What I'm learning more and more about gardening is that it's almost a year-round activity in order to get the best results. I've begun to start seeds now, and it's only February. The trick is to have a plan and start early. Many seeds take two or three weeks just to germinate! The Passiflora (passionflower) seeds I bought last year take a full 30 days to germinate. For those of you who are gardeners, I thought I'd share my gardening schedule for this Spring. Some of you might read my list and say, "Wow, that is a lot of stuff to do." However, most of the work will be mixing seed starter with water, poking in some seeds and covering with glass or plastic. I might do this for an hour each week from February- mid April. In April and May when I start to plant, a majority of the soil will be already prepared in lasagna raised beds. I will just have to poke a few more seeds in the soil, and in May I will transplant things I've started indoors. After that I'll mulch all of the raised beds and from there most of the work will be done. At least that's the plan! :)
1. Force tulip bulbs
2. Start chili pepper seeds
3. Start basil seeds
4. Start echinacea seeds
5. Start rosemary seeds
6. Start lavender seeds
7. Start passionflower seeds
1. Plant radishes in garden
2. Plant new garlic in garden
3. Plant snap peas in garden
4. Plant onions in garden
5. Plant lettuce in garden
6. Plant fennel, dill, cilantro and chamomile in garden
(these things might self-seed)
7. Plant carrots in garden
8. Plant broccoli starts in garden
9. Start watermelon seeds indoors
10. Start cantelope seeds indoors
11. Start cabbage seeds
1. Start bell pepper seeds
2. Start pumpkin-on-a-stick seeds
3. Start tomato seeds
4. Start broccoli seeds
1. Plant butternut squash in garden
2. Plant pumpkin in garden
3. Plant spaghetti squash in garden
4. Plant acorn squash in garden
5. Plant green beans in garden
6. Plant cucumbers in garden
7. Plant straightneck squash in garden
8. Plant potatoes in garden
9. Plant amaranth in garden
10. Plant sweet corn in garden
11. Set potted plants outside
12. Pot passionflower and set outside
13. Transplant pumpkin-on-a-stick starts
14. Transplant herb starts
15. Transplant tomato starts
16. Transplant pepper starts
17. Transplant cabbage starts
18. Transplant cantelope starts
19. Transplant watermelon starts
I learned a lot last year with my garden. My non-hybrid sweet corn did not turn out well, and I discovered that saving carrot seed is almost impossible because of cross-pollination with Queen Anne's Lace (wild carrot). I learned that Roma tomatoes are prone to blossom-end rot. Because of all this, I will be buying new tomato, carrot and sweet corn seeds this year. However, all of the other seeds are ones that I saved from the garden or kept from last year's seed packets.
Instead of buying carrot, tomato and sweet corn seeds from a seed catalog (Gurneys wanted $5 for a pack of seeds!!), I just bought them on Ebay from private sellers. Honestly, I've had wonderful results buying seeds directly from other gardeners. In addition to getting perfectly good seeds for less money, I feel a type of camaraderie with other seed-saving gardeners. It makes me feel good to support another individual.
If I like how the tomatoes turn out, I'll save those seeds next fall and not have to purchase tomato seeds again. Unfortunately it looks like carrots and sweet corn will be an annual purchase, but I don't mind. You still save a ton of money growing sweet corn and carrots.
Later I was looking on Gurneys' website, and if you really want a bargain you can spend $50 on exotic plants, use their $25 gift certificate (for purchases over $50), and with shipping, be able to spend less than $15 on each plant. However, this year I only wanted to buy one exotic plant.
Less Work Than it Seems
One more thing I might add; it LOOKS like I am planting a ton of things in my garden, but I am not going to do "a row of each" like most gardeners would. I've discovered that we really only need one or two plants (about 3-5 seeds) each of things like squash, cucumber, and melons every year to produce enough for the two of us, plus some. My three hills of squash last year, for example, have provided enough for us to eat one squash per week through the month of March. Planting only a few seeds per year is how I can get away with 1) growing a lot of different plants, and 2) rarely buying seeds.
Anyone who has done a garden before knows that it is so easy to plant way more than you're capable of taking care of. In fact, most people plant a huge garden in the spring, and by the time August rolls around they have nothing but weeds to show for it. It's not because people are lazy- it's because doing a garden like that is simply unsustainable!!! I've found that using the square-foot gardening method, in conjunction with lasagna composting in raised beds, cuts down on SO MUCH work. You can read about how I did this in some of my previous garden updates. Growing all of my own plants (as opposed to buying them at a garden center or nursery) makes gardening almost free, and that small cost for a couple packets of seeds and seed starter can be easily offset by selling a few plants or some extra garden produce.
Wishing you all the best in your gardening efforts this year!
P.S. I highly, highly recommend the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew. It covers a lot of different aspects of gardening and how to make gardening fun, easy, and NOT overwhelming.