Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Into The Field Garden We Go

As much as I love my raised beds, there are some crops that simply don't lend themselves to the beds. That's why I feel the need for some gardening area that is in the more traditional field garden configuration.

Squash, pumpkins and other crops that send out long vines or tendrils before setting fruit certainly seem easier to manage and happier if not crammed into the confinement of a raised bed. If allowed to grow and roam as they should, they also tend to take up a lot of gardening real estate, and that's the main reason I wanted a separate plot of ground plowed up and designated as the Pumpkin Patch.

Of course, now that I have this special area for squash, eating pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and such I've realized that it would be wise to rotate other crops onto the space every other year. But that shouldn't be hard to do as I could, for instance, plant it all out to potatoes one year or beans or peas. Then the squash and pumpkins could take up that vacated amount of space in the field garden proper.

We feed large amounts of sunflower seeds to the wild birds all winter long so I'd really like to grow enough sunflowers to supplement the supply we have to purchase. (Our growing season is so short I have a really hard time getting most of the seeds to mature, but I'm still working on that.) Besides wanting to be able to grow our own feed for the birds, what is cheerier than a long line of sunflowers in the summer garden? They lend themselves to planting in the traditional field garden quite well.

You've heard me whine often enough about not being able to grow full-sized tomatoes in our climate. But I keep trying. Bull-headed? Stubborn? Just plain stoopid? Whatever the reason, they usually end up planted int he field garden. I have tried them in raised beds under cold frames which gives them a good start, but they quickly get too tall for the cold frames and then in the fall when the fruits just start to ripen, they are definitely too tall for the protection the cold frames would offer. Besides that, to plant enough full-sized tomatoes so that I might (some day, some how, some way) have enough to can, I would have to use approximately half of my raised beds to hold them. So, they are better suited to being a field garden crop.

Pickling cucumbers, peas, beans and potatoes take up most of the space in the field garden.

I know that I need approximately sixty feet of pickling cucumbers to give me enough pickles for a year's supply and to share with others who enjoy making a few pickles. I always trellis my pickling cucs because it keeps them much cleaner, they are easier to pick, and take up much less space.

The above picture shows peas on the right (falling off their trellis and trying to co-mingle with), potatoes on the left. Some cabbages are in the foreground interspersed with marigolds.

I trellis my peas also as I have trouble getting a moldy/mildew on them if I allow them to trail on the ground. As with the pickling cucs, picking peas is much easier when they are on a trellis. Sixty feet of peas are also required for enough harvest to take us through the fall, winter and spring.

I grow both pole and bush beans but the bush beans make up the majority of our frozen supply. I typically grow one sixteen foot row of green beans and one sixteen foot row of yellow wax beans. So that's only a total of thirty-two feet required for beans. I must admit the only reason I grow pole beans is because I plant Scarlet Runners around a tee-pee trellis which is gorgeous when blooming.

Each year I plant eighty feet of potatoes, usually half whites and half reds. I probably don't need the full eighty feet but now and then we have a year when the potato yield is poor so I like to hedge my bets against that. There are very few years when I don't have enough potatoes left in the spring to use as sets for planting the new crop.

Although I have grown dill, cabbages and broccoli in raised beds, I feel they do better in the field garden.

I grow dill for use in making my dill pickles. (Well, duh.)

I can't keep the whole, harvested cabbages for very long in storage so I grow only enough for fresh eating and making sauerkraut.

Broccoli is my nemesis in the garden. No matter what I try, I cannot seem to keep worms out of it. I threw a hissy-fit last year and didn't even plant it. But it does grow well in our climate reaching the proportions of small trees so for that reason I plant it in the field garden.

So ends a run-down of what I plant in raised beds and what I plant in the traditional field garden plots. This is just what seems to work best for me. I've experimented planting all my different veggies in both locations but have come to these preferences I've outlined.

If I were forced to give up one or the other (I warn you I'd fight back!), I'd have to stick with my raised beds. (I'd be very sad not to have the field garden space though.) This is all a personal preference choice and you can be a very successful gardener sticking with what you have to work with or what works for you.


Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

First question, do you fence in your field garden at all? How do you keep munchers out, or do you not have any like our ever hungry, and incorrect forecaster, groundhogs? Also I am surprised you have not invested in a hoop house. I had wonderful success with growing tomatoes in there beyond our frost dates.

Susan said...

Jane stole my question! I was wondering about hoop houses, too. I have one raised bed that I've driven rebar around, then used pipe bent in a hoop from one rebar to the corresponding rebar on the other side. Clear as mud? It does very well until heavy snow falls. But it kept my spinach and kale going right into January. I love the row of sunflowers. I may try it again, as long as the dang chipmunks don't follow behind me.

Mama Pea said...

