Our Family Garden – Metuchen, New Jersey

Isaac Kremer/ July 8, 2021/ local food/ 0 comments

We begin with a quick review of the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Here is the prediction from November 2020 to October 2021.

Winter temperatures will be above normal, on average, with the coldest periods in mid-December and early and mid-January. Precipitation will be near normal, with mostly below-normal snowfall. The snowiest periods will occur in mid-December and early March. April and May will be warmer and drier than normal, with an early hot spell in early to mid-April. Summer will be hotter than normal, with the hottest periods in early and mid-June, early to mid-July, and early to mid-August. Rainfall will be near normal, especially in the south. Watch for a hurricane in early August. September and October will be cooler and mostly rainier than normal. Watch for a tropical storm threat in early to mid-September.

Old Farmer’s Almanac

The categories of plants for our garden this year will include wildflowers, herbs, cabbage and lettuce, and tomatoes. We’ve enjoyed the experience of collecting seeds and learning about germination and planting. Some of our most prized seeds are tomato plants from Good Stead Farm in Hope, Michigan. This is an organic farm and we were introduced to their vegetables at the farmer’s market in Midland, Michigan when passing through in 2018. The flavor was so outstanding and the shape and coloration of the heirloom tomatoes so unique, that we saved some seeds for planting in future years.

Our first major garden in Metuchen was also a container garden just a few blocks away from our current garden on Jonesdale Ave. When we bought a house in January 2020, the garden moved along with us.

Original Metuchen garden in 2019.

Last year was our first on McCoy Ave. We had just moved in to this nearly hundred year old house in early March. Starting the seeds had to wait until a few weeks after we settled in. By mid-April some of the seedlings started indoors were moved to our cold frames. Frequently when temperatures allowed we would lift the windows. An added benefit of this format is it kept critters from eating our seedlings (we learnt that lesson the hard way in May 2019 when several new seedlings were eaten whole).

Cold frames and other containers, April 2020.

For several weeks we would transfer plants from inside the house to outside each day. This was especially important for the tomatoes started indoors. They needed to “harden” by short exposure to indirect sunlight over several days. One day we mistakenly let them get too much direct sunlight causing several of the seedlings to fail. Another lesson learnt.

Tomatoes around May 4, 2020.

After the temperatures consistently approached 50 degrees or above, all the plants made it outside. One of the unique features of our garden is that it was exclusively grown in containers. At present the containers we have follow:

  • Round 20”
  • Round 29”
  • Round 22”
  • Round 22”
  • Square 16” – Rosemary
  • Square 16”
  • Pallet planter rectangle – two levels 32″ – Mint
  • Pallet planter rectangle “32” – Mint
  • Cold frame / bean house X 2 rectangle
  • Cold frame X 2

Our first year on McCoy we experimented with a plant share. Given we were late starting our seeds the distribution did not work out quite as well as we had hoped and expected. One of our great surprises, however, was a local artist in Metuchen who also took an interest in seeds and who we swapped tomato seedlings for seeds of several other varieties and neatly packaged. Given it was already several months into the growing season, however, we were not prepared to fully explore all the possibilities in 2020. That’s a good thing because we had an overcrowding issue that became apparent by August 2020. That’s why following advice from my wife we are going to space the containers giving clear aisles, and limit the number of plants in each container as well. That should hopefully help to improve our yield.

2020 – How it Started, How it Went

The Plan

Sketch of layout with aisles on south face of house.

Jan

  • Plan

Feb

  • Plan

Mar

Apr

May

  • Start Genovese Basil, May 1 (Bonnie Plants).
  • Average last frost May 11 to May 20 after which it is ok to put plants out.
  • Transplant New York early onion, green onion, Genovese basil, May 15.
  • Transplant tomatoes (May 16, 2020 was planting day last year).

Jun

Now, for all the usual hot weather veggies like beans, cowpeas, corn, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, gourds and sunflowers, you should plant those seeds directly into the ground around June 27.

When to Plant Vegetables: The Garden Planting Calendar – Garden.org

Jul

  • Start Kalibos Cabbage, July 1.
  • Start Snow Pea in ground, July 27.

Aug

Sep

  • Sep 15 – harvest onions, replace with lettuce, spinach, or beets.

Oct

  • Start Texas Bluebonnet in ground (who knows, it might work. Someone gave me the seeds years ago…)
  • Last freeze free date, October 15

How it is going

12/25/2020 – Like any gardener the perfect Christmas present was gardening gear. Actually, two items.

EZORKAS 9 Dimmable Levels Grow Light with 3 Modes Timing Function for Indoor Plants

Amazon.com: Gardzen 5-Set Garden Propagator Set, Seed Tray Kits with 200-Cell, Seed Starter Tray with Dome and Base 15″ x 9″ (40-Cell Per Tray): Kitchen & Dining

1/12/2021 – Selected planting soil and ordered.

Foxfarm FX14053 Ocean Forest Plant Garden PH Adjusted 12 Quarts Potting Soil Blend Mix for Containerized Plants, 11.9 Pound Bag (2 Pack)

2/4/2021 – Couldn’t wait any longer so got the tomato seeds started, just before a torrential snow storm dumped 19 inches. Wasn’t sure if the seedlings would make it (even though they were inside under a grow light).

2/10/2021 – Started bonsai seeds in refrigerator for first 20 days.

2/15/2021 – The first tomato seedlings are popping up.

4/2021 – Put plants out early as the weather allowed.

7/1/2021 – Had first heirloom tomatoe from garden.

7/8/2021 – How things are going

7/11/2021 – Hosting Garden Tour.

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About Isaac Kremer

Isaac Kremer is a transformational leader with a track record of success revitalizing downtowns in the United States. He has written and spoken extensively. He's always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas to unlock the potential of downtown areas.

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