I have so many dreams about what we can do with our land. I envision creating a beautiful and productive place that nurtures us and the environment. Of course dreams are wonderful, but to make them happen, we have to actually make plans and implement them. I love making lists and that is the first step. So here are my gardening goals for 2016 to get us closer to that vision in my mind:
· Plant an orchard: This year my goal is to get fruit trees planted and off to a good start. We currently have three apple trees and would like to add three pears, two more apples, four peaches and two plums. I am also considering a persimmon and a fig for the orchard as well. I have spent countless hours researching varieties. I want to grow fruit organically, which according to what I have read, may be difficult in my zone due to the high humidity and diversity of pests. My first line of defense is to select varieties that are disease resistant and adapted to my climate. I hope this will make producing fruit a little bit easier.
· Plant wildflowers in orchard: I know it will be many, many years before my fruit trees will flower and hopefully bear fruit. Despite this, I would like to grow wildflowers to establish an ecosystem for pollinators and beneficial insects. I dream of a meadow filled with flowers among the fruit trees. I know this dream may not be practical as the trees grow and cast shade, but while they are small I want to fill the area with flowers.
· Build and plant a strawberry and herb bed: My current vegetable garden is only for annuals because we till the area every year. I plant annual herbs among the vegetables, but I want a place to plant some perennial herbs and also strawberries. I miss having deliciously ripe strawberries in the spring. My plan is to build a bed along the back of the garden. It will be 75 feet long and one foot wide. To keep this planting bed affordable, we plan to collect rocks around our property to make the border. Hopefully we will have it completed by spring so that I can fill it with strawberry plants and herbs.
· Make and follow my garden planner: I love planning and organizing. I keep my planting schedule on Evernote, but I want to have a hardcopy so that I don’t have to go onto my laptop or phone to see what I need to plant. I may have a tendency to easily get distracted.
· Sell some veggies: With my harvests last year reaching over a thousand pounds and the fact that there are only two of us, I think I can safely sell some surplus vegetables and still have plenty to eat and preserve. Everyone keeps telling me to sell at the farmer’s market and I’m sure that’s a great way to sell produce, but I really like my Saturday mornings. The thought of getting up before the sun rises every Saturday to sell veggies does not make me happy. I want to figure out ways to make a little bit of money from my extra veggies while keeping my Saturday mornings for sleeping in and gardening. I’m thinking that selling to co-workers would be a good option. I don’t plan on making much money, just enough to help offset the cost of seeds, compost and mulch and help support my gardening addiction!
· Save more seeds: Another effort to cut back on gardening costs is more seed saving. I’ve saved seeds for easy vegetables like peas and beans, but I want to expand my ability to save seeds from most of my vegetables. I went through my list of varieties and found that all but ten are open-pollinated. I need to research methods for different types of vegetables and then hopefully save most of my seeds.
· Make and use soil microbe spray: I’ve been reading about growing and maintaining healthy fruit trees. I highly recommend The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips, although I haven't actually harvested fruit yet. One topic I keep coming across is the use of soil microbes to keep plants healthy and productive. These good microbes in the soil can help protect plants from pathogenic microbes and even help the plants acquire more nutrients. I want to try this out by making my own soil microbe spray for veggies and fruit trees.
· Grow a better balance of vegetables: Even though I had a substantial harvest in 2015, I want to grow more onions, potatoes, garlic, broccoli, sweet bell peppers, carrots and peas. I didn’t have enough of these crops while I had way too many melons and cucumbers. I hope that over my gardening years I get better at balancing what I grow with what we want to eat.
Those are my goals for the coming year. I think it's going to be a busy 2016!