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Critical Medicine of Our Times


On Friday we awoke to snow with more on the way. Nothing that sticks very long once the strengthening sun arcs across the sky, but enough to reduce morale, if only temporarily. Despite this, the greenhouse quickly warms to 80 degrees, and once inside, the loamy scent of spring welcomes the days work. But I have decided to take two full days of no work, something that feels strange but much needed, so I simply uncover the brassicas and head out for a slow walk to camp and back. 

I am grateful to be of a certain age that does not include feeling guilty for recognizing the need for rest, and acting on it. I do not travel, I spend zero time at the spa or salon, there is hardly a speck of dining out or shopping or any other similar activity our culture tells women we need in order to feel good and worthy. I just wanted to rest in my home and on this land. Two full days of reading and knitting and hot showers and feet up and herbal infusions and not cooking or cleaning yet still enjoying the most amazing food thanks to my family. It felt medicinal, and today I am restored and ready to (slowly) begin anew. 

Years ago, a friend fifteen years my senior who happens to be a mother of four, shared with me how exhausting family vacations were for her. I was a young mother at the time, doe-eyed and optimistic about the prospect of picture perfect family moments, so I couldn’t quite relate to the workload of parents while traveling with children. But my friend assured me that lost shoes, belly aches, constant hunger, disrupted sleep, and soothing the moods of weary overstimulated travelers ruled her "leisure" time.

Many years have passed and it turns out and Adam and I have never been much for traveling. We tend to like the idea of travel, but not so much the execution. So when I need a break, I just take one free of charge with no additional carbon footprint. What better place to rest deeply than my own nest, with my own coffee, in my own bed, surrounded by my own pleasurable projects to tinker with if the mood strikes. 

Even though most of us are planted firmly at home these days, are we really taking the time to rest and restore our weary body and spirit? Many of us are working harder domestically than we ever have due to extra family members being home all the time. It might not feel like restoration is needed when life remains relatively easy for most of us. After all, there is still Netflix and whipped coffee and Tiger King, but the undercurrent of global stress prevails. I needed to take a day or two of deep rest. No expectations, no guilt. Just rest. A critical medicine of our times. 

As it turns out, you don’t have to be a middle aged woman with adult children to pull this off (though it is a quieter version, for sure). This can absolutely  be made into a family affair. Leading up to your day or two of rest, go ahead and tidy the house, clean the bathroom, make a few meals, snacks, and a big jug of herbal iced tea to carry your family through. Create a mellow playlist of music. Plan to dim the lights and light some candles. Gather some aromatics to simmer in water on the stove. Let it be known that a day or two of Time Off is coming up and how exciting that is. You’d be amazed how receptive children are to this idea; it’s as if they still possess the innate wisdom of caring for one’s self, something that our species tends to lose sight of as we age and the consumer world makes its impression on us. Moral of the story: Self care does not need to cost money and it is high value medicine. Also, children have immense capacity to grasp this idea. 

Today, I feel ready to begin again. 

This Year, Go all In :: 2020 Vegetable Garden


Good morning! Before we get into today's post, I'd like to share with you that my annual spring ecourse sale is now live. I do this sale only once a year, and it is a great way to scoop up multiple courses with a 30% savings, just enter the code spring2020 upon checkout. This sale will run through May, and you can add multiple courses to your shopping cart for one easy checkout. Visit the Take a Class page to view course selections, clicking on any photo will take you to that courses registration page. So many wonderful skills are shared within my workshops, and now is the perfect time to sharpen skills! 


Even though it is a good idea to prioritize growing food this year, it does not mean we’re all going to have the best gardens of our lives. Gardening is a learned skill that takes time, but that does not mean we should not try, especially this year.

Soil quality, watering systems, drainage, timing, understanding pests and disease pressures in your area... there are many factors that work themselves out over the years through experience. If this is all new for you, keep your expectations modest, and proceed with optimism and curiosity. When it comes to seasonal activities, every year that we participate truly does matter. I figure at best I’ve got another 40 gardens in my lifetime. What an unfortunate thing to miss out on a single one of them. Even if your harvest this year is not the biggest, your knowledge will grow and your soil will improve. Every garden counts!

