I am just outside of Carlisle, PA, in zone 6. However, we plan to move to zone 3 or 4 eventually, and I am trying to think in terms of what will be realistic there.
My purpose for gardening is primarily food-production as we're homesteading types. However, it is also my therapy, my recreation, my love. That it happens to be practical is just good luck for me!
I have several gardens. First one is a Square Foot Garden (SFG) consisting of eight 4 by 4 squares. Second one is a 10 by 40 section, built from a pile of cow manure, that I think of as four 10 by 10 plots (one is planted to strawberries already). Half of it is covered by a hoop house, which turns back into garden instantly when we remove the plastic.
So I have 528 square feet of official garden, plus 200 square feet that can be converted to a greenhouse-like space.
When we move, I expect to have a earth-sheltered greenhouse, partially heated via solar, but partially from a wood stove. I plan 100 square feet of greenhouse to allow fresh food production year-round. I hope my primary garden will be about 500 square feet then.
In 2006, I did an insane amount of organizing. The Bountiful Gardens catalog lets you see how much harvest to expect for various things planted at various rates and I organized my gardening on the basis of what we like the most and would eat the most of for a year. In my opinion, their spacing information (they push intensive gardening) is more realistic than the SFG thing.
In organizing myself, I considered a few things: which foods we like best; which foods we really eat the most of (I'm diabetic, so it doesn't matter how much I *like* potatoes, I can't eat them); emphasizing fresh foods in season; I've spent lots of time learning to can in order to discover I don't like most foods canned (pretty much just tomato sauce and pickles); that I prefer root cellar or attic storage for "fresh" foods in winter; that I prefer dehydrating over canning. So there were all these considerations involved until I came up with my overall plan.
I measured it all up to the degree that we'd have 60 lbs produce each month year-round. Since there's two of us, this is 1 lb produce/day for each of us. This does not count stuff like grains, nor stuff like tree fruit, just your basic vegetables and melons and strawberries. Anyone interested in the details of how I did this organizing can see the spreadsheet,
After figuring what we could eat when, I next figured how many total pounds of each crop would represent in our diet annually to decide what was most important. So I have my gardening priorities straightened out. Though I find it sort of mind-boggling that salad tomatoes are so low on the list given that's what I've spent most of my time on all these years!
I am using a lab notebook to record my activities, and I have the foods listed in order by how many pounds of each we're likely to actually use. So when I decide what work I'm doing in the garden today, my priorities ought to be straight as long as I go through the notebook consecutively.
When it's winter, and one is going through catalogs, and fantasizing the garden of next year, one finds one's self wanting to try several different paste tomatoes, or wanting morning glories for no particular reason. I just need unlimited land, unlimited labor, unlimited funds and I can have my dream garden! I mostly behaved with my priorities ordered, but cut myself a *bit* of slack. So my seed order isn't 100% as organized as I like to think I am. ;)
We had previously fenced in the SFG bit of our garden a few years ago, but we had a couple problems. First, the fencing was intended to allow vertical growing, but it wasn't stable enough. Second, we had some holes that allowed the cats to pretty much just wander in easily. And Third, the gate to enter it was built very half-assed and had become a pain-in-the-butt. We did a lot of work this fall/early winter, adding in fence posts, wiring the fence up, closing gaps, and I built a brand new gate.
We finished up the hoop house and replaced the fence around that garden.
Too early to tell! All we know thus far is I'm insanely ambitious!
I had a heart attack in May and there went the season. ;(
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