My Google calendar recently alarmed me to the official start of the gardening season, this past weekend of February 17. After a brief, but restful, garden dormancy over the past 2.5 months, it is time to begin it all again. Apparently, nature had some other plans and time traveled ahead by 3 months to spring time highs of 65°F and sunshine, complete with scampering animals and chirping birdsong. This, friends, is 30°F over the average blistering February temps. But please…global warming is a hoax.
While I have enjoyed the unseasonable weather for dog walks and weekend outdoor excursions, its worrisome if any of my dormant perennials get too excited and wake up from hibernation, just to be killed off by a surely expected March freeze. I shall keep an eye out for any early risers and smother them with straw mulch. The silver lining in all of this, of course, is a much more hospitable environment to begin some late winter tasks, such as pruning and trimming. February is a great time to give a hair cut to the fruit trees, and a great opportunity to clean out any vegetation I left in the beds over the winter.
Though I am enjoying the respite from the cold, the major garden work is done in the basement under grow lights. The weekend kicks of the business of seed starting, with some celery and leeks, and a through review of the weeks and months ahead.
Always up for new adventures, I added some new fun items this year based on my culinary preferences. New this year for produce I am adding leeks, an assortment of fresh herbs, and strawberries to the garden. I am expanding the varieties of everything else from asparagus to tomatoes. I have also made the executive decision to move certain plants strictly to a fall-harvest cycle. Broccoli, cauliflower, celeriac, rutabaga and turnips have proved too challenging with the unreliability of spring weather. All in all there will be 136 varieties of fruits and vegetables on our one-acre homestead. If I can pull this off, it will be quite a boon for this four-mammal household.
As is in my nature, I have plotted and planned the timing of starting, transplanting and sowing based around my travel schedule. With a little assistance in watering from CFO, we should be enjoying fresh salads by late April. Having a little OCD in gardening does make a difference in success rates. By first identifying realistic times when I can tend to my little spouting babies, I don’t overwhelm myself and make tasks unreasonable. Yes, garden upkeep is no different than maintaining anything else like clothing and upholstery, but organization makes anything possible. I also really like binders.
This year I am taking a different rotation approach. Yes, you should rotate beds by type of vegetable. Yes, you should not overcrowd your plants. But, given limited space, I have limited rotation and spacing capabilities. Instead of proper form, this year I am rotating by garden “season.” I will have one bed for spring produce, which will be ready to replant for the fall garden. Three beds will be summer produce (which often lasts well into fall). One bed for blueberries, one for strawberries, and an assortment of other planters for items that need a bit more separation and attention. I also to work in as much companion planting as I can within each bed. In such a small space, companion planting has been beneficial in my short experience. While I see plenty of the bad bugs, they have yet to demolish entire sections. Attracting the good bugs and very aggressive birds helps as well. While I do not like the birds hovering about my cherry tree, I audibly cheer when I see them circling the garden. For new plantings I will use row covers, but after that its open season on caterpillars.
Well, I better get to work before old man winter returns this upcoming weekend. I hope your garden planning is off to a great start!