Garden Status Report

1. Banana Fingers, Purple Peruvian, and Chieftain seed potatoes   2. Sugar Baby watermelon seedlings
3. Giant pumpkin seedling   4. Basil, Tomato, Pepper and Brussels Sprouts seedlings.

Our self-sufficient garden is slowly, but very surely beginning to take shape. Nothing is in the ground yet (except for our garlic) but there’s going to be a lot of digging very soon. Before planting, we have a lot of infrastructure to install. Teepees for the beans, 15-foot trellises for the hopyard, and raised beds for the asparagus all need to be constructed over the next few weeks.

The idea of a self-sufficient garden is not just to have a tasty tomato for a sandwich in August, but to also have a delicious tomato sauce for pasta in December. And to make this happen, we’re going to need to build the biggest piece of infrastructure yet. A genuine, in-the-side-of-a-hill, root cellar. Something along the lines of this.

Left to right, Jacob’s Cattle beans, Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers, Dakota Black popcorn and Chioggia Beet seeds

Since we’re planning for winter storage, we’re trying to be careful and resist the temptation to start too many plants too early. It only makes sense that a cabbage picked as late as possible is going to taste the best in the middle of winter. To help me (and eventually you) do this, I’m designing a planting chart to help me get things into the ground in the proper order and keep track of what should be seeded directly into the garden. We’re also planning on doing later plantings of the same varieties to ripen at different times.

From the seeds that we started just a couple of weeks ago, we’ve already got a jungle of tomato and pepper plants. We’re most excited about our Jimmy Nardello sweet pepper seedlings. They are not only the most delicious peppers ever, but our plants are growing from seeds we saved last summer. Whenever I look at the hundreds of seeds we saved from that one pepper, enough to plant a whole field, it amazes and reminds me of the generosity of nature, and annoys me to think that we’re modifying our vegetables simply so we can grow them in the way we find most convenient and thought-reducing, not in the balanced way nature prefers.

A one-year-old Mary Washington asparagus crown and Chinook hop rhizome.

Asparagus is one of those plants that is at odds with our modern world. It’s not until you start growing it for yourself that you realize how cheap it really is at the grocery store. If you were to start asparagus seed this spring in your home garden, your first harvest would be in May of 2015. It takes four years for the plant to establish before you can start harvesting the shoots. And will you even be in the same house in 2015?

So we have ordered a few 1-year-old asparagus crowns to give us a head start. 2014 can’t come fast enough. They’ll be going into raised beds to live for the next twenty years and provide us with more than enough seasonal spears.

The other thing I sourced in root form is the hops. They arrived as a “rhizome” which is essentially a root cutting, that once planted, will send up a shoot and form a new plant. I had some suggestions from Neil, a homebrewer I visited back in December and now I’ll be set for whenever I’m ready to brew.

A self-sufficient garden is more complicated than planting a casual summer vegetable garden where you don’t need a plan and can easily fill in the gaps with a visit to a farmer’s market or supermarket. I know we’re going to miss something, and that other things are going to fail, but rather than getting too worried about it, I know we’ll just do our best and get it right next year.


  • Lookin' great! I've just picked up my seed potatoes, asparagus crowns and rhubarb starts as well. If it would just stop raining (and snowing!) for a few days, we'd be off to the races!

  • I look forward to seeing your progress, and learning from it. Thanks for all of your work and explanations! It's such a big help to me :)

  • You have a wonderful blog! I found you through Ashley English's shout out on her blog Small Measures. It's a small world, as my family lives in rural Ancaster on 2 1/2 acres. We're slowly trying to turn our property into a den of self-sufficiency. Maple syrup season has wrapped up and we're now busily (no pun intended!) preparing for bees and chicks. Happy gardening!


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