In this post I’l be sharing with you the varieties and quantitates we are growing this year, our main vegetable garden layout, and a few planting methods. None of this is in stone, and all is up to the whims of nature, but it is good to work with a loose plan, so here is ours.



2020 Vegetable Grow List

Some descriptions have been copied from seed company descriptions.


(H) = Hybrid

(OP) = Open Pollinated


Most of you know that we are in year two of growing in a climate that is very different from any I've gardened in before. I am used to growing in zone 6a, and now we are in zone 3. This means that I am learning many things all over again (my husband grew up here so he has a better awareness through observing his mother's and grandmother's gardens). Many of the seeds that were perennial favorites in Connecticut do not work here. Some of the more difficult crops to grow in cold climates such as peppers and tomatoes, I’ve begun using a few hybrid seeds to ensure success. Other things like brassicas and carrots have done better than ever for us. 


1. Tomatoes

Growing tomatoes here is not impossible, but it takes creativity. Long season varieties such as Brandywine are not worth the gamble on garden space this year, so we’re sticking with some shorter season options. We are growing more variety than is needed, but again, we are still figuring out the most reliable types for this area. I imagine in another year or two this  list will be reduced by one third.


Jet Star  (H) - 12 plants

70 day prolific producer of big, globe-shaped fruits that ripen all the way through. Excellent flavor with low acidity. Nice, compact habit. A reliable slicer that can also be used for canning. Indeterminate.


Celebrity Tomato (H) - 12 plants

70 day, AAS Award Winner established a new standard for main-crop hybrids requiring multiple disease resistance. Highly adaptable from Canada to the South. Medium sized, globe-shaped fruits are crack-resistant and average 7 oz. Semi-determinate.


Wisconsin 55 (OP) - 12 plants

This seed was free with a bigger order. Not sure I would have ordered it, but I am curious to try it this year. A superb tomato developed at the University of Wisconsin. Large deep red fruits resist shoulder cracks and blossom end rot, ripen evenly and have strong skin and solid flesh. Vigorous plants are tolerant to defoliation diseases, early blight and leaf spot. For top performance fertilize regularly. Semi-determinate plants.


Kelloggs Breakfast (OP) - 6 plants

80-85 day, lovely, pale-orange fruits are solid and meaty throughout, packed with mild, superb-tasting flesh. A long-season producer of large, beefsteak-type fruits, up to 16 oz., with solid centers that have just a few seeds at the edges. Very desirable! Indeterminate.


Amish Paste (OP) - 18 plants

85 days, bright red 8-12 ounce fruits vary in shape from oxheart to rounded plum. Delicious flesh is juicy and meaty, excellent for sauce or fresh eating. I’ve been saving this seed for years and look forward to establishing it to our new climate. Classic canning tomato! Indeterminate.


Opalka (OP) - 12 plants

85 day fruits are richer and more flavorful than most paste tomatoes. A long, pepper-shaped type with fruits that grow to 4 to 6" long, clustered in groups of 2 to 5. Sweet and refreshing, it can be eaten straight off the vine, but is highly prized for sauces and canning. Indeterminate.


Juliet (H) - 6 plants

60 day, famous for yielding the first elongated, grape-like fruits that don't crack. Clusters of unusual, sweet-flavored fruits cling to the vine longer than any other cherry tomato. Glossy, red-skinned fruits weigh 1 oz. each. Indeterminate. This is a very popular tomato, but I’ve never loved it. I haven’t planted it in a few years but am doing so this year as someone I know roasts tray after tray and freezes them for pizza topping, bruschetta topping, pasta tossing, and risotto. I can see how the slow roasting will intensify flavor so I’m growing some for roasting purposes.


Matt’s Wild Cherry (OP) - 3 plants

55 days, strong vines are overwhelmed by an abundance of small cherry tomatoes - hundreds of them. The flavor is intense and they seem impervious to almost any disease. They are also early and will continue to yield well up to the first frost.


Sungold Cherry (H) - 6 plants

57 day, intense fruity flavor. Exceptionally sweet, bright tangerine-orange cherry tomatoes leave everyone begging for more. Vigorous plants start yielding early and bear right through the season. Tendency to split precludes shipping, making these an exclusively fresh-market treat. The taste can't be beat. Indeterminate.


