by Mireille Bourgeois
I’ve been trying for the last year to be a better year-round gardener. I think this will be my year. I feel like it took me a couple of years to first get a sense of the land, dig the land, establish what I may want for a design of the land. It’s very possible we’ll be moving houses in a couple of years, but at least I will have gained a lot of experience working my first garden(s).
I’m an admirer of gardeners like my good friend Terri Whetstone, a master gardener (self-taught), whom I email all the time with questions. Terri is interested in vermiculture and I’m hoping she’ll teach me a bit this year. She keeps suggesting I take a Master Class in gardening which actually, I think I would love. Also Niki Jabbour, who has just released her second book Groundbreaking Food Gardens. I loved her first book the Year-Round Gardener and reference it often.
Even though I want to be a year-round gardener, I’m not there yet. You would think that once you start a garden, every year is the same as long as summer eventually comes right? I think about that whenever I write my first gardening blog post of the “season”, but what I’m finding is that there is always something new to consider, get inspired by, and plan for. I also wonder what is MY “gardening season” if I plan on doing this year-round. Last fall I planted a bunch of extra bulbs: tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and now my spring feels different than last year already. Always something new.
Last year, I had a nice indoor growing area set up in my spare office. That room is in the middle of renovations right now so I had to adapt if I wanted to start my seeds early (April). I hung my lights to a wooden shelf my brother loaned me, and stuck it in the hallway. If you have a small space, this is a good system for growing seedlings indoor to prepare for the season.
I decided to start most of my seeds indoors this year because I find the ridiculous amount of ants and their many many colonies in our yard were stealing the seeds, and birds would also swoop down and grab the larger seeds like squash, ect. I’m hoping that starting them indoors will give them a better chance at survival. Time will tell…. My beets (in need of a bit of thinning) are already taller and healthier looking than the beets I direct-sowed last year, which shrivelled up and died before they got their fourth leaves…
Some new things for my gardening plan this year:
-Start looking into reinforcing my garden beds and adding hoop tunnels by the end of the summer, and will also move one of my back yard raised beds to my southern sun-floaded front yard.
-Build (with Joe’s help) a blue stone garden bed with recovered stones on the side of the garage and fill it with a mix of perennial and annual flowers and herbs, geared especially towards pollinators and butterflies. This is a tip and inspiration that came to me from Niki Jabbour’s book.
-Decorate! Make my little garden a nice place to sit, not just forage and harvest. I made this lovely and silly little bird house (a cute little kit I got for xmas, which was built and promptly decorated with broken china plates and beads) recently that I’ll hang, and also got some cheesy yet childhood memory-inducing pink flamingos (you’d be surprised to know how long I had to look for these ones which aren’t as detailed and fun as the ones I had as a child…These… came from the dollar store!) The garden bed I move from back to front yard, will leave a perfect open space for a comfy two-person swing which I’ve always wanted.
-Compost and cultivate good soil. I had some crazy things going on in my life last year and basically just said “later!!” to my garden. My soil needs a bit of attention. I’m going to start using the handy soil testing kit, be more diligent with my compost tea and composting, etc.
-Succession planting. This is my biggest problem. I plant, and then just leave things alone. Some beds have three of four sad growing thin leeks or one pepper plant that doesn’t produce peppers… Succession planting will help me extend my growing season, and work towards a higher producing food garden. Also, I’m considering square foot gardening.
-Now that I’m better equipped with tools, dug garden beds, seeds, etc, I will focus on my interior gardening a bit more. I’ll get reflectors for my indoor lights, a small patio greenhouse to transition my medium-sized seedlings, etc.
So take the above as a just a few suggestions or inspiration if you will. What’s your goal for the gardening season? Are you introducing something new like growing Quinoe, Goji Berries or Peanuts (those are my new seeds), building fancy new trellises, trying a new method (planters, upside down tomatoes, lasagna garden bed), or are you completely new to gardening?!
Have fun 🙂 and don’t forget these tips for spring cleaning!!!