What Should We Grow This Year?

I might have a problem – I have a LOT of seeds!

Due to the year’s unusual circumstances, 2020 resulted in more people than ever buying seeds and chicks, causing a shortage for some veteran growers. My usual seed shop, MIgardener, had a history of selling out of products so I knew when they launched on December 1 I should have my list ready. In the beginning of January the well-known and mega seed supplier, Baker Creek, shut down its site to keep up with orders.

I also tried to narrow down the varieties of herbs. This year I’m trying several new ones as well as a few that I failed to grow last year.

I’m not saying this to be all “gloom and doom”. When you think about it, more people growing their own food is encouraging! It means people can appreciate the hard work and dedication, not to mention knowledge, it takes to feed one person let alone thousands.

But enough of the social lesson – on to growing!

What Should We Grow This Year? Food! This is becoming an easier answer for me these last couple years but I remember wanting to grow everything, and mostly for no reason. My garden was hap-hazard, overgrown by weeds, my plants not the best. I still have a lot of work and learning to do, but I was so proud of our garden this year that I’m encouraged more than ever to grow. Looking at my list of seeds – 118 and counting – I realize my aspirations may still be a bit large!

Maybe my seed orders and gifts got a bit carried away? That’s a lot of different types of vegetables and fruits to grow!

If you’re debating about what to grow you first need to decide what you LIKE and what you CAN grow. For instance, I love pineapple, but I really don’t think it’s worth my time to grow it in growing zone 5b where we get winters with sub-zero weather. Sure, I could try keeping it in the house, but to me it’s just not worth it. We have enough acreage we can grow quite a bit of sweet corn, but if you live in an apartment odds are you don’t have the space for that.

So what do you like? Green beans? Tomatoes? Squash?

One of the top reasons for me growing a garden was to save money, which meant I needed to grow things we actually ate. When I was garden planning in 2019 I knew what we ate a lot of and how that could translate to the garden. As an example – we eat tater tot casserole probably once a month (or more … guilty). I use almost half a gallon bag of green beans for each casserole; times 12 months means we needed 6 gallons minimum of green beans. This is how I recommend you plan your garden. If you don’t eat green beans, don’t grow them!

Sometimes, by the time you buy seeds, soil, fertilizers, and any other gimmick that looks fun it seems like you aren’t really saving any money compared to a bag of green beans at $0.97, but I assure you – you can. Start simple, be diligent in asking yourself if you really need those plant markers for $6, buy quality seeds (I can purchase maybe $4-6 worth of seeds for our entire year of green beans), and at least try.

For some reason I felt the need to have several different kinds of tomatoes this year – thinking I was reducing the varieties I got them all out and realized I didn’t reduce – I grew!

As a new farmer’s market vendor I also have to consider the market. What did the customers like? Was there something that other vendors didn’t offer that I could (hence the microgreens last year)? What was easier for me to grow, process, package and bring to market considering I work full time and I have a limited amount to do all the work?

A very generous couple from the farmers market told me about the National Gourd Society and all the different gourds they used to grow. Next time they were at the market they very generously brought me seeds! I can’t thank them enough!!

One rule I made for myself was that I was going to fill our freezers first, farmer’s market second. Going back to the point above – would it really behoove me to produce food for others to purchase food for us? There may be a balance tip economically (we sell eggs for more than what I can purchase at the store) but not for quality (those eggs are ethically produced from happy hens and I know their living conditions and health, not to mention they are much more fresh than the store!). There were many times where I almost brought produce to the market that I was planning to save for us and had to stop myself. Experiencing last year’s markets meant I learned more of what customers wanted, depending on the season, and I can plan accordingly. Hopefully I can execute accordingly as well!

It’s a lot of work, but I figured out the optimum planting times for most of our seeds. It helps keep me on track for the best planting and harvesting dates, especially when it comes to our Plant Sale.

I still have a lot of plotting and planning to do to make our farm more organized and prepared, but the above picture of my Excel spreadsheet is one way to help keep me on task for planting seeds. We are planning our Spring Plant Sale on May 15 this year, so I need to make sure that the plants we’re offering are ready to go! Last year some were still not quite big enough for my liking, and I’ll have to do more tweaking, but a year of testing allowed me to have a better plan for this year.

What should YOU grow? What you like to eat in accordance with your growing conditions!

What should WE/JCT grow? A lot! We usually post a “garden roster” of plants we’re planning for the year around February-March. This year I am holding off because of the confusion between what we are growing for us and what we are growing for others. Plus, I found out my green thumb only extends so far, so what I post might not make it to summer! Don’t worry – I won’t be able to keep it all to myself and will be sure to give you a list at some point!

If you’re interested in what we will be growing there are a few ways that are the best:

  • Subscribe to our e-newsletter. We only bother you about once a month unless there are special things going on around the farm! PLUS – you get first-access information and ordering for our Spring Plant Sale and a freebie (our new download is some awesome chicken recipes with several ways to cook a whole chicken!).
  • Subscribe to our blog. We post about once a month with information, pictures, events, and products. There should be a place to put your email at the bottom of the page.
  • Like our Facebook Page and follow us on Instagram. We post at least weekly to give farm updates, a fun picture or two, and when we have products available such as eggs, the Spring Plant Sale event, garden produce, when we’ll be at the farmer’s market, etc.

Regardless of your method – stay tuned! We have big plans coming up for our Spring Plant Sale!

We are bringing in some items, such as lavender and rosemary that were impossible for me to get going last year. We plan to get the same, amazing, organic compost from Midwest Organics Recycling, so if you are wanting organic plants we’ll start them and you can finish them!

Interested in learning more on how to plan your garden? How we plan our planting schedule? Would you like a copy of the spreadsheet? Contact us – we’d love to help you on your garden journey!

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