by Beth Knorr, Farmers’ Market and Local Food Programs Manager
It’s been years since I’ve had to plan a garden. I have relied on my husband to bring home fresh produce from the farm for the past many, many years. Now that he is taking a hiatus, we’re putting on our thinking caps about how to make sure we have access to the same high-quality food to which we’ve become accustomed.
Luckily, I don’t have to sweat it too much- working at a farmers’ market does have its benefits, you know. But getting our kids into contact with food as it’s growing provides a bit of motivation for us to do at least some gardening at home.
Our yard is tricky- as I’m sure many of you can relate. We live in Cuyahoga Falls and are surrounded by mature trees. We have only a small patch of sun, and are going back and forth about raised beds vs. digging up a small section. Given our situation, how do we make the most of the space we have? We probably only have a 3×10 section in which we could realistically grow anything. And while I have grandiose visions of a beautiful lush garden filled with everything I love to eat (fresh shell beans! eggplants! dried beans! blueberries! melons, oh beautiful juicy melons!!) I know that won’t fit into our schedule right now, and it most certainly doesn’t fit into our space.
Now, I love a fresh tomato, but they take up an enormous amount of real estate, and one plant doesn’t really produce enough. So while cherry tomatoes are all kinds of crazy, I know the kids love to snack on them- so we’ll likely put in a single plant (or maybe two) to satisfy our tomato love.
Eating a salad of some sort is a priority (well, at least I’m trying to make it one) so growing some cut-and-come-again salad mix makes sense for us. Salad mixes are somewhat expensive to buy, and they don’t always hold up well in the fridge, so being able to cut what we need will be a benefit. These have a relatively high turn-over rate, too. Two months tops and they’re out (after that they start tasting a bit funky), so the succession planting potential is high. Radishes and cilantro will likely follow the salad mix. Again, items with a quick turnover to help maximize the productivity of our space. Radishes are great snacks and cilantro goes well with nearly everything.
We love to cook with greens, so I think Swiss Chard or a kale with a small habit (such as cavolo nero or as my son loves to say- “Dino kale!”) will likely find its way into the plot. These are fantastic since you only have to plant them once and get a regular return on that small investment. 3-4 plants should do.
A longer-term investment (but not too long) will be carrots. Nothing beats a freshly dug carrot! Mokum is the variety we like- sweet and crisp, and their roots are not as long as our other favorite (Sugarsnax) so they should be fine in our heavy soil.
We love cooking with chiles and one of our favorite dishes is chiles rellenos, so we’ll be making space for 2-3 poblano pepper plants. These are a long-term investment, but we’ll likely be able to get a crop of cilantro or lettuce in around them before they get too big and create a shady canopy. And the rewards are high for this one- peppers are typically prolific, so we should be able to stuff and freeze many delicious treats.
Finally, we’ll put in a plant or two of basil and a few bulbs of garlic. And perhaps some shallots. (Ugh- who can stop when they get on a roll?!)
What do you plan to grow and in how much garden space? How do you plan for your garden? We’d love to hear all about it. And if you’re a newbie, check out the info on our upcoming gardening workshop where you can get some tips from a real pro!