Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Garden Fever

I had actually planned to do a post on baby chickens today, but I had this huge stack of seed catalogs sitting on my coffee table, and right next to it was a stack of graph paper (for garden designs), and a notebook with a working list of all the things I want to plant this year, along with some hopeful things like fruit trees that may or not happen. Sorry chickens, your story will have to wait for another day. The garden calls with the call of a siren (the Odyssey kind, not the fire truck kind), and I must needs respond.

January is when gardening starts, for me. That isn't to say that the rest of the year isn't pretty well full of gardening as well, but I don't think I'm the only one who opens their mailbox in the throes of a snowy, cold, windy season and sees that brightly covered paper promise of spring and gets a little more excited than is really rational.

So today starts yet another blog series, on garden planning. I don't really know where to start with this- although I've sketched out some ideas for that topic as well- but today I decided to just start, and let the chips fall where they may. Gardening is really such a huge and nebulous concept, covering myriads of philosophies and mixes of experience, that it's impossible to do it justice in several books, never mind a blog series. And to complicate matters further, there's no one right way to do things, so you can't just find an expert and do everything their way. Aside from your little garden having a micro-climate of its own (even within its larger Zone designation), it also has subtle differences in soil chemistry, soil history (ours apparently used to be a hay field...I think?), and who knows how many other factors affecting it.

The bottom line is that you can't learn gardening from a book, and certainly not from a blog series. The best you can do is get enough info to give you the confidence to start, and from there you'll build your own world of gardening.  I consider myself the rankest of amateurs, coming into only my fourth year of gardening, but for what it's worth, I'm going to share a little of the process I go through every year.

  1. Receive gardening catalogs. These things seem to breed in the mailbox, but it's the only kind of junk mail that is not problematic for its rabbit tendencies. The more catalogs that come, the more my enthusiasm grows.  This is ridiculous, because by the time I actually order seeds, I end up using no more than two catalogs. I keep all the others until the last minute anyway, just because they're inspiring to have sitting out, the promise of another year's chance to try again.
  2. Leaf through catalogs, writing down everything that you want to plant this year. Cross out 75% of your options because you'd have to plant three acres to make it happen. Sketch a garden design out of what space is currently available.
  3. Look woefully at the list of discarded options (due to space constraints) and scheme how to extend the garden. Raised beds? Trellising? A few pots on the porch? We don't really need the lawn...that could be sacrificed. Call husband with a new litany of ideas and insist that you can't survive with the garden space you have and he needs to come home right now and help you build some trellising for the kiwi vines you absolutely must have.
  4. Grudgingly accept that you'll have to wait until the end of the male work day to start your project and go back to digging through your catalogs. (Sometimes I wonder if Rob wishes cell phones were never invented.) Dwarf fruit trees-- we have to have some of those! There's a perfect spot on the property line. Resolve to check out a book on orchard trees from the library to learn how to prepare for them. 
  5. Return to reality (for a short time only), and attempt to list out what amounts of basic crops you'll actually need, referring to last year's planting/production lists for relevant information. 
  6. Realize you've forgotten to incorporate beneficial flowers into the mix, which you've been meaning to do for two years now. Ponder how many and what kinds. Realize that part of your chickens' "scratch" is comprised of sunflower seeds, and debate growing sunflowers for that purpose to save a few bucks. Fall into daydreams about growing everything the chickens eat.
  7. Snap out of it; how is it dinner time already? Stack everything up to await a later perusal and promise yourself you'll be more productive on this matter tomorrow. Maybe you'll even get a trellis design worked out.
The next part in this series, "Where to Begin?!", can be found here.

This post is part of the Down Home blog hop.

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