2. Onions

Each flat contain about 250 onions. I should have started more and will likely buy another 2-3 flats of onions from a nursery. Not sure why I didn’t plant more.


Sweet Spanish - 2 flats

115 days, one of the most popular for gardeners, this jumbo-sized onion is mild with golden brown skin. These golden onions produce fruit up to a pound (16 oz) and their great flavor lasts longer than most other varieties. Stores well.


Red Burgundy - 1 flat

95 days, slightly spicier than other red onions. Color is a deep reddish purple, the size of bulbs can be expected to be around 3-4″ when fully matured.


3. Peppers

Carmen - 24 plants

This is my favorite pepper to grow. Best-tasting sweet Italian frying pepper. Early, adaptable, and notably sweet (especially when fully red-ripe) with a shapely tapered silhouette. Begins green, then deepens to a beautiful carmine at maturity. Excellent roasted, grilled, and in salads.


King of the North - 36 plants

A  new to me green bell pepper that comes highly recommended by folks living in the north. Excellent in short-season gardens of Northern climates, due to early bearing and the huge, blocky shape of its thick-walled, bright red, 6" by 4" fruits. Great for stuffing. Mild taste becomes even mellower as the fruits mature.


4. Cabbage

Brunswick - 6 plants

85-95 days, Brunswick is a seldom-encountered German heirloom that dates back to the 18th Century. An excellent late-season variety, the large, 6-9 lb. drum-shaped heads are dense and firm. A favorite choice for homemade sauerkraut. Stores well for long periods. I’m not sure why I only started 6 of these, will probably start more this week.


Red Express - 18 plants

63 days, Red Express is an early developing cabbage. It is uniform, tight and has an amazing purple color.  A medium sized cabbage that can be spaced much closer than other varieties.  2-4 pound cabbage heads are great for slaw, stir fry or salads.


Golden Acre - 48 plants

(1/2 will be planted now and 1/2 later in the season for fall harvest.)

62 days, early, adorable green heads on compact plants; perfect for smaller households. Heads are round and solid, with delicate but crunchy texture and sweet, spicy flavor with buttery undertones when cooked. Few outer wrapper leaves; short harvest window. Habit suitable for dense plantings. 3-4lb heads.


5. Cauliflower

Snow Crown - 96 plants

Putting all of my eggs in one basket on cauliflower this year. Living Traditions Homestead grew this with tremendous success. Their enthusiasm was infectious so I’m going all in on Snow Crown.

50-65 days, Snow Crown is mild and sweet. Its hybrid vigor and rapid growth make it one of the easiest to grow of all early cauliflower varieties. It forms fully domed heads 7–8 inches across, weighing 1–2 pounds. This variety maintains its prime eating quality for up to 10 days in the garden. May manifest a delicate pink blush when maturing in the hotter parts of summer.


6. Broccoli

Emerald Crown (H) - 96 plants

60-70 days, superior broccoli produces big domes of finely beaded, blue-green heads on compact plants. An adaptable variety Emerald Crown thrives in most regions of the country and is a good candidate for spring and summer planting.


Express (H) - 96 plants

75 days, Express is remarkably uniform with magnificent, deep blue/green heads up to 6–7 inches across. It offers strong production of tender, tasty side shoots, and nice, tight florets. Plants hold their heads up above the foliage for easy harvest.


Waltham 29 (OP) - 48 plants

74 days, prized for its lovely dark blue-green heads and marvelous flavor. Known for producing large heads and long stalks, this longtime favorite is excellent for cooking fresh or freezing. The 4-6" dark blue-green heads are arrayed with side shoots. Developed to withstand cold, it performs outstandingly in the fall.


7. Celery

Chinese White - 12 plants (a few plants in each plant cell)

That wonderful celery taste we get in so much Asian food doesn’t come from the classic celery we grow, but from this smaller much easier and faster growing variety. Very sweet with a delicate flavor. The leaves can be used to add wonderful crunch and flavor  to salads or as an alternative to watercress as a garnish. The leaves and stems have a strong celery flavor and can be used to flavor soups and stews.


