LivingOff Grid – Our garden at Elevation 4200'

Reader Contribution by Ed Essex
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Not only are we new at living off grid but we are also new
at gardening. This is only our second year but our garden is doing well. Laurie
is the prime planter, caretaker, and waterer. We have twice as many types of vegetables
as we did last year and almost all of them are thriving.

Starting January 01, 2012 I started keeping a weekly journal
of everything from daily temperatures and weather to how much wood we were
burning, when the snow started to melt, and other things that matter to us
living where we do. This spring and summer I have included the garden topics so
we would have a better idea ahead of time next year on when we could do our
seedlings and starts inside the house prior to transplanting them into the garden.

We live at an elevation of 4200′. The snow left this year by
April 25 but the ground was still frozen. I finally rototilled the garden May
18. By that time people down in the valley were already mowing their lawns and
seeing their first vegetables popping out of the ground.

We were eating fresh vegetables out of our insulated cold
frames – spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. Once those were all done we replaced
them with cherry tomato plants and more spinach in late May.

On June 10, I made an entry into the journal that the beans
had come up and died. The temperatures were still in the 30’s. That is cold
even for here. The other veggies – peas, spinach, garlic, zucchini, potatoes,
tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli were all okay. Now that we have all this
recorded, next year we will adjust our planting times accordingly. By June 25,
everything had been planted including the corn.

By July 20, only five weeks later I recorded the following –
Garden – is growing like crazy.
Corn is 3′ tall. Beans ½ up the pole. Tomatoes just starting to show, eating
lettuce, spinach, and peas. Potatoes are waist high”. We were later than the
valley gardens but coming on strong. Mother Nature just seems to know how to
get it done.

Our corn is only 6′ tall but the ears are already 2/3 filled
out. We even have ears of corn on stalks that are only 4′ tall.

August 19 – “Garden
corn husks are showing. Beans are blossomed. Tomatoes are green. Potatoes are
almost done, dying off now. Peas are done. Broccoli and cauliflower are coming
on strong. Cucumbers are starting to develop. Carrots just starting to show
green tops. Zucchini – lots and lots right now. Lettuce – too many – dying.
Beets did not come up – again.”

This journal is going to be so helpful for future garden
planning.

We water our garden from our two cisterns which receive
water off our house roof when it rains. It hasn’t rained here in six weeks and
we are finally having to pump water out of the well for the garden. When we
installed the cisterns we put an extra pipe and valve into the cisterns from
our pressurized water system. All I have to do is turn a valve and the cisterns
will fill up from our pressure water system. One item of interest concerning
water is that we know the prior property owners hauled water for their garden
from a spring over a mile away, all by hand. They used the same well we do.
Cisterns work and because of them our slow producing well has not been over
used and is still producing enough for all of our needs. We have never run out
of water.
Laurie waters everything by hand which saves a lot of water as opposed to using
some other means like a sprinkler that waters every square inch of garden
including those areas that don’t have plants. This time of year it doesn’t take
much water, just a little more time to do it by hand.

We have been eating out of the garden or insulated cold
frames since April when it was 18 degrees F. This next year we are going to try
to grow vegetables in the cold frames the year ’round. We are eating, canning
and freezing everything we grow. We have given away plenty of produce as well.

We live in the heart of apple orchard country. I have been told by everyone
that we can’t grow apples this high. We’ll see about that next year. One thing
at a time. I do know there are crab apple trees two miles from us on an old
homestead. I wouldn’t bet against us.

Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in
the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their websites goodideasforlife.com  and offgridworks.com

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