Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dreaming of dirt

My seed orders have been sent. My graph paper garden sketch is nearly complete. Now all I can do is wait until late March, when I can finally start a few tiny vegetable and herb seeds in my basement.

Following last year's success, I am enlarging my garden by 1/3, to 45' x 45' in size. My nine-year-old son has promised help with weeding (in exchange for a modest allowance, of course) and my husband has promised help with tilling and digging and fencing. I still need to find more steel siding for pathways, but I think I know where to get some.

Surrounded by 6' welded wire fence and interwoven with steel paths, my garden isn't pretty. But it is productive. Someday I will have a pretty garden, with brick-laid paths and raised beds and trellised vines. That day is far in the future. I still have to master the art of growing things. I need to learn about succession planting and cover crops, dealing with blight and mildew, how to improve the soil and manage weeds.

I need to learn, and learn fast. This year I am experimenting with a few new things. I am planting herbs for the first time: dill, sage, chamomile, basil, thyme, lemonbalm. I am planting cayenne and paprika peppers, to grind my own spices. I am planting lettuce and amaranth for the first time. And I am going to start a permanent bed of asparagus.

I hope I am not over reaching. To help with weed control I am going to experiment with some black plastic mulch. I have the plastic already, so I might as well use it. I am going to use Bt spray to control the creepy crawlies on my brassicas. I am going to make two plantings of my cabbage, carrots and rutabagas: one for summer eating, and one for winter storage.

Putting this all down on paper scares me a little. The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. I have such high hopes--I always do. But that is what gets us through these cold and dark days of winter: the hopes we have for a warm spring, the dreams we hold for the rich brown earth.

All we can do is wait. And dream.

And swing!


Mama Pea said...

If you don't have a slug problem, have you considered mulching for weed control? I have very little weeding to do in either my field garden or garden beds. In the beds, I plant so intensively that there's no room for weeds (!) (although I do some mulching in the beds just to hold moisture in the soil), and I mulch the entire field garden using a combination of collected grass clippings and straw. This has the added benefit of enriching the soil, too, because in the fall, almost all the mulch has disappeared into the soil.

Jo said...

You are absolutely right -- straw and grass mulches are great. I do use straw mulch over most of my garden. My biggest weed foe, however, is Canada thistle. This evil plant laughs at straw mulch, growing through any depth.

I once pulled a thistle plant out of a bale of straw in my garden, still baled. The little devil had grown up THROUGH the bale -- fifteen inches straight up through tight straw. Grrr.

But straw mulches have definitely cut down on the rest of the weeds. And it is great for holding soil moisture, too.

Mama Pea said...

Your Canada thistles sound a little . . . creepy. Sorta monster-ish! We are bothered by thistles just a little. My husband hates them and digs them out the minute he sees one. Sounds like he might be driven mad in your territory!

Jo said...

Your husband is doing it right -- get rid of them before they become a problem. Unfortunately I was not as smart. This section of our land was row cropped before we moved out here, then we planted it to apple trees. We weren't fastidious about weed control at that point, and the thistles established themselves. Now that we have converted it to garden, I am paying the price!

Erin said...

You haven't grown dill???? Jo, you will LOVE it! It makes the best pickled veggies, I use homegrown dill and garlic, and leave the sprigs in the jars, they are so pretty. The self sow like mad, which really doesn't seem to be a problem since I always want more after pickling is done to dry and to make dill vinegar. I will warn you, it is so pretty you will be tempted to pick masses of it for a vase inside...ooh, it sheds and gets yellow powder/pollen everywhere! but it IS pretty before that happens, lol

Maple Lawn Farm said...

Sounds wonderful, Jo. I have a little spot just outside my kitchen where I have always planted flowers but I intend to use it for my herb garden this year. This will be the first time I have attempted to grow herbs.

I Just Live Here said...

I you buy books .. this is worth it for a garden

Thistledog said...

This is a wonderful post.

I know the feeling SO well, of making plans, sketching stuff out, learning as much as you can from books and reading and such, and then just launching the boat into the uncharted waters. It is a little scary, but I've comforted myself many times over with the reminder that, especially with gardening, it's just one big learning experiment. What better way to figure things out than by doing them?

My major failure with the experimentation thingy is I usually don't take very good notes. So all those lessons get a little foggy after a few years. I'm working on that.

Can't wait until Spring!

Jessika said...

Sounds like a page right out of my book! Only I'm not quite as organized about it all! I've had the same bad thistle experience. For us, two years ago we put a couple pigs in our main garden. It is 36x 65ft. That seemed to take care of the thistles, but then we got a lot of wild grass seeds and etc from the mulch hay we used for them, that was pretty weedy. I have to mulch religiously this year, because I don't have the time for all the weeding.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't even know what I'm doing by reading your post. It's like I'm reading a foreign language, and everyone else is "getting" is but me! I'm sticking to flowers in controlled areas (weed-free!) that require planting and watering...and that's all! The closest thing I come to a vegie/herb garden is my pot of cherry tomato plants and my basil/parsley pot!!!

Omelay said...

it sounds like a nice dream. i think that all gardeners share a similar dream. it is so exciting, sometimes i wiggle around in my seat in front of my garden plan.

herbs are one of our favorite things to grow. they enrich our diet more than any other garden item.

gardening like any other pursuit, you have to find your own groove. what works for one might not work for another. some like a really sharp hoe and scrape the weeds as they come up while others like to mulch.

we are of the mulch persuasion. we also have a really sharp hoe too. we usually stick to the organic mulches but have had success with black plastic, sweet potatoes.

mostly i'm excited by reading your post because i can sense your excitement. gardening is so much fun..