8. Kale

Darkibor (H) - 18 plants

55 days, these tall plants display high yields of densely curled greens. Vigorous plants hold well into cold weather and are suited to overwintering production in Southern climates.


Blue Curled Scotch (OP) - 18 plants

55 days, compact plants with finely curled, bluish-green leaves. Usually stands winter weather with some protection. Good cooked or fresh in salads. Grows best in cool weather. Can be grown as a spring or fall crop. Harvest all winter to zone 6.


9. Cucumber

Little Leaf (H) - 12 plants

We love Little Leaf! Blocky, medium-length (3–5") fruits are good for fresh eating. They pickle well and have a distinctive, bright emerald green color. Vines are compact, and yield well even under stress. Great pickling cuc!


Marketmore (OP) - 12 plants

70 days — The fruits are dark green in color and best harvested for slicing when they are eight to nine inches long. They have a sweet mild flavor and are very disease resistant. Does well in cool climates.


10. Summer Squash

Midnight Lightening (OP) - 4 plants

55 days, extra long and slender zucchini with dark green, almost black coloring. Single-stemmed plants are sturdy and stems have few spines. Plants produce quickly and have good field resistance to disease.


Goldy F1 (H) -  2 plants

50 days, long, slender fruits with bright yellow skin, white flesh and contrasting green stems. Open habit with few spines makes harvesting easy. Heavy yields with a high percentage of marketable fruit.


11. Winter Squash

If growing winter squash is new for you and you’d like to grow quite a bit, note that each plant generally yields 4-7 fruit.

This is an ambitious list! I wouldn’t normally grow this much variety, but these are not normal times and I am trying to use up older seed that should still be viable (we’ll see), but needs to be used sooner than later. If we have more than we need in the end, there will be plenty of people to share with. As far as seed saving goes, ideally you’d have at least 1,000 ft between squash varieties to ensure no cross-pollination took place, which squash are prone to. This year I will be growing a few varieties strictly for seed throughout the land here.


Zeppelin Delicata (OP) - 12 plants

100 days, from an old strain that was not affected when the trade allowed this beloved 1894 heirloom to be crossed by desert gourds. The lovely ivory-colored oblong 1 lb fruits with dark green stripes have the unsurpassed sweetness that gives Delicata its good reputation. In storage the green stripes turn orange and the cream background sometimes yellows. No need to peel—cooked skins are tender and nutty.


Spaghetti Squash (OP) - 12 plants

88 days, has a wonderful nutty flavor when ripe and needs only a little butter, salt and pepper to be excellent. It is a great keeper. Oblong fruits, generally around 4 lb with spaghetti-like strings in the flesh.


Honey Boat Delicata (OP) - 6 plants

90-100 days, This gold-orange, green-striped delicata squash variety has an irresistibly sweet, nutty flavor, and stores well. Like all delicata squash, it can be prepared straight from harvest without curing. Vines reach up to 6,' while the fruits measure 6"-8" in length and 3" in diameter and weigh up to a pound.


Sweet Meat (OP) - 12 plants

95 days, this tasty 12–15 lb slate-grey heirloom, shaped like a slightly flattened round pumpkin was maintained by an Oregon family for 100 years and sold by Gill Bros. of Portland, OR. It has long been a western specialty variety that deserves a wider following. Its dry sweet nutty thick orange flesh improves in storage with a flavor similar to Blue Hubbard.


Waltham Butternut (OP) - 12 plants

105 days, elegant 9" tan fruits weighing 4–5 lb. Orange dry flesh has a sweet nutty flavor. Excellent keeper.


Eastern Rise Kabocha (H) - 12 plants

95 days, average 3½ lb fruits, attractive orange-red streaked with green, flattened large buttercups without the turban. Firm orange flesh with rich nutty flavor in perfect balance, the right sweetness, the right moistness, the right texture, smooth and hearty. Grows well in cool conditions; dislikes extreme heat.


New England Long Pie Pumpkin - 12 plants

100 days, the absolute best pie pumpkin for cooking, with virtually stringless, smooth orange flesh. Harvest green with an orange spot on the bottom, as Long Pie ripens in storage, turning completely orange outside as flesh sweetens inside. Stores well. 5-8 lb fruit.


