Oh, It's getting hard to wait for the spring now. I look out on the witchy winter woods, with their long grasping branches and dark trunks and dream of a green haze. You know the one, where the trees are just barely budding out and that haze is the promise of hot summer days to come. I can't wait so I make plans!
Every day, I look out on my fallow gardens, under their ugly bed of cardboard and dream of the day the truck will deliver the first load of compost to the lower meadow gate. I dream of the work it will be to shovel it into the garden cart for the riding mower to pull up the hill to the paddock garden. I dream of covering the gardens in thick rich compost and mulch and then tenderly planting in seedlings - another promise of good meals in the future.
The jugs are full of water to hold the cardboard down - there are piles of weeds composting on top of some of the cardboard, along with a few compost piles already doing their thing. Way in the back on the left are the bales of hay that form a windbreak for the beehives. When winter ends, we'll use those bales as mulch on the garden