Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Garden Planning Time!

            The beginning of the new year signifies the beginning of the gardening season for me. In no way is this more evident than in the large stack of seed catalogues sitting on my garage bench. Frankly, the seed I order tends to come from only one or two vendors, but I love looking at what all the major vendors have to offer.

            This year, I’m thinking about adding a few more trees. Now, my little slice of Earth is not very big and currently the only trees I have are three useless palm trees in my front yard that I hate but not enough to remove. I just don’t have the space for full size trees. So, I am looking at some dwarf varieties.

            Trees are the gift that keeps on giving. Once planted, the roots tend to spread quickly and deeply. Outside of water and the occasional fertilizer, most trees usually only require a yearly trimming and harvest. In general, they are more tolerant of weather changes than smaller, annual plants. This makes them perfect food for Preppers. But they do take more space, which I don’t have.

            Dwarf varieties generally only grow 4-6 feet in height so they require less space. I can plant these against my northern fence (where I already have a successful dwarf lemon tree) and they won’t rob my raised beds of any food, water or sunlight. It will probably take a year or so before I get a good crop, but the inputs are so small, it is worth it.

            Since I live in growing zone 9, I have to be sure the dwarf trees I get are good for that area. I would love an apple tree, but very few will work in zone 9 other than Granny Smith. So apples will probably be out. Before you buy any dwarf trees, make sure they work in your area. Visiting your local nursery will help, but I have seen trees for sale locally that will not thrive in this area, so do your own homework. Walk around you neighborhood and see what other people have planted. If the full size variety thrives in your area, it’s a pretty safe bet the dwarf version will thrive, too.

 Just remember, the payoff takes time. Buying a 2-year old dwarf tree will likely cost $30-$50. It may take another year to get a good crop and that may only be a dozen or so fruits. But given the low inputs, you will likely get your money back within a few years. For example, I bought my dwarf Meyer Lemon tree for $30. It was about 2-years old and already had a few small lemons growing on it. I removed those and the few more I got 6 months later. After a year I started getting about 12-18 lemons twice a year. Lemons are cheap, but after a few years, I've easily made my money back and I know where they come from.

So, I return to my seed catalogues. I will definitely be growing my tried and true favorites and maybe trying some new stuff. I’ll put up my small, temporary greenhouse in the next few weeks so I can start my seeds by the end of January. Though it’s still pretty cold overnight around here, my mind is already turning to thoughts of tomato sauce and pickles.
I wonder if they make a Tomickle?