2018 was an exciting growing season on the Crow Homestead! We buckled down and started 100% of our own seeds, we live in one of the coldest places in the continental U.S. and we were able to start tomato and pepper seeds inside without electricity….this is like a mini miracle people! We expanded the garden by adding four more 8 x 4 foot raised beds and built the fence. We also added to the orchard by planting pairs of apricot trees, chokecherries and Nanking cherry bushes. Mr. Crow has been VERY busy! As with everything we do, we had some failures and some successes. But I do not view our mistakes as a negative, they are just part of the process and they give us the knowledge to improve our 2019 garden!!
Some people think the garden starts in the spring. But if you want to start your plants from seeds, then your garden starts in winter. In February Dee and I had a little party and flipped through the catalogs and selected all of our seeds. We used three seed catalogs Seed Treasures, Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds and Johnny Seeds and I was very pleased with all of the seed quality. My sister and I focused on ordering seeds that work in our zones (2-4), are open pollinated and meet a plethora of other traits we desire in our plants.
This year for our seedlings, I utilized our south facing windows during the daytime and then moved the seedlings to shelves behind our wood stove so they would stay warm on our brutally cold winter nights. One of the very best improvements we made in 2018 was to protect our seedlings from our cat, she loves to nibble the tips off of them and we have lost countless crops to our feline. We started everything from tomatoes to corn and it was all successful!!!
The spring was all about brassicas, greens, peas, onions, radishes, rhubarb, strawberries and potatoes. We started the spring off strong and got all of our spring crops hardened off and in the ground without issues. However, by late spring it was very, very wet and we lost about 2/3 of our brassicas because of the extra water. I still shed a little tear when I think of how all those lovely plants wilted and died in a couple of days.
I did great succession planting right up until the end of June and then ran out of seed and stopped. Next year I will order 3 times the lettuce and spinach seeds as I did this year.
The summer focused on those warm weather loving tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, beans and melons. I was happy to see that the seedlings I started did progress and bear fruit. We definitely need to build up additional protection from the cold for next year as the plants could have used another good month for all fruit to ripen fully.
2018 was the second year I tried the Three Sisters method (planting corn, beans and squash together) and once again the beans ripped down the corn stalks. I will continue growing squash and corn together and have some bush beans in the bed along the south edge, however Mr. Crow will be building some supports for the pole beans next year so the corn can stay vertical for the whole growing season.
Fall brought us root vegetables like onions, carrots and potatoes. We rocked the potatoes and got about 150 lbs. put up for the winter. Also, our second planting of broccoli, cabbage and kale produced some tasty veggies. This fall, Mr. Crow built a cold frame from old windows and lumber we had lying around. I experimented with fall seed sowing and can’t wait to see if that will work in my area. Anything to get a jump on the spring would be a big benefit due to our super short zone 2, 55 day growing season.
I’m already dreaming of 2019! Expanding our ability to provide protection to our plants will be the main focus. As we will need to do a lot of construction we won’t be able to get the benefit of a head start this spring, but I think the 2019 fall garden will be dramatically different from today. Right now I have very little in my garden: kale, beets, thyme, oregano and sage. Next year I’ll have three large hoop houses and I dream of having tons of greens, spinach, brassicas and other wonderful vegetables growing into January! Check out the book Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman this winter, it will give you so much inspiration!! I know I’ll be rereading it for the millionth time when the cold winds are blowing and spring seems like it will never arrive!