This is a big year for my garden. For years, Ryan and I built beds at rental houses, planted seeds as we were able, then moved on after a few harvests, before we’d had a chance to get fully into the seasonal rhythm of the garden. No longer. We’re homeowners now, and for the first time, I get to plan a long-term garden. A lot of our friends are also experimenting with growing their own food this year and have asked for suggestions/advice so I thought I’d document my backyard farm efforts here on the blog, for anyone who cares to follow along.
We moved into our sweet little house last April, already seven months pregnant and with a big mess of remodelling to do. The garden wasn’t a huge priority, but Ryan still found time to track the movement of the light across the yard, determine the best growing area, tarp off the grass, and build me four giant beds. (Flashback to last year!) Our friends and relatives came and spent a long, fabulous day in the rain helping shovel a dumptruck-load of Cedar grove vegetable garden dirt into the beds.
They brought dozens of veggie and herb starts for me as babyshower gifts, and I was determined to partake in the joy of planting my garden, even though I was having a harder and harder time getting around. With help from my mother, I got all four beds planted. Of course, squirrels and birds and snails had first dibs on the tender wee plants, and I began to notice the firemen across the street eying me as I lumbered around replanting, no doubt wondering if they’d have to run over to deliver a baby in the front yard.
Callum waited till the garden was underway before arriving on July 2. He and the garden spent the rest of the summer thriving alongside each other.
We had awesome harvests from July onward… basil, lettuce, chard, bok choy, broccoli, zukes, cukes, pattypans, beets, carrots, some garlic, some tomatoes, a few eggplants, potatoes, leeks, and even a few sweet pumpkins and winter squash. I’m still cooking out of the garden in February (hurrah for the last few garden carrots and leeks). I want to take my gardening to the next level for the 2011-12 season though.
A few weeks ago, with January ice and frost glistening around the yard, I sat down with the Natural Gardening Company catalog (divine, beautiful, exquisite, helpful) and picked out varieties that seemed well-suited to our garden (We live in what gardeners know as Zone 7B, at latitude 47 degrees and longitude 122 degrees. Which translates to lots of rain, temperate weather, some good sunshine, and a “last frost” date somewhere around Mother’s Day. Find your zone here). I decided to go all out and order flower seeds too, something I’ve never done before. They’re attract pollinators, they’re beautiful, and I want to do more ikebana, (meditative Japanese flower arranging) so it seemed worthwhile. My husband nodded at the tiny box of seeds that came in the mail a few days ago. “Hard to believe there’s almost 200 dollars worth of stuff in there.”
Indeed. It was hard to shell out that much cash on seeds, which seem so tiny and unpromising, particularly when our budget is so tight. But! Once I thought about how much I’d spend in the average monthly visit to the grocery store to buy organic, heirloom veggies, I realized the seeds would pay for themselves in about 2 months. And I’ll likely be harvesting from this seed order for at least 2 solid years.
First step after ordering my seeds was sorting them by start date. (Ie… start indoors 2-3 months before last frost, start indoors 2-4 weeks before last frost, et cet. I have 9 waves of seeds to start this year, and roughly 15 plantings, as I’ll have to transplant everything I start inside into the outdoor gardens.) First in line for planting: Yellow Cipollini Onions, Green Globe Artichokes, Blue Solaize Leeks, Konasu Eggplants, and Conquistador Celery.
Today I put on my farm boots (Hurray Bogs. it makes you feel like a more legit gardener if you wear farm boots, BTW)… and headed outside into the cold February sunshine to sort all my seed-starting flats and containers. Set up the first flat, and shovelled some nice dark dirt in, then brought it inside so the soil can warm up before I plant the first seeds. My plan… turn our breakfast nook into my indoor greenhouse for the next four months.