Jane - Do we fence in our field garden? Hahahahaha! If we didn't we wouldn't be able to grow a thing! The deer are plentiful and eat EVERYTHING including veggies, flowers, berries, bushes, trees. We have a seven foot high "deer fencing" that encloses our fruit trees, raspberry, blueberry and strawberry patches, all the raised beds, the field garden and the pumpkin patch along with flower border around the deck. The fence keeps out deer, bear (so far, but please knock on wood), rabbits, woodchucks, etc. Does not keep out chipmunks and squirrels!

Yes, we really, reeeeally do need a hoop house. I would put it over a portion of the field garden and use it for peppers, eggplant and TOMATOES. It's on the list. Will come a lot sooner if we win the lottery. (Guess I'd better start buying tickets.)

Susan - If any of my raised beds were bigger than 4 x 8, I'd use your method to construct mini hoop houses over them.

The Apple Pie Gal said...

I would like to see an areial shot of this! I always love your pictures, but would pay to see it all in person. You really could charge admission!

Tickets anyone???

Mama Pea said...

APG - Pshaw and horsefeathers! It is really NOT that impressive. Someday (in your dreams, Mama Pea) I'd love to learn how to actually do some landscaping that would make it all look good. However, we all know how pricey all those gorgeous landscaping plants are! If I ever got an over-all plan together, I could start adding bits and pieces and in . . . heck, 30-40 years, it would be just like I'd want it! (Thank you for your kind words though! You're a sweetie.)

Sue said...

I've loved these posts on the different ways you grow things. I agree---you need open space to grow things...but I do so love the raised beds.
The dumbest thing I've tried in them? Raspberries. Those will be moved, just don't know when.
I admit to liking the looks of the open beds better, but as for how things grow?--Raised--definately!!

I hope you take many many more pics of your garden this year. I admit to "stealing" one of yours from your post a couple days ago and studying it thoroughly---I love the different ways you've "covered" some of your raised beds. You sure do come in handy!

Mama Pea said...

Sue - Geesh, I can't remember the last time anyone told me I "come in handy!" Feel free to run with any ideas you wish. We ALL learn from each other . . . one of the great things about blogging!

P.S. I sure do miss being able to comment on your blogs. :o{ I know, just tell me to go away.

Erin said...

You are my garden goddess! I feel so badly that your climate won't grow big tomatoes, since I know they would be fabulous if you just had a wee few more days in that short season.... okay maybe 6-8 weeks more LOL. My mainstay are green and yellow wax beans too, just love them and they are so pretty pulling out the mixed bags from the freezer in winter. My question is how are the squash bugs and borers up in your climate? Are they not an issue or do you have your squash/pumpkins far away from the other plants? My squash bugs are just as happy to hop on my tomatoes, grrrr, probably since they are so close.

Sue, I miss it too!

Mama Pea said...

Erin - Garden Goddess my hiney! I may be able to get down and dirty and grow veggies but YOUR garden looks like something out of House Beautiful!!

Jane's right. What I need for my tomatoes is a hoop house. Or a year 'round climate controlled greenhouse. Hahaha!

From my mouth to the gardening gods ears, I've never had the least bit of trouble with squash bugs or borers. See? That's reason enough for you to move up here!

Jane said...

Your garden is beautiful! We grow sometimes two gardens,but yours is so pretty! Blessings jane

Leigh said...

What an interesting post. Dan and I are getting ready to establish some permanent beds in the garden (though not raised beds) so I'm taking notes.

I say don't give up on the tomatoes! Who knows, you may develop a short season variety. said...

I just wrote this long gushing comment about how beautiful your garden is, how much of an inspiration you are and how you should enjoy each and every one of these compliments because you deserve it, and Blogger ate it. Sigh.

You are a garden goddess, Mama Pea -- and don't you forget it!! :)

P.S. If you don't think your garden is that impressive, come visit my 'beautiful mess' this July!

Mama Pea said...

Jane2 - Thanks, but I think we are all so starved for something that looks green and lush that any old weed patch would look good at this point!

Leigh - Would you believe I can't even get the short season varieties to ripen up here? I do have success picking them green before Jack Frost totally kills them, wrapping them in newspaper, and having them ripen that way but the flavor is just not the same. Sigh.

Fiona - And why is it that you always lose the comments that are long and beautifully written?? Arrrgh, I hate that. 'Nuf to make a grown woman cry!

Regarding the appearance of your garden, you, m'dear, have two young, very active children who take a GREAT DEAL of your time . . . time that I can spend in my garden! But thank you so much for your encouragement.

Lisa said...

Your gardens are simply awesome! Fiona is right, you are an "inspiration"..and your reply to Sue "we all learn from each other.. one of the great things about blogging" is so true... but I think I am learning so much from YOU! Thank you again for sharing so much... and thank you for your encouraging words on our blogs.

Mama Pea said...

Lisa - You are so very kind in your compliments! Looking forward to seeing the progress you make with your gardens this year.