Seedybeans Blog

Celebrating the Humble Harvests of High Desert Homesteading

So much to grow, so little space…

I have been having so much fun with this blog.  It really has turned out to be a great way for me to be learning myself, investigating, exploring and sharing while out of the (garden) classroom.  As with teaching, your questions and garden consults have kept me thinking and on my toes.  I am reading my gardening books more than ever and experimenting and documenting more than I thought I ever would.  Thank you all for your involvement and support.  

Sooo The question of the week seems to be,  ” I have a small garden, what is the best use of my space?”  Great question, I too have a tiny yard, 1/5 acre is our whole lot including our 1,000sq foot house, shed, driveway, greenhouse, and junk pile…. leaving NOT enough room for my veggies, trees, berries, and flowers.  But we all have to make choices, but every season we can choose differently.  I try to rotate every year what gets my precious garden space, but it always is a tough call.  I always start with asking myself a few questions…

1- What do I love to eat?  

2- Why am I gardening? (to save… money, trips to the store?, or for beauty, learning, fun?) 

3- What are my conditions?  (shady, sunny, wet, windy?)

4- What kind of time/energy do I have for gardening this year?

If of course if you are growing at a school or with kids, well ask them.  Though you might be doing most of the work, it is the kids who you are trying to engage and enchant, so let them decide.  It will be different depending on the age group you work with.  For example, elementary kids adore carrots and love digging potatoes.   When I surveyed my kids at Monte Del Sol( High School) the majority wanted flowers and fruit.  They are in a more poetic phase of life; love, socializing, grazing in the ‘garden of eatin’ is what they are interested in, worms just aren’t as exciting as the were in third grade.

So survey the scene.  See what activities are happening in the garden.  If the art class are the main ones to use the garden, well, beauty is your first priority.  

If history, well go for traditional crops.  You get the idea.

There are of course more questions one can ask, but I have found, as with most things, getting clear with your intentions really dictates your actions.  We often work the other way around and end up creating more trouble for ourselves than not.  Being practical and honest with myself is a great lesson I have learned from my gardens.

Once you have gotten clear on these questions you should know exactly what to grow… No, still don’t know.  Well here is a case study….Me, for example…. I live 25 minutes out-of-town and have an aversion to super markets, even groovy ones.  So I want to minimize my trips to the store as much as possible.  So vegetables that are most perishable win a place in my garden every year.  I eat as much salad as I can so lettuce, spinach, salad greens always win first square foot…I also grow dark greens, kale, collard, chard.  The dark leafy greens get a spot because they are a constant food supply, pick a leaf or two off for dinner and they keep growing.  They often agree with other areas of the garden, like the shady under watered flower patch, and they are pretty mixed in with the flowers….so they get 2nd place.  Basil always has a space, cause I love it.   Garlic wins by default, as it grows in the off-season and it makes me happy in the fall to plant and spring to see fresh growth before everything else.  Peas make it cause they are the first to go in the ground, Zucchini cause it is the gift that keeps on giving.  

So what DON’T I plant you ask?  Well, I try not to leave anybody out so a little of everything.  But really….Tomatoes and potatoes take turns hogging the garden.  They share diseases and should be rotated anyway.  Peppers usually get a spot, it is New Mexico after all, but hot ones, sweet peppers usually don’t make the cut.  Eggplant, maybe.. if I am feeling generous, or lucky.  Broccoli, cauliflower, kholrabi, maybe, but only a few plants.  Cabbage, well now that I am into making sauerkraut and big yes, but last year was the first year I let it in, to my delight by the way.  

Winter squash, only if I have room to spare.  Corn only cause it is sacred to me.  Beans, honestly, very few, and if they get in, the green ones.  Roots, now there is a good question.  I do plant beets, carrots, and parsnips… my personal favorites, but they may need more than you are willing to give.  For example, carrots, need to stay moist for 10 days to germinate correctly, but once they do, they are gems.  Well.. I hope that gives you an idea.  So I sure I have left a few things out, but now I feel I am rambling on.  These are hard decisions, but remember there is always next year.  And this is only the annual vegetables I have mentioned, perennials are a whole other story…to be told another time. 

Hope it was inspiring and now what you plant is up to you to decide.  Here is a another helpful link form Culinate Newletter, which I am a great fan, on what to grow when space is limited.

Goodbye for now, and if you happen to be gardening tomorrow, think flowers…I will be sowing all my sunflowers in the greenhouse, over ten different kinds.  What a wonderful world!!!

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2 Comments»

  kyce wrote @

This post inspires me to return the three varieties of native beans I bought this week, in hopes of maybe growing a small pot of beans. I think I’ll grow green beans instead, for preserving and enjoying the more bountiful/useful harvest of. Also, I don’t feel so bad about not having room for winter squash. Though maybe a few.. what’s the deal with dense plantings, anyways?

  seedybeans wrote @

I almost feel guilty for discouraging dry beans, but let’s face it, that is what farming is for. During a highlight of my glamorous life as a garden teacher, I was flown out to the one and only Berkley Edible School Yard where one of Alice Waters mantras was repeated to me, and never forgotten; ” Farmers are professionals and as lovers of good food, it is our job to support them, not take their jobs away.” Ok it may not be a direct quote, but in the school gardening as well as the home gardening world, I deeply appreciated these sentiments. We have small plots, limited time and let’s face, we are not professionals. Farmers in Northern New Mexico have the dry bean thing down, they also have water rights, generations of skill and usually a lot more land than we do. Though one thing we might have that they don’t….Intensity. The idea of dense plantings that I think you are referring to is John Jeavons bio- intensive gardening methods. Though I don’t have his famous book, “How to Grow More Vegetables……” basically the idea is instead of spreading out, digging deeper. Like apartment buildings verses urban sprawl, or something like that. What I mean is that you “double dig” two shovels deep and feed the soil with compost and organic material, thus giving you small but very intensive gardens. I believe that another element of this technique, according to my husband, is that much of the gardening happens in the greenhouse, so no garden space is left unused. When one thing is harvested, another goes in with a head start as to not waste an inch. So basically, dig deep, feed the soil and get the most out of every square inch!! How is that little, but intensive garden of yours coming along anyways?


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