Howden Pumpkin - 6 plants

115 days, The original Jack O’ Lantern, with rich orange color, deep ridges and sturdy handles. 25 lb fruit.


Baby Pam Pumpkin - 6 plants

99 days, commercial standard for pie pumpkins with long handles and dry, bright orange skin. Stringless, sugary flesh cooks down to a smooth, superior pie filling. Reliable harvest. 3-4 lb fruit.


New England Pie Pumpkin - 6 plants

105 days, classic pie pumpkin with dry, stringless flesh and superior thick consistency in pies. Attractive fruits have dark orange skin with light ribbing and well attached handles. Delicious flesh is not quite as sweet as Baby Pam but has even better texture. Stores well. 4-6 lb fruit.


12. Peas

The bulk of the peas we grow are a shelling variety, but we do grow a small amount of snow peas for fresh eating. If I have extra snow peas this year I may freeze a few to experiment for wintertime stirfry.


Green Arrow Shelling - 160 row ft (at least)

68 days, a classic main-crop pea with slim, densely packed pointed pods. High yielding variety bearing two pods on each stem for easy harvesting. Each pod is stuffed with up to eleven delicious peas. Plants are 24-30" tall. Peas are excellent for freezing. 4-5" pods.


Mammoth Melting Snow - 10 ft

65 days, extra large, delectably sweet and tender pods with mouthwatering crunch. 5-6' tall vines do require trellising for support, but bear over a long period of time. Large white flowers are an extra bonus. 4-5" pods.


13. Carrots

Normally my go-to varieties are Danvers and Napoli, but this year in addition, I have some random seed I’ll be putting in the ground to use it up.


Summer Carrots, planted early.

Will dedicate about 30 sq ft to summer/fresh eating carrots. Should be plenty. 


Atomic Red

75 days, this carrot is just so much fun and brings out the kid in everyone. The Atomic Red carrot gets its great color from Lycopene, which is credited for helping prevent several types of cancer, and is a proven antioxidant. Atomic Red carrot is at its best when cooked as this helps to make the lycopene more available to your body. 10” long tapered roots.


Danvers Half Long

75 days, high-yielding, performs well in heavy and clay soils. Its blocky-topped, tapered roots chunk up nicely at 6-8” long, have attractive red-orange skin and bright orange flesh—and they're nearly coreless. They store well and are crisp and sweet for eating fresh. They're also highly preferred for canning. For best results, harvest Danvers Half Long when they are between finger size and 2 in. in diameter.



70 days, lovely, bright lemon-yellow roots are very sweet and juicy. Roots will grow to 8” and the size is somewhat variable. Makes an interesting addition to crudités. Retains sweet flavor when cooked.


Scarlet Nante

65 days, bright orange, fine-grained roots with a crisp, juicy texture and sweet flavor. The nearly coreless, 6” carrots are orange throughout and grow straight and smooth with blunt ends—in just nine weeks. Scarlet Nantes Carrots perform well in clay soil and are also a good carrot for canning, freezing and cooking.


Storage carrots, planted a little later for fall harvest, the bulk of our carrots, using tried and true varieties.

Napoli (H) - 90 ft

55 days, a favored variety for Eliot Coleman’s famous candy carrots overwintered in unheated greenhouses. Blunt Nantes type grows 7–8" cylindrical roots with strong medium-sized dark green tops. Crispy, snappy, sweet and juicy with a medium core. I love this carrot!


Danvers (OP) - 90 ft

75 days, the original Danvers Half-Long was developed by market gardeners in Massachusetts in 1871. This modern improvement features 7" conical orange roots that taper to a point. Easier to grow in heavy soils than the longer more refined types. Broader at the top and more fibrous than the Nantes varieties. Outstanding for cooking and winter storage.


14. Corn

Big N’ Tender (H) - about 200 plants

79 days, this bicolor produces beautifully uniform, 8 inch ears with 16 very straight rows of tender, juicy kernels. The 7-8 foot tall plants are high yielding and dependable, with well-filled, hefty, very attractive ears.


