Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It is almost spring in Minnesota!

It has been a very long and much colder winter than we have had for many years and I am excited for spring to be near. After all next week is March and the last few days have actually had highs above freezing - you can just feel that spring is close.

I've had a very busy winter. I started a new job. One with tons of flexibility so I can be home with my garden (I mean my son) this summer and work around Dan's work schedule. I'm continuing to go to school online for my Master's and getting good grades (2 A's and 1 B so far). I did do some pruing this winter but probably not as much as I should have - the snow was either too deep or it was too cold or I had something else to do (in other words I placed other things above pruning in my priority list).

Soon it will be time to plant the seedlings in the basement and watch them grow and before you know it the whole garden will be awake and growing. I think I am more ready for spring this year than I have been in some time - but that doesn't mean I'm prepared. I'm probably the least prepared. But I still have time.

I need to take the time this week to plan this year's garden (can you believe I haven't done that yet?). Now, I don't sit down and draw out what I will plant where - I used to do that and well, I found I just didn't follow the darn drawing anyway. But I've been gardening long enough to know about how many plants I can fit in my garden spaces so I just start the plants and worry about where they will go later. I just try and move them from where they were the year before - more important with some plants than with others.

Planning for me also involves deciding how much to plant of something and if I want to try something new. Since I garden primarily to feed my family year round I plant a lot more than someone who just wants to pick something occasionally fresh to eat. I also plant a lot more veggies than flowers - flowers have always been more of an after thought to me - pretty to look at and great to draw the pollinating bugs, butterflies and such in - but Andy really likes flowers so as he has grown older we have added more and more flowers every year and now I can't imagine why I never appreciated them more before.

One thing I look at when deciding how much to plant vs. last year is if my canned supply looks like it will last until fresh start coming - if not - I may need to plant more - but there can be other reasons it didn't last. Take tomatoes, for example - in spite of the tons of them I canned - they are mostly gone. I only have 1 jar of tomato sauce and 2 jars of salsa left and all of the rest of the tomatoes were eaten this year already. But do I really need to plant more? Probably not. A hail storm in late May last year took out half of my tomato plants - I decided to try and replace them with ones from the nursery (which was weird for me since I never buy tomato plants) and all the nursery had left was grape tomatoes - which are quite a bit smaller fruit than what I had been replacing. So you have to factor Mother Nature in there.

I also take into consideration how things performed. If it is a new plant I might give it a second year to see if it was just the weather conditions, but sometimes one year is all I need to know that I didn't like that variety. Take Brussels Sprouts, for example - last year I tried a new variety and they grew wonderfully and looked great but the sprouts never formed into tight balls - they were just a few leaves. My family likes Brussells Sprouts too much to take that chance again. We are going back to what we grew the year before.

Part of the gardening planning for me also is to decide what to plant where (not by drawing maps like I stated earlier). I only have limited space in my raised bed so it is reserved for the thing that need to go there - either because the rabbits will eat them if they are out in the other planting areas - or things like carrots that need the loose soil to put down wonderful eatable roots. And since I write very little of this down and most of this planning goes on in my head - sometimes I make last minute changes and things end up somewhere else - ah - it happens.

To me, gardening is just about growing and enjoying it - and doing some trial and error. I am such an anal person strictly following rules in other parts of my life - my garden is where I'm a little looser and sometimes it is just fun to see what comes up!

In other news, Andy's science fair is soon (March 6) and he will be doing a report on his garlic that he planted last fall - I am so proud of him for wanting to do a gardening project. He started a garlic bulb in a pot a couple of weeks ago so he would have something to take besides pictures on a board. He is also going to take a complete garlic bulb and some loose cloves - I think the kid is a genius - borderline MR - yeah right!