Planning a Garden, Not Planting. Yet.

It’s a balmy 14 degrees outside this morning and the snow is coming down. And yet all is not lost!- for I have seed catalogs.

(insert maniacal laughter here)

In the interest of perfect honesty, I received the first of the year’s seed catalogs before Christmas, which is a clever marketing idea; gardeners like semi-personal gifts as much as anyone, and a packet of seeds fits nicely in a stocking. But I didn’t have the time or energy to give them more than a cursory glance until yesterday, when yet another booklet of prettiness arrived in the mail.

So many pretty things. I’m not the type to squeal with delight, or do a little dance, or any other loud or dynamic signs of happiness, but there was a lot of random smiling and contented sighing last night as I flipped through the pages.

I haven’t made a proper plan for the garden, but I’m firmly in the thinking stage. Since I have a very limited space, I might focus on vegetables that I never use enough of when I buy them from the store. Who uses a whole head of celery all in one go, anyway? I sure don’t. But if I could harvest them young and small, or break off a stalk as I need it, I might save a little money and not have to throw away what was a perfectly good vegetable when I brought it home from the store. Same thing with scallions and green beans.

The other possible avenue of focus is to plant varieties that don’t store or travel well, and so aren’t found in grocery stores. Thinner-skinned melons come to mind. I’d plant raspberries, but they won’t start producing in time- perils of living in a rented house and knowing I’ll be moving in a couple of years- which will also mean dragging all of my potted plants halfway across the country.

I’m also going to plant some flowers. Something bright and colorful and completely frivolous, to remind myself why I do this. It’s supposed to be fun, damn it.

But the funniest thing about my love for green and growing things is that I’m not very good at gardening. There are people who can make anything grow, in any situation. I’m not one of those people. My gardens are always kind of… mediocre. I keep the plants alive- usually; I’m still bummed about the zucchini last year; yes, I couldn’t keep a zucchini plant alive- but they never get to the height or size mentioned in the catalog, or produce the expected amounts of fruit, flowers, or vegetables.

But I keep planting things anyway. Because it amuses me, and gives me a reason to go outside- I’m very bad at simply sitting in the backyard and relaxing; possibly an ingrained habit from when I lived on a farm and the chores never ended, so if I don’t have a reason to go out, I don’t.

Someday, I’ll have a little farm of my own, where I can have a bigger garden and plant perennials if I want to. In the meantime, I’m keeping my gardening knowledge somewhat current and having a little fun along the way.

16 comments

  1. I was just thinking how happy I am I ordered plants a couple weeks ago when it was a balmy 20 degrees here. (For us, that’s super cold). I’m trying to feed birds and pollinators as part of my terraforming efforts so I bought New Jersey tea, Canada anemone, Jacob’s ladder, sweet Joe Pye weed, fire pink, and white turtlehead. (Prairie Nursery lets you pick a bunch for one set price). I can’t wait for them to get here.

    I wish I had enough sun for vegetables.

  2. I’m sitting here with a forecast low of 1F and 5F and then 10F, highs below freezing, not enough snow to really insulate the ground, and wondering which roses I’ll lose this year. The tomatoes last year . . . were duds, but there’s a virus going around that afflicted pretty much everyone’s tomatoes, large or small, hybrids or heritage. I want more roses, but . . . We’ll see what survives.

    1. Dunno if it would help with tomato viruses, but a good dose of peat moss to acidify the ground discourages potato scab virus. (Or ammonia sulfate, but I don’t need to make the onions stronger…) Also, the tomatoes love it.

      VT100 cherry tomatoes go feral very easily; volunteers have about taken over my garden here in Montana, and don’t seem to care if they get watered or not. Plant some out in the weeds, maybe…

      1. We have to grow tomatoes in pots. The only good in-the-ground place for tomatoes is also the access point for water, gas, and other utilities, so we can’t plant much there. I’ve tried the peat moss in pots, and it works OK as long as we don’t get a really hot spell (a week of 100+ temps.) I think it was just a bad year. *shrugs*

  3. *eyes out the window* Too cold to bother listing it (at least for us. The Alaskans and folk from Montana are laughing at us, but that’s okay.)I know where I want to put the garden but the grass is taller than I am. Dead but taller than I am. So there is much teraforming to be done, then cover crops to plant in the back acreage when things warm up sufficiently. We’re here for the long haul so looking at berry bushes and have some tree seeds in the fridge seeing if we can get them going. Eventually I’ll get to the roses I want.

    1. You guys do Amazon?

      We’ve got a coffin-sized box mostly full of boxes for “recycling.”

      Which means, lay them down to kill the grass. 😀



      1. I was planning on using them for cheap mulch (probably weight down by actual mulch) But this is brilliant! SO MANY BOXES. (And we live far enough out that getting a garbage service out here is about the same cost as a car payment.)

        1. Wind can be an issue, but if you can layer them down mostly overlapping and use some branches or even mulch — well, I had a very nice large area I put down when it was still freezing at nights, and we planted zucchini to good effect first year.
          Can have some heat issues that way, but also absorbs water rather well, and the ground worms LOVE it.

          (That was first year, we got MASSIVE yields; everything died when I tried to do a “proper” garden in a different spot without the cardboard.)

  4. The first rule of gardening is that if it doesn’t come back, it was an annual. If it does, either a perennial or a reseeding annual.

    Anything else is just showing tendencies.

  5. I’m also going to plant some flowers. Something bright and colorful and completely frivolous, to remind myself why I do this. It’s supposed to be fun, damn it.

    Edible flowers?

    AKA, “pretty salad!”

    We’re doing zucchini again next year, although ours died last year, too.

    Not sure what else, honestly. I love peas, but so do the rabbits!

    1. Check the laws on arranging for rabbit stew…. Since they’re eating your peas you even know what bait to use. 😎

  6. I’ve had good luck with pot tomatoes, both cherry and slicers, set out on the back patio. A friend clued me in to his success with ‘maters as he adds a bit of epsom salts to the soil when planting. I actually found a product that is a mix of epsom salts and plant fertilizer that produced a bountiful crop this past year.

  7. I planted some fruit trees last spring . . . and grapes a month ago. We’ll see what survives. I want to expand my garden this year . . . And yeah, what’s with zucchinis lately?

  8. Despite a long growing season in SC, we’ve had mediocre results over the years (as teachers, we’ve spent a lot of our summers running from workshop to workshop – we’re science teachers, so the PD is free, and often has an honorarium attached). We just haven’t been in town enough to oversee it.
    In the last couple of years, my knee issues have been keeping me from active work outside. My plan this spring is to construct REALLY raised beds – mid-thigh at least. That should make it easier to maintain.
    I ordered my seeds REALLY early. I woke up from a nightmare in which seeds were unavailable (the food and other shortages have made me twitchy). So I’m sitting on a lot of heritage seeds – and will be rigorous about saving seeds this year.
    I’m also going to lay in a lighting/rack system – not hydroponics, just working to extend the growing season in the basement.

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