15. Beans

Provider Bush (OP) - about 120ft

50 days, the standard fresh market variety for green beans. Provider comes through every year with early, heavy yields of attractive, uniform beans. Plants are vigorous and productive with strong root systems, even under adverse conditions. Good resistance to mildew and virus. Purple seeds. 5-6" uniform pods.


Blue Lake Pole Bean (OP) - 10ft trellised

75 days. A trial for us to see if Blue Lake will be a viable replacement for provider as we grow older and I am less inclined to feel like bending over and picking bush beans forever. It’s a big shoe to fill as Providers are a perfect green bean (except for the bush aspect). Blue Lake are a vigorous, 7 foot tall variety made Oregon’s Willamette Valley famous in the ‘60s and ‘70s for canning beans. The 6–7 inch, dark green pods have a canning jar straight, round shape. Harvested at their peak, you’ll find them tender, meaty, and full of hearty, fresh bean flavor.


Vermont Cranberry (OP) - 40ft

Shelling heirloom bean dating back to1700‘s. Left on the vine until completely dry in autumn, then harvested for dried beans. Perhaps the most attractive of all dried beans, this variety is also an excellent shell bean. A beloved heirloom in New England since the 18th century, the cranberry-red beans are used in soups, for baking, and in a variety of other delicious ways. Semi-bush type.


Cherokee Trail of Tears (OP) - 20ft trellised

The Cherokee Trail of Tears bean memorializes the forced relocation of the Cherokee Tribe in the mid-nineteenth century. They carried this bean throughout this infamous walk, which became the death march for thousands of Cherokees; hence the Trail of Tears. It is a sobering legacy that I do not wish to forget. My original seed was a gift from a friend, and I’ve been saving it ever since, for many years.


16. Lettuce

Rocky Top (OP) - succession plant 30”x40’ row all summer

35-45 days, brightly colored and unique lettuces, makes a flavorful and brilliant salad. A top-selling item at market; home gardeners love it, too! People love the rich, old-fashioned taste.


Paris Island Romaine (OP) - 12 heads planted every two weeks all season

50 days, heirloom with proven productivity and flavor. Great for baby leaf production or full head maturity. Upright heads can get as large as 12″.


17. Beets

Golden Detroit - 40ft

50-60 days, best tasting raw beet on the market! It’s savory and earthy flavor has a touch of sweetness that compliments instead of overpowers. This variety will not bleed its color once cooked, but instead the bright orange will turn to a beautiful mustard yellow. Greens are edible as well and are gold veined, making them a beautiful addition to any salad.


Early Wonder Tall Top - 40ft

45 days, quick-growing arching tops are perfect for early beet greens, while roots size up quickly for bunched baby beets. Also a great full size beet with vibrant tops. Similar quality to Detroit Dark Red for early season crops. 2-3” roots.


18. Potatoes

The caloric insurance in our garden! If I could only grow one type of vegetable, it would be potatoes.


Yukon Gold - 20.25#

For keeping it classic, you can’t beat Yukon Gold’s tasty butter flavor and marketable appearance. This Gold, bred to suit Idaho’s potato conditions, broke mainstream culture of just white potatoes and we are forever grateful.


Strawberry Paw - 16.5#

Their flashy display is a fantastic addition to your potato cornucopia. With generally good yields and medium-to-large size, their flesh is firm, sweet and moist. Becoming known for their vigorous nature and good storage.


Bennett White - 15#

A potato picked up at a local farm last fall that we liked. Saved some for seed. I don’t know the name of it so I named it after them. Large white russet.


Trader Joe’s Russet - 5#

A bag of organic potatoes that our daughter brought home from college during winter break. We never used them as we had plenty of homegrown, so I saved them for seed. Why not.


Russet Burbank - 10#

Known to most as the Idaho Potato, the dry mealy texture makes it a trusty old favorite. A great baking or mashing potato with reliably high yields.


19. Sweet Potato

Georgia Jet - 25 slips

This is very much an experiment. The variety claims to be suitable for northern climates, but I am looking into heat capturing ground cover to boost our chances. I’ve only grown sweet potatoes once before with modest success. It is a crop that I’d love to welcome into our regular harvest though so I’m willing to apply measures of assistance. I am keeping expectations very modest.


