My Northern California garden doesn’t sleep for the winter under a blanket of snow, or ever experience much of a frost, but parts of it are “resting” right now in cover crops of peas, fava beans, clover and fenugreek. (Seriously, Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is well known as a spice, but is also useful as a nitrogen-fixer (it’s in the Fabacae or bean family), soil-cleanser, and source of forage (for both pollinators and livestock). Just ask the folks at TheModernHomestead.) All but two of the summer’s tomato plants have hit the compost pile, and all the perennial runner beans have been mounded with compost of their own. While the kale, spinach, onions, and garlic are slowly consuming the short day’s sunlight, it’s a very good time to dream of the next gardening year.
My favorite gardening catalogs help. Orders from Victory Seeds and Adaptive Seeds will round out what I haven’t saved myself or traded with other seed savers. I already have a tantalizing stash of seeds courtesy of a friend’s visit to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have wonderful names like ‘Amsterdam Prickly Seeded Spinach’ and ‘Glory of Enkhuizen Cabbage’ and ‘Monkey Tail Cowpeas.’ And the chayote fruit the neighbors brought me has not only sprouted, but it has a 5-foot long vine growing leaves as wide as my hand.
The biggest structural change in the garden this year is that we are building a Beneficial Insect Hotel out of pallets salvaged by a good friend. The center section of the front garden is dedicated to an insectary with a small, rock-filled bug bath, annual and perennial natives to attract and feed beneficial garden insects, and the new hotel. This beauty from Inspiration Green is what we are using for inspiration. So far we have added tree cuttings, hollow bamboo poles, a pottery toad house, and straw batting for nesting material. I’ll share pictures as it fills. If you have a secret for attracting toads, please share it!
In the 2013 garden I hope to focus on growing more onions and garlic, getting back to basic and reliable potato varieties, and adding two more stands of runner beans, one for the big white ‘Cannellini’ runner beans and the other for the relatively rare ‘Ayocote Morado’ runner bean. Both this summer’s ‘Blenheim Orange’ and ‘Amish’ melons were wonderful, so I’m sure I will have requests from the family to grow more of those along with the standing request to grow watermelons. This year I plan to finally break down and grow the watermelons on Solar Mulch to warm the soil. I already have to put the mulch in to get sweet potatoes to crop in less than 200 days, so I might as well add some for the melons.
This year we’ll test seven different varieties of tomatoes for canning. I planted four seeds of each variety on January 12th and set them on the seed heating mat. I’m comparing their germination with the ‘Principe Borghese’ tomatoes that I grow every year for drying. The test varieties for this year are:
- ‘Tsungshigo Chinese’
- ‘Raspberry Lyanna’
- ‘Roma VF’
- ‘Santa Clara Canner’–A “local” variety which is actually from Italy!
Because taste-testing those tomatoes is so far away, for now I will be working on the rutabaga trials. I have ‘Nadmorska’ rutabaga seed from two different sources, ‘American Purple Top,’ ‘Marian,’ and ‘Joan’ all going in the garden.
What’s happening in your garden? Have big plans for 2013?