04 February 2013

life on the farm

Make that "my imaginary life on my imaginary farm." 


I have long tried to grow food in challenging conditions, from my first apartment in DC and my failed windowbox tomatoes, to our pest-ridden peas in our LA patio garden, and now to our challenging climate in Truckee. 

To paraphrase this post from last April, here in Truckee:
  • We can get frost any night of the year, and usually have fewer than 80 frost-free days each year
  • We have no natural topsoil
  • We have lots of wild animals who masquerade as pests and make a salad bar out of any garden
  • We are technically in hardiness zone 6, but can only really depend on plants that are hardy down to zones 1 and 2, which means: forget about ever growing a tomato or cucumber at home

On top of that, our lot is super shaded, thanks to some beautiful old Jeffrey pines.


But I'm still determined to create our own micro farm, even if it means lots more frustration to come. (I didn't even post about our garden travails last year, because we had so many visits from the local mule deer to our all-you-can-eat salad bar.) I have already learned a thing or two along the way, and here's what I will act on from now on:
  • Our best garden real estate (that is, sunshine) is in the front yard, and we just have to carpe diem and use that space for growing food. Some of our neighbors park cars in their front yard... our pretty little garden certainly won't look worse than that. 
  • We need to grow most of our herbs indoors, to protect them from both the cold and the deer.
  • I just need to give up on warm weather crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and most beans. I'll focus instead on what are "cool season" or "spring and fall crops" in most places, like greens, carrots, peas and some herbs. 
  • It's also time to think about fruit bushes and trees, including some apples that are extremely cold hardy. I have already begun the PR campaign against the underperforming and non-food-producing trees currently standing where I want the fruit trees to go. ("Look at that slacker tree, Mark. You know it never even put on a full set of leaves last year. Don't you think it's a waste of space and water?")
  • In the long run, I definitely want a greenhouse, like the one in this amazing story.


I've got lots of planning in the works...


...like mapping out an annuals raised bed in the front yard and a perennial bed in the back yard...


... and I have most of the seeds to get started on a heat mat, under some grow lights, in the kitchen window. They'll meet the soil come March


Once the herb seedlings get big enough to transfer, they'll find themselves in new homes in EcoForms rice hull pots. (We're all trying to banish plastic from our kitchens these days, so why grow our food in plastic pots?)

I'm also considering adding some cold frames to our second floor deck so that we can grow some salad greens and herbs outside without risking them getting chomped by deer, and while providing them a little more shelter from cold nights.

Stay tuned!

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xoxo,

8 comments:

  1. I can't wait to hear how this unfolds! I think Breck has fewer than 70 frost free nights, according to our visitor center. I can barely garden in Denver and I'm just not ready to tackle Breck yet! But maybe you will motivate me :)

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    Replies
    1. I doubt I'll have much success until some magical day in the future when we can build a greenhouse, but I'll certainly share my attempts, however fruitful they may be (or not).

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  2. Tanja, You totally missed said neighbor towing his 2-wheel drive pick up out of the back yard yesterday (why stop at parking cars in the front yard?). J took photos.

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    Replies
    1. Hahahaha... what I did NOT miss is the extra Jeep parked on top of the 3-foot-high snow bank. The only reaction is to laugh about it, right?

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  3. That greenhouse looks amazing!

    Have you tried growing anything indoors?

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  4. I like the second-floor-anti-deer plan. But in general, you are super brave to attempt this in a location like yours. I learned lots about Truckee and its lack of topsoil here!

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  5. You are amazing. Will you come plant one in my backyard as well? If it gets too cold, you can always move to Sacramento and we can be neighbors. And then I will eat out of your garden for you!

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  6. This is so inspiring!! I can't wait to see how it turns out, keep us posted on your progress, this would be a dream of mine!
    Leslie (Gwen Moss)

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Thanks for taking a moment to leave a note! I would love if you would leave your email address so I can write you back! But no pressure. :-) (No anonymous posts, please.) xoxo, tanja

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