20. Asparagus

Jersey Supreme - 25 crowns

We are planting the asparagus bed this year so will not be harvesting for another 2-3 years. This feels like a significant crop for us to establish as we love asparagus and it is such a hearty springtime vegetable, and a perennial one at that!


Many of the varieties we grow have come to us via other gardeners mentioning or recommending them. This type of sharing is invaluable to me, hopefully our list is helpful to some of you. I hesitate to share specific info on how many of each plant per person in your household you “should” grow, mostly because I’ve read a few of those guides and they don’t usually add up for me. Three pepper plants? Five tomato plants? Five feet of onions? This household definitely consumes more than three pepper plants per person each year. The quantities we plant come down to experience, our goal of providing a full years worth of produce (we don’t buy much imported produce in winter at all, citrus being our main exception), and our desire to share with ease when the occasion calls for it. We also need to factor in things like growing enough potatoes to have seed for the following year. Below, in the Planting Methods section, I touch on how I think over time I will be able to reduce the quantity of plants that we grow.


Garden Layout

Last summer we turned over 20,000 square feet of earth to discover that we have at least three years of working and amending our very rocky, very depleted soil before it is prime for growing. We’ll get there though! Much of it is reserved for medicinal herb growing, and perennials planted last year are slowly emerging as I type. It takes time establishing an herb farm, especially when you’re a one-woman operation.

But this post focuses on our main vegetable garden. which is about 4,000 square feet this year. There is room for expansion in the future, but this will do for now.

I am going with a very straightforward row style garden, using Josh Sattin's 30" beds/14" pathways method. Normally I am drawn to wider pathways for ease of working and harvesting, but they do have their drawbacks in the form of less growing space and pathway maintenance. With planting more intensely, the idea is that plant density will assist in shading out weed pressure. We'll be doing more scooting around when picking beans and peas in tighter quarters, but it'll be okay. More food, less unused space. 

I do not write up my final (pretty) garden map until after everything is planted and established. I’ve found over the years that things change so much in the planting process, that it’s better to go in with a loose draft, then make a final garden map later on for our permanent records. I will be sure to share my final 2020 garden map a bit later in the season. 


Planting Methods

Preparing the Soil

No-till, permaculture, Back to Eden, straight up market gardening, lasagna beds, and so much more. We’ve dabbled in them all, and have gratefully borrowed the most practical methods (for us) from each. I try not to get too hung up on being a purist, aside from being a purist about not spraying poison on our food. I find allegiance to one method is unnecessary, there are so many great ideas out there!

We are in year two on new to us land, and tilling was absolutely needed to turn as much sod as we did. We will need to till this year and maybe next year as well, then after that we should be able to leave the tiller out of the garden, most years. In addition to tilling, which breaks our soil down to about 8”, we use a broadfork which aerates down to 14”. The broadfork is our preference, but mechanical input these first couple years is beyond helpful. Incidentally, the broadfork is the reason we don’t hill potatoes; we are able to plant them so deeply that hilling is not required. Not hilling is an unconventional method, but one we’ve done for many years and it works for us.

And finally, as mentioned in Part One, soil is absolutely everything in your garden. Your plants are only as healthy and pest/disease resistant as the soil they grow in. We are probably another two years out (at least) from having optimal soil. This is another reason I plant generously; in a few years I will likely have better production per plant and can scale back a bit. Quality over quantity.

We are still amending with minerals, manure, Complete Organic Fertilizer, and mulch.


Garden Beds

For years I’ve been a fan of reasonably sized semi-permanent beds with wide pathways. It looked nice, but this year I’m not about looking nice, I’m about food production even more so than usual. So, we’re going with 30” semi-raised beds with 14” pathways between them. This will allow for increased food production and hopefully less pathway maintenance. It’ll be tight in there when harvesting, but hopefully worth it. 

Go vertical! We love to implement vertical growing whenever possible. This means if it can be trellised, we trellis it: pole beans, tomatoes attached to fencing, peas, cucumbers, and vining winter squash on cattle panels. This is such and incredible space saver. I’m not suggesting growing your heaviest vining squash such as hubbard this way, but smaller varieties work great.



