Planning a Garden

Between the gorgeous weather, a well-timed gardening post by Amanda, and an unexpected late afternoon nap by Emmett, I found myself inspired Thursday afternoon to head outside and clean up my garden. Oh man, I cannot tell you how good it felt to get my hands in that warm black dirt, sun beating down on my back, and clear out all the winter’s weeds. It’s amazing what you can get done in such a short amount of time! I felt so accomplished. If I’d had a little more time, I probably would have sown a few of the seeds I have left over from last year, some kale and lettuces just to get us going, but I only had about an hour so I’ll probably try to get out there again on Sunday afternoon. I’ve just been dying to get going after checking out a few gardening books from the library, and it was such a relief to at least make a small dent. The spot my husband chose to put my garden boxes a few years ago is just so lovely. Despite a bit of grass seed that blows in during late summer and causes some extra weeding work, and the field mice who use boxes as a freeway system in the fall, the view really cannot be beat. Fragrant, flowering fruit trees in the spring and branches heavy laden with red apples and green pears in the fall. It’s a pretty darn lovely place to do some dirty work.

Anyone can be a successful gardener at this time of year, and I know of no pleasanter occupation these cold, snowy days than to sit warm and snug by the fire, making garden with a pencil–in a seed catalog.

-Laura Ingalls Wilder

In addition to my first afternoon in the dirt, I’ve also been making all kinds of lists and dreaming all kinds of dreams about what I’d like to accomplish in both the garden and the overall yard this year. I’m hoping I’ll have a little more time to devote to green things since I’m not pregnant or taking care of a newborn. Hopefully. Though I don’t want  to rush him, I am really looking forward to Emmett officially walking so he can join me outside. I got him the cutest pair of rubber boots, you know, for inspiration. And, the Easter Bunny may or may not be bringing him some miniature garden tools. Tehee!

Sadly, due to life circumstances, last year’s garden was pretty much planted, then neglected. I never even made it out to harvest all of my tomatoes. Things were just a bit crazy with no sleep and a new baby. That being said, we did get a good crop of potatoes, some garlic, lots of kale and lettuces, peas, beans, a few squash and a healthy dose of tomatoes. My herb garden also did quite well, and a few things have been in good enough shape to cook from all winter long. I’m hoping to be a bit more ambitious this year, but as always, we’ll see how it goes. Gotta hold these things with open hands, you know? So, here’s my list of things I’d like to plant in the garden this year:

  • Green Beans- I like the thinner, French beans the most, so perhaps a few different colors of those. I also like to freeze them.
  • Golden Beets- I’m not a huge beet fan, but Honey Beet Salad is hard to beat. Ha! No pun intended.
  • Rainbow Carrots- I haven’t had much luck with carrots yet, so here’s hoping!
  • Cucumbers- For eating, I can never get the picking cucumbers to come on at the same time or be a uniform shape. I do plan to can pickles, but I’ll just buy some picklers from the farmer’s market.
  • Leeks- First time!
  • Pumpkins- For carving! These will probably need to live somewhere besides the raised beds.
  • Rhubarb- My mom transplanted a rhubarb plant the first spring we lived here, but it landed in one of the dryer spots in the yard and didn’t survive. Though it won’t give us any fruit this year, I’m committed to replanting. I LIVE for rhubarb in the spring.
  • Kale- I’ve only grown this from starts thus far, so hoping to try growing from seed this year.
  • Lettuce(s)- Same story as the kale. Hoping to grow from seed, and keep replanting so we have greens all year long.
  • Spinach- I grew spinach two years ago, but it got annihilated by some pesky pest. Hoping to take another shot.
  • Hard-kneck Garlic- There’s already some leftover from last year growing away nicely, so I think I’ll just let it do it’s thing.
  • Yukon Gold Potatoes- We got a pretty good crop of these last year and they were tasty!
  • Jalepenos- A couple plants can fill a ziplock in the freezer. A year’s supply for me.
  • Tomatoes- I usually can a giant batch of crushed tomatoes from my garden that we use all year long. I didn’t get to it last year and they’ve been sorely missed.
  • Peas- Peas to freeze. Peas for risotto. Peas for mac and cheese. More peas please!
  • Butternut Squash- Pretty much the easiest thing to grow, ever.
  • Zucchini- Never enough.
  • Delicata Squash- My favorite fall treat.
  • Acorn Squash- Also super easy to grow.

As far as herbs go, I’ve still got a pretty healthy mint plant, sage, rosemary, thyme, lavender, lemon verbena and tarragon. I’ll need to re-plant:

  • Cilantro
  • Basil- I did both green and purple last year and the purple seemed to be heartier.
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • And…whatever else strikes my fancy. Herbs are the best!

As far as the rest of the yard goes, and there is A LOT of it let me tell you, I hope to pretty much just get things under control. Elsie, who lived in this house most of her life, was an avid gardener, so we have a lot of well-established perennials and shrubbery. Which is wonderful, if not a bit high maintenance. This year, I’m hoping to get to the edging, weeding, clean up a few of the beds that have gotten out of control and stay on top of the pruning and cutting back of things that need to be cut back. Peony season usually comes on fast and furious and I can hardly keep up with topping all the dead blooms. Last year, despite crazy baby life, I managed to put in a little path from the back yard over to my garden beds, and plant a nice hedge of hydrangeas on the south side of the house, right below my kitchen window. In my dreams, I’d like the yard to have an English cottage garden vibe; aka the more the merrier in the flower department, but I currently lack the time or finances to get it there. Someday!

As the spring bulbs have come up, it’s become apparent that both of those areas need a bit of editing, so I’m hoping to get to that at some point soon, in addition to a few other little projects I have in the back of my mind. Here they are:

  • Re-wrap the climbing roses.
  • Spread wildflower seeds in the shady little hyacinth meadow under the big trees to the north.
  • Put in some sort of climbing wall for the sweet peas on the west side of the pump house.
  • Put together some shade-loving pots for the front porch.
  • Figure out a watering system for late summer (both garden, lawn and beds). Drip hoses for garden + beds.
  • Put together some hanging baskets for the front porch.
  • Plant a row of sunflowers along the big shed.
  • Patch the hole in the front wall, trim back the ivy and add a few new perennials.
  • Work on a back patio area.

Other than that, I’d really love to get some chickens this year, but I’m not sure it’s in the budget. Anybody have a coop that needs a home? I’m ready and willing! We’ll see how all these lofty goals of mine go, and you can bet I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, here are a few of the gardening books I’ve read and loved:

What are you planting in your gardens this year? Any great tips to share or resources to pass along? Do tell!

Oh, and I just wanted to say thank you for the wonderful responses to my last post. It was lovely to hear how many people resonated with the things I shared and I so appreciated everyone who reached out. Here’s to the sunny days ahead!