TAKING A SEED INVENTORY

TAKING A SEED INVENTORY

One of my favorite Winter pastimes is looking at seed catalogs.  However, before I order anything I take an inventory of the seeds that I have left over from last year.  Most vegetable seeds are viable for three or four years,  so I am likely to have about 125 containers of seeds to keep track of.  About ten years ago I started a spreadsheet to help make sense of it all. I group the seeds by type and make note of the following information: variety, date of purchase,  quantity of seeds on hand, and supplier.  I also include a column for start dates.  I throw out seeds that have gone past their viability period.  It’s funny, I’ve found that most seed suppliers want you to believe that seeds are only good for one or two seasons.  In my experience, the only crop that has single season viability is corn.  Everything else is good for three or four years. The next thing I check is seed quantity.  If I’m low or out of something, I highlight that line in red.  Before I order, I make note of all the highlighted items. I also take the opportunity to check my journal for notes about a particular variety to make sure that I haven’t overlooked anything that might cause me to try something different.

Being organized about your seed inventory is a very good first step toward a great gardening season. It’s time to “get it on”.
All the best,
Greg
gcgarnache@gmail.com

A NEW YEAR A RENEWED COMMITMENT

A NEW YEAR A RENEWED COMMITMENT

It’s already been a tough winter and it’s only February.  My little corner of heaven had 38″ of snow in January.
So far, we have had over 60″ total for the season and as my friends and associates like to point out, February
generally accounts for half the seasonal snowfall.  Great.

To keep my mind off the snow I have been working on my garden plan and ordering seeds for the 2011
gardening season.  I find that this activity keeps me thinking hopeful thoughts.  I feel like a big league
baseball manager at the beginning of spring training.  Soon, I will begin to start seeds indoors.  Life is good.

Part of my garden planning is reviewing the previous garden season and making an assessment of successes and
failures.  After twenty five years of gardening I still have things to learn.  The weather is never quite the same year to year.  Nature has a way of introducing new pests and plagues every year.  I find myself constantly
adapting to new challenges.  That’s why I’m blogging.  This is the record of my struggles.  My greatest
failing last year was that I did not keep better records of the gardening season.  I stopped making regular notes in my journal: not a good example
to follow.  I resolve to keep better records.

That’s all for now.  I welcome your comments.
All the best,

Greg
CROP ROTATION – THE FOUR CROP METHOD

CROP ROTATION – THE FOUR CROP METHOD

Back in the 1990’s I was an average gardener trying to work out the basic issues, plot layout, which crops
to plant together, which crops to keep away from each other, what to feed my crops, what to do about
insect infestations.  Let’s face it, I was confused.  Enlightenment came in the form of an article I read in a
gardening magazine (Organic Gardening?).  It was about the concept of crop rotation and its importance
to successful vegetable gardening.  This article changed my life.

As I recall, the author was a small scale commercial farmer.  She had worked out a simple, manageable
system that anyone could implement in their home garden.  The key to her approach was to organize

your crops into four basic groups: legumes, leaf crops, fruit crops, and root crops.  This works best if
you can divide your garden into fourths.  I’ve got 16 beds in my basic rotation and this works very well
for me.  An important thing to remember is to keep like vegetables together in the same bed.

At left is a typical leaf crop bed.  There are various lettuce varieties,
cabbage, broccoli and spinach in this bed.  The photo was taken in early
May in 2007.

Now that we have our garden layout organized around a four crop rotation
we can now consider soil amendments and nutrition.  One of the benefits of
legume crops is that they add nitrogen to the soil.  Leaf crops love nitrogen.
That’s why leaf crops follow legumes.  It’s genius!  At the end of the legume
season you can prepare this bed for all of the crops to follow by adding two
soil amendments; green sand and rock phosphate.  Rock phosphate is rich

in phosphorous a key element in growing healthy tomatoes, peppers and other fruit crops.  It takes a good
year to break down in the soil so that it can be used by the plants.  That’s why you want to add it now.
Green sand has potassium which is needed for healthy root crops.  Green sand takes about two years to
break down in the soil, just in time for your root crop rotation.  In addition to these amendments, I plant
a green manure crop in the legume bed in the fall.  This will add more nitrogen to the soil and organic matter
when the crop is tilled into the soil in the spring.  In the spring I will add some compost to the soil before
I till.

One additional benefit to crop rotation is that moving your crops to a different bed every year confuses
the insects that prey on your vegetables.  It doesn’t eliminate the problem entirely.  However, it does
help.  There will be more on garden insects in future posts.
All the best,
Greg