In this final section I’d like to share some resources that may be helpful to you. This is a quick list that comes to mind as I write this.

Your very best resource is friends and neighbors who are experienced with growing food in the same area as you. They will know about the soil, best planting dates, varieties that thrive, when to harvest, likely pest pressures. Seriously, they are the best resource you have.

Fedco Seeds Catalog - one of the best gardening books out there. And it’s free!

Clyde’s Garden Planner - handy sliding tool for determining your planting dates as dictated by your frost dates.

Planting Zone Map - planting zones have less to do with frost dates and more to do with lowest temps in the winter. Very helpful to know yours, especially if you're planting a lot of perennial foods. 

Logan Labs - conducts comprehensive soil analysis (well beyond the little kits from the garden center) so that you may have a clear understanding of your soil needs.

Meadow Creature - our favorite garden tool. It has made all the difference in deeply turning and aerating our soil.

Complete Organic Fertilizer Recipe - a great recipe if you are not able to do a full lab-based soil analysis. 


A Few YouTube Channels

I’m sure many more could be added to this list, I’m just sharing a few that come to mind. The first two feature northern growing practices as that is what I am drawn to, the second is more central, and the fourth channel may be helpful to southern growers. I don’t know of a solid channel featuring southwestern, high desert, or west coast growing, if you do please feel free to share. The final channel is my gift to you. 

Homesteading Family - Josh and Carolyn hail from North Idaho where they raise food, homeschool their children, and generally live their (busy!) lives close to family and land. Both are trained in permaculture, so that plays a significant role in their teachings. All around good people with so much to share. I particularly enjoyed their chat about growing greens and will be implementing their system this year. I also recommend their recent talk on How to Make a Resilient Homestead. 

Little Mountain Ranch - Chelsea is a Canadian large-family farmer. She inspires me to grow in northern climates and is a genuinely sweet person. Her gardening and food storage videos are wonderful! Chelsea inspired me to up my broccoli and cauliflower production this year, her squash harvest was super fun, and who doesn't love a good food storage video (she has quite a few of them!). 

Living Traditions - Kevin and Sarah worked for years in corporate America with the goal to get out, pay off their mortgage, and homestead together full time, and they achieved it! They live in Missouri if that is a grow zone similar to yours. They are humble pros at inspiring, educating, and being relatable. Their entire channel is fabulous, but some highlights include their How to Raise Meat Rabbits playlist, their Freedom Ranger VS. Cornish Cross series, and I really enjoyed their recent 2020 Chicken Tractor Build.

Deep South Homestead - Danny and Wanda are southern growers who produce all of their fruits and vegetables, and some meat. Great resource if you live in the south and are growing under conditions of poor sandy soil, intense heat, hurricanes, and high level of pests.

Boss of the Swamp - Not a strict gardening channel, but I figured if you are still here, I might as well share my favorite YourTube channel with you. I particularly liked his Back to My Roots series. Enjoy!




If you’ve made it this far, I thank you for your time. I hope that it was helpful for you to see the varieties and quantities we will be growing for year round eating as a family of three (well, maybe two if the world opens up again and our daughter can go about her life), with extra to share. Later in the season I will share a post on all of our culinary and medicinal herbs as well as perennial fruit and nut trees.

As always, I welcome your questions and experiences. And please now that next up in this series we will be getting to what I normally would recommend as the number one place to start with preparedness. But I think I’ll write an unrelated post or two before then.

Finally, don't forget about my annual spring ecourse sale. It is a great way to scoop up multiple courses with a 30% savings, just enter the code spring2020 upon checkout. This sale will run through May, and you can add multiple courses to your shopping cart for one easy checkout. Visit the Take a Class page to view course selections, clicking on any photo will take you to that courses registration page. So many wonderful skills are shared within my workshops, and now is a wonderful to sharpen skills! 


Preparedness Series (to date)

  1. At Home Cold & Flu Kit
  2. It's Just How I'm Wired {Preparedness Introduction}
  3. Now is the Time to Grow Food
  4. This Year, Go all In: 2020 Vegetable Garden