Get Your Garden On

Garden?  What?  If you are like me and have looked out the window today, you are probably wondering, as the snow flurries drift down, why I am talking about gardening.  It seems like a colossal waste of time.  Most people are still in some form of hibernation mode.

But, if you want to really get the most out of what you grow, you have to start early.  Really early.  Before the ground has thawed and there is even a hint of green, most farmers are already planning crops, starting seeds, and prepping their beds.  By the time they can transplant outside, their plants are much, much closer to producing food.  And this equals more food with the time they do have to grow.

Planning

The first thing that has to happen before anything else is planning.  It is a really good idea to know how much space you have to work with, what plants grow well where you live, and even the kind of soil you are going to be working in.  So, let’s get started.

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There are some fantastic websites out there designed to help you plan.  One of my favorites is Smart Gardener, mainly because they have a great free basic membership that gives you a lot of options.  And if you want to get some of the add-ons, most are less than $3.  Definitely not going to empty your wallet.

This website will ask for how many people you are trying to feed and what hardiness zone you live in.  Once you get this information in, it will walk you through creating a garden plan that lets it know the size garden you are working with.  There are options for planters, pots, or in-ground beds.  Finally, you pick your plants and record when you planted them.  From there, the website does all the work.  You’ll be told when to transplant outdoors and when you should be able to harvest.  You can even get reminders to water, prune, or mulch your plants.  To me, it is the epitome of working smarter, not harder.

Of course, you can always go with plan old pencil and paper.  Some grid paper would be helpful for planning.  It will just require a lot of leg work on your part.  If you are interested in this method, leave me a comment and I’ll be sure and write a separate post for that.

Starting Seeds

If you hate starting seeds, fail miserably a lot, etc, then buy your plants from the garden center nearest you around the beginning to middle of April and skip past this section.

This is a big step, and it can be equally daunting.  I have been gardening for as long as I can remember, and to me, starting seeds can be the most confusing.  Some seeds need light, others don’t.  Some have to be soaked.  Some get planted deep, an inch or more.  Some should just be scattered on top.  And don’t get me started on planting them at the right time!

Of course, if you use Smart Gardener, than a lot of this is answered for you.  But I wanted to include some other great sites specifically for this.  Also because there is so much information out there, I don’t want simply keep rehashing what has already been said so well.

  • Garden Guides – This site is a wealth of information for all things gardening.  They offer a very simple explanation of some of the things you’ll need and how to actually plant your seeds.
  • You Grow Girl – These girls are fantastic!  They keep things very simple, but also include some nice DIY ideas as well.  They also have some great charts to help you get your seeds started if using the pencil & paper method.

Prepping

Let’s talk dirt.  No, not gossip.  I mean what you have in your pots or beds or planters or whatever.  If you read some of the above articles, you will see that you need good soil just to get your seeds going.  To keep them going, you will need to keep your soil at the same level.

If you want, you can simply plow up a part of your yard and move on.  But, as we learned in January, good soil=good food with lots of nutrients.  Your yard has been sucking nutrients for years.  (Also, you will have a lot of invasive weeds.  That is NOT fun.  Trust me.)  I suggest making a soil mix that you can use instead.  This is especially useful if all of your soil is clay soil, which is like trying to plant things in a brick.  Doesn’t really work and your plants end up not producing.  They use all their energy just trying to put roots out.

I personally like Mel’s Mix, the guy who started Square Foot Gardening.  It allows plants to grow easily, is also super easy to pull weeds from, and has a lot of nutrients from the compost.  It can get a little pricey, if you are buying the compost.  So, be sure to shop around.  Better yet, look into composting yourself.  That, my friends, can be done for free.

Even though the ground is hard now, and unworkable, I am suggesting this so you can go ahead and have the mix made.  Last year, I tried making patches while I was working in my beds.  I ended making a lot of trips with my wheelbarrow and my back ached for days.  This year, I want to have a lot of it ready to go.

Are You Ready?

I know that I have barely skimmed the surface of getting started, but, as I already mentioned, I also don’t want to simply repeat what others have said.  Check out the sources and start working on your plan.  Also, if you do join Smart Gardener, my user name is sweetangel273.  I would love to link up!  (Just be aware that I haven’t planted anything yet.)  So, leave a comment with what you’re planning or any questions you may have!

Gardens R Fun

And a whole lotta work! So much devil plant, ie ivy, to rip out and shrubs to kill. I had a brilliant idea last night just before bed though. I am trying to improve my gardens for as close to free as possible. I take donations if anyone is interested. We have 2 sets of louver doors collecting dust in our basement because we don’t use them. What if I spray paint them chocolate brown & use them as trellises to replace the evil shrubs-that-won’t-stop-growing? So excited to try this!

I will post pictures when I get it done.

In knitting news, the Fourth Doctor Scarf is finito & I have started a lace shawl. Because I actually want complicated after 4 months of garter stitch. I will post pictures shortly. But for now, that is all.

Continuing to Organize

So, it has been a few days past a year of living in a home we actually own.  Well, God actually has me remembering that the bank owns it until we pay it off, but nonetheless it’s still considered ours in the legal sense.  Never thought I would still be organizing a year later, especially after the Unexpected Paid Summer Vacation last year, ie the paid leave of absence to find another job.  But one year later, I have finally managed to get my craft room working.  That’s right folks!  You can actually walk all the way in, sit down at the sewing desk, and SEW!  It’s completely amazing.  I still have shelves to saw, paint, and mount for my bins and bins of fabric.  I’m hoping to get that done by the end of this month.  The yarn is almost all in my cubes, and even the top of my storage cabinet is organized and looking cute.  I promise pictures at a later posting.  And I honestly wish I had taken before and after pictures to show the true miracle that has happened.  I just can’t believe I actually got it where it is now.  Since I got the sewing part working, I decided to celebrate with some sewing.  It’s been a long time since I’ve actually wanted to sew, mainly due to the tiny alterations business I had on the side 2 years ago to supplement the detestable pay at Cheaply-Made Clothes/Expensive Prices Store (the name has been changed to protect the guilty).  So I pulled out my old T-shirts that are being held still for a memories T-shirt quilt.  I have to take a quick detour to say that the following ideas and such are due to desire to increase frugality and has nothing to do with going green.  For a better explanation why, see bottom of post.  Anyways, I cut every bit I could into lovely rags to use rather than expensive rolls of paper towels.  Since I knew this idea/system would not work unless I had some easy way to deal with the dirty rags between washings,  I then got out some cute coffee themed cotton and left-over muslin and sewed up a neat laundry bag to hang on the inside of one of the kitchen cabinet doors.  I used some wire I found in the basement to tie up plants and made a casing around the top and up the side seam to hold the bag open, thus making it extremely easy for DH to use.  And of course, myself – the Queen of Lazy.

In other news, the seedlings are looking fantastic but they will have to transplanted quite soon.  Since I’m starting to feel lazy, this may involve ripping out the dead herbs from my shallower pot, and transplanting them in there until the garden is plowed.  I’m looking for easy at this point.

** Explanation – Yes, I know that Green is in right now.  Everyone’s doing it, and most feel you are a big evil corporate monster for not following the ways of Green.  But let me explain myself.  I’m all about conserving, but because it’s responsible, it’s cheaper, and it’s what my family has had to do for generations.  Only 2 generations before me were family members living in a two room shack, and 3 generations ago they were living through the Great Depression.  Of course, too much hoarding can cause a clutter problem, so I have been able to overcome that and know when to keep and when to toss or give away.  (Thanks Flylady!)  But it is also because I see things in a very strong scientific way.  I know I know, I hear you now.  “But that’s why Green is important!  Scientists say so and they are studying the problems of climate change!”  First, on carbon dioxide, the list is very long of why there is no worry there.  First, it’s very very important for us to have carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mainly so plants will continue to replenish oxygen into our atmosphere.  Second, let’s look at how much is actually in the atmosphere.  In terms of percentages, carbon dioxide makes up 0.0383% of our atmosphere according to Wikipedia, which highlights at the bottom that the source of that is the NASA Earth Fact Sheet which was updated April 19, 2007.  The Fact Sheet is in parts per million, rather than a percentage but Wikipedia has it calculated as a percentage.  Even if it was increasing, its increasing on such a teeny tiny scale that the difference would not be noticed compared to the rest of the atmosphere.  Second, on climate change itself.  This doesn’t scare me either since the Earth’s climate has been changing between hotter and colder periods since the beginning of time.  We have went through several Ice Ages and Heat Ages.  This is not a new phenomenon, and unless dinosaurs had coal burning electricity plants, the climate changes that happened before and after their existence had nothing to do with CO2.  It’s just the way this beautiful planet is.  Hopefully I won’t end up with a bunch of nasty comments on this post, but this explanation is based in fact.  If you have further questions, feel free to contact me.