Saturday, January 1, 2011
Happy New Year
At last! January 1st 2011! Aside from the concept of a new start that New Years brings us it's the day I allow myself to start looking at my garden catalogs.
Up here in the frozen northern mountains we can have Winter from November to sometimes late April. April being the "tease" month as you just never know if your going to have sunny warm days or 5' of snow. But even in a shorter Winter year it can seem to go on forever. I have found if I start looking at seed and plant catalogs too early it makes the Winter seem even longer so I made a rule long ago: no garden planning until after the Holidays and the new year starts.
And today is the day!
So, tea pot at my side, the garden planner I created myself (more on that later), pens, erasers and left over Christmas Cookies (thanks Barb and Alex!) I'll sit by the woodstove and start planning and making my lists.
I get tons of catalogs. Some I've been getting for years and years; others I'm not sure how they found me. The latter are usually very commercial corporate seed companies that buy mailing lists from who knows who; the former are old friends by now.
I have very strict criteria for my seeds though which narrows who I actually buy from. That criteria is simple; 100% Organic and as local as possible. The last few years it's been High Mowing Farms in Vermont; a family owned organic seed company. If I can't find what I'm looking for from them I'll go to Seeds of Change
This is actually one of the hardest parts of gardening. No; not digging the beds, hauling compost or weeding. All of those things are hard of course, but making sure that you stay focused and most importantly: realistic but not so realistic that you stifle your imagination and dreams, when you plan your garden year and order your seeds is very very hard.
Every year I wind up with seeds I never got to start because I didn't have time or space or as organized as I thought I'd be.
In the start of the year we have this ideal we want to live in and create. Not just in the garden but in our lives. And this is a wonderful thing and a wonderful opportunity to "clean the slate" and remake our lives and selves as we see fit. But we can also be too hard on ourselves and expect too much of ourselves.
I'm all for recreating and reinventing one's self: it's how I have survived "terminal" cancer for these past 9 years. But one can have the opposite effect on one's life if one has given one's self too high a goal to accomplish. Finding the right balance between Dreams and Reality can be the hard part.
Let yourself Soar but not higher then you can reasonable Fly. :)
We can be those Soaring Eagles but keep ourselves from being Icarus too.
My Garden Planner:
I've bought and have been given a lot of planners over the years. Some of them very beautiful with artists paintings or photographs of famous gardens. None of them seemed to fit how I wanted to approach it so I created my own.
It's actually very simple: I drew out the four garden beds on graph paper; outlined it in felt tip pen and then copied it in "color" so the graph lines would show. At the top I write in the year and season and put them in a three ring binder.
Six pages per year: Spring, Summer and Autumn Plantings and rotations in the garden and Spring, Summer and Autumn (for Winter) Plantings for the Greenhouse. In late Summer/ early Autumn I plan the following Springs rotations in all the garden beds.
For example, If I grew Tomatoes in bed one this year I'll move the Tomatoes into bed two next year; progressively through each of the four beds until on year five I'm back in bed one again.
This by the way is essential to avoid diseases in the soil left over from the previous years growth. As well as plants all use the soil differently and some; like beans, actually improve the soil by adding nitrogen so its available for another crop in that bed the next rotation.
Each of the graph squares is a foot square.
Years ago I read Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew; which greatly influence my spacing and planting. While a bit too rigid for me it's a wonderful book for someone starting out who might need more organization as well as even experienced gardeners relearning that most seeds can be planted closer then presented in many traditional forms of gardening.
I don't use his "grid" system totally but I do use his spacing for seeds and plants in most cases.
Here is an image of last Spring/Summer plan:
You can see all sorts of chicken scratches on there as I take notes through the season. It's all done in pencil so I can change things as I go along as I see fit... or more often Nature sees fit. :)
I also have separate pages just for each bed for more detailed information.
As I said: same thing is done for the current single bed in the greenhouse (hopefully maybe this year I'll have a second bed put in there)
This Year's Plan (so far):
I try to learn from my mistakes. Again; not just in the garden but fortunately that's the subject here and we can skip my other mistakes. :) Making sure you don't make the same mistakes as well as remember the things that worked is another reason for your planner. One always thinks one won't forget these things but one does; so having a record is a big help. This can be as elaborate or simple as you wish. Years ago my garden planner was practically a journal or diary. Now I have this blog for the details. :) and so the planner is an outline.
As soon as I'm done (this will actually take at least a week or more) I'll post here what I've decided to plant and in some cases not plant again.
In the Kitchen:
I've not done a lot of serious cooking recently; I'm still dealing with a compromised immune system due to the anti-biotics from the Lyme Disease fiasco this fall but it's getting better.
I did saute some chicken last night with basil, garlic, white wine and (drum roll) tomatoes from the freezer from last years garden. Nothing like a taste of Summer when your looking out your window looks like the above photos.
And last: Happy New Year to you and yours and may all your dreams be fulfilled and fulfilling!