Spring starts in December in my house. When the seed catalogs arrive I get the same excited feeling that kids have on Christmas Eve. I immediately begin planning, I pull out my charts and lists from previous years, my highlighter to daydream in the catalogs, graph paper, pencils, and my seed box. I LOVE when the catalogs arrive, they are a beacon in the dreary cold that springtime is around the corner.
This year we needed to order a lot of seeds as many of ours are now a few years old. The older the seed the lower the germination rate, so it's best to replenish your stock every few years. We order our seeds from Gourmet Seed International.They are a small, family owned company that offers high quality, non GMO seeds, supplies, and has always been knowledgeable in answering our questions. And now the fun starts! I clean off my dining room table, make a cup of tea, and spread out my charts. I begin by referencing my notes from the years before. I know this year I need to order tomato seeds so I check my notes from last year, we weren't happy with the plum variety we planted and missed not having cherry tomatoes. From here I go to the catalog and research the best tomatoes for my growing conditions. This continues with each type of seed we want to plant until I have a completed seed list and can place my order.
The next step is to come up with my planting schedule. The majority of this is based on the last spring frost. I like to use online almanacs and planting guides, I can also refer back to when we planted the year before and how it went. For instance, two years ago we planted too late so were not able to fully utilize the growing months, and last year we over compensated and planted too early so when it came time to transplant , they were leggy and overgrown. I think we are pretty well on schedule this year if the weather doesn't get too crazy.
My okra was the first to raise it's head, then the tomatoes and cukes. I get so excited and run to check on them every morning!
The time between planting my seeds and transplanting outdoors is an antsy one. To keep my self from going nuts, I use this time to plan the layout of the garden. As I mentioned, we use the Square Foot gardening method. The theory behind this is that you can grow more in a smaller amount of space. In one square foot of space you can grow 16 carrots or 9 beets, where as in traditional gardening (in rows) you would need a 5 ft row. Now imagine if you took my seed list and needed a 5 ft row for each type of vegetable, my whole backyard would be taken up! This method also allows you to place plants strategically reducing pests and disease, and maximizing plant health by utilizing companion planting.
I plan my layout starting with the plants that take up the most space, cucumbers, tomatoes, and husk cherries. They get rotated yearly so they are never in the same place 2 years in a row. This practice helps avoid blight and nutrient deficiency. We had a hard time with cucumber beetles last year and I found, through research, that nasturtium repel them therefore, I placed nasturtium near all the plants that cucumber beetles are attracted to (it's also very tasty in salads). You can stretch the growing season of your lettuce if you plant it near taller plants that offer shade through the hotter months. Peas and carrots don't just go well together on the plate, the carrots boost pod production in the peas. Potatoes will inhibit the growth of your tomatoes, don't plant them near eachother! Companion planting is an integral part of organic gardening, plan your garden wisely. This part of the process takes a long time, it's like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the picture is.
Garden Layout 2013
So that's it, that's how spring arrives in December for me. Now that it's April I can get out in the yard and clean up our boxes and get everything ready for the gardening season. I can't wait to share with you our garden as it grows through the summer!