Saturday, March 10, 2012

Get Gardening!

 Unfortunately our family got hit with a cold bug which has kept me from doing all that I wanted to do this week, especially in regard to gardening (and blogging). But I am so excited to get gardening and actually be somewhat on top of it this year. Maybe because it  feels like Spring outside instead of the usual frozen tundra at this time of year in Wisconsin. The kids and I already started our tomatoes, peppers, basil and some onions indoors the other day. Back when I was working full time (outside of the house) one of my co-workers and I used to talk gardening. I remember him saying that his mom would always remind him to get his tomatoes started by St. Patrick's Day. I don't remember much else from our conversations, but that has stuck with me (so you still have a week to start your seeds indoors). It is a good date to shoot for and easy for me to remember to start my indoor seeds by then (no matter what the weather is outside). This is only the second or third time I've gotten around to starting seeds indoors. I'm not sure how it will go, but at least the seeds are started!

If you have not already started thinking about or planning your garden, now is the time to do it! Seed catalogs were likely sent out/available starting back in January. Some seeds can be started outdoors even now, depending upon whether or not your soil is ready to be worked. Today I was reading in my Organic Gardening magazine that the soil is ready if you can grab a handful of dirt, make it into a ball and then it gently breaks apart when poked with a finger. It shouldn't be too wet or too dry. If it is too wet, just wait and check again another day. If it is too dry, run a sprinkler on it for a day or so to give it a good soaking. This afternoon I was able to get out and see that some spots of my garden were just right and others were a bit wet. But that's okay, I still have to finish planning out my square foot sections. We are hoping to add two more "square foot" raised beds this year. Our one 2 1/2 x 9 foot garden did amazing last year (other than our pole beans and tomatoes going crazy and choking out our melons and cucumbers). Even if you don't have much space, there are ways to grow your own fresh veggies or herbs! Give it a try.

Here is what I've done so far:
  • Looked through the seed catalog to decide which seeds I wanted/needed and purchased them
  • Went through my old seeds and wrote expiration dates on them (I store my seeds in their original packets in a ziploc bag with a handful of rice to keep out the moisture and throw the whole bag in the refrigerator)
  • Started tomatoes, peppers, onions and basil seeds indoors
  • Picked out which seeds can be planted outdoors early spring and wrote down which crops to avoid following (i.e. Kale, Kohlrabi, Pak Choi should not be planted where any of the cabbage family plants were planted last) and which crops make bad companions (i.e. Beets should not be planted near Pole Beans)
  • Checked my soil to see whether or not it is ready and removed some of the leaf mulch cover from the areas that were too wet
Here is what I have left to do:
  • Make my garden plan, plan out each square foot section - I like to draw a "map" of my garden in my garden notebook/journal
  • Check the soil again to see if it is ready
  • Plant the early crops: Kale, Beet, Spinach, Lettuce, Kohlrabi, Radish, Onion, Parsley and Pak Choi
  • Once the soil gets a bit warmer (50 degrees), plant peas
  • Build and prepare two more square foot raised beds
  • Figure out when to plant other crops
  • Water, fertilize, watch, and wait
  • Reap the harvest, freeze, and can extras
  • I'm sure there is something I have forgotten or left out, so I'll leave a space for it here:)
There are two gardening books that I own and love! One of them I consult regularly, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith this is the book that gives me the practical information I need like how long each type of seed typically lasts (my expiration dates from above), what crops to follow or avoid following in my rotation planting, good companion plants and bad companion plants among many other things. The Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman is more of the garden that I dream of some day having. Last year I borrowed Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew from the library. Although it was helpful in explaining the concepts behind the Square Foot Garden, it wasn't a resource that I felt I needed to hang onto. I do highly recommend the Square Food Gardening method - it saves space and time in the garden.

Now it's your turn, go on out there and GET GARDENING! Please share what you hope to do this season with your garden, whether it be small, large, or just in containers!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. Check out more great posts for living simply, HERE.

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