
  • On the stormy days or evenings, grab a gardening book and Garden tipsdiscover new tips to add to your gardening knowledge.  A good one to spend time with is 1,001 Old-Time Garden Tips edited by Roger Yepsen.  The book includes “timeless bits of wisdom on how to grow everything organically, from the good old days when everyone did”.
  • Then of course is one of our favourites, browse the garden centers.  This usually results in some new and neat tools being added to the shed!

If you have any other suggestions, please share in the comment section.

Until next time,

Tom and Di

Using the Garden Planner

We continue to use Grow Veg’s  Garden Planner software and truly believe that it’s use has enabled continued success in our gardens.  It is easy to use and you can plan this year’s garden using the free trial.  Here is a repost of our February 2015 blog.

In an earlier post, “Time to Plan the Garden”, I referred to the use of an excellent tool called the GardenUpper Garden Planner.

The illustration is of our Upper Garden (still in the planning stages).  A raised bed garden where we experiment with Square Foot Gardening, as well as locate our garlic and asparagus beds.  This year we used the Garden Planer to plan the irrigation system.  Once everything was located, the Garden Planner produced a materials list detailing what was needed to complete the irrigation system.  This materials list was very helpful to review our current inventory of irrigation parts and enabled us to order new.

This is one of the great features of the Garden Planner that we have come to like.  In addition to producing a materials list for the irrigation system, the Garden Planner will produce a seed and plant list for our garden making it easy to determine what we need to buy for the 2015 garden.

Learning how to use the Garden Planner is easy and to help you get started there are nine training videos available detailing all the features of the Garden Planner.

The Garden Planner is available at GrowVeg.com.

Cheers

Tom and Di

Garden Planning – Set Goals for Your Garden

As I plowed out the homestead today, I had the radio tuned to Stewart McLean, host of The Vinyl Café.  Today’s show focused on Daydreaming. (You can listen to Stewart here.)   Ann Murray sang “Daydream Believer”, and later, The Loving Spoonful joined in with “What a Day for a Daydream”. Those tunes took me back to the Sixties for a while and then the mind began to wander to warmer days and into the garden.  It was more of the “I wonder” kind of daydream.  The kind of thoughtful daydream that one can allow the mind to explore the “whys” of why you choose to do things.  Like, “Why have a garden?”

When we initially started our garden there was not a lot of thought or planning.  We jumped in and created a garden.  You may recall how the seed display at Home Depot became our plan. Since then we have put careful thought into what we wanted to achieve.  We thought out and wrote down goals for our gardens.  The four main goals dealt with production, learning, leisure, and diversity.

  1. Production – We wanted a garden to meet our defined needs. Fresh, nutritious, organic produced food, for canning, pickling, freezing, and winter storage.  And for fresh salads, beet greens, HodgePodge,
    Hodge Podge
    Hodge Podge

    strawberry pie, etc.

  2. Learning – We wanted to gain knowledge about gardening.  Experiment with raised rows, raised beds, square foot gardening, vertical gardening, and straw bale gardening.  Learn about composting, mulching, and soil development.
  3. Leisure – Create a relaxing environment.  A garden for reflection, observation, and of course daydreaming.  (our lower garden plan includes a hammock under the pergola!)
  4. Diversity – Our garden will include vegetables, fruit, flowers, and shrubs.  We will experiment with different varieties, colours, tastes, and textures.

Having these goals allows us to focus on what is important for us.  The goals are like the cornerstones for our garden planning and allow us to establish specific objectives each year.

Looking at the Upper Garden covered in two feet of snow it will be awhile before we will be digging in the soil. Maybe time to relax and daydream about this summer and our gardens.

What are your goals for this year’s garden?

Tom & Di

Time to Plan the Garden

If you have not already started to plan your 2015 garden now is the time to start.  Here is a great tool to help and is a valuable educational resource as well.  We used the free version last year and chose to subscribe this year.  It is the “Garden Planner” from GrowVeg.com

Here are the features we like about the Garden Planner.

  • easy to draw out your vegetable beds, add plants and move them around to get the perfect layout
  • works for traditional row planting, raised beds, raised row or square foot gardens.
  • as you add vegetables the space they need is clearly shown by the colored area around each plant and it calculates how many plants will fit into the area
  • crop rotation is easy as the Garden Planner warns you where you should avoid placing each vegetable based on what was in your previous years’ plans.
  • enter your address and the Garden Planner adapts to your own area using a database of over 5000 weather stations.
  • print a planting chart showing how many of each plant and when to sow, plant and harvest them
  • the Garden Planner sends email reminders of what needs planting from your garden plans
  • you can organize which crops will follow on from others using the succession planting feature
  • add customized varieties with their own spacing and planting dates
  • acts as a garden journal by adding your own notes about what and how your garden grows.

This is our “lower garden” designed with the Garden Planner.  (More on the lower garden in a future post.)

 Lower Garden - Garden Planner
Lower Garden – Garden Planner

Have a look at the Garden Planner in action.

Setting up your Garden Planner account is easy, and there is no obligation to subscribe.  If you find it useful the annual subscription is $25.  We have found the Garden Planner a great tool for a successful garden and subscribed for two years for $40.

Subscribe to the Garden Planner at GrowVeg.com

Enjoy planning your garden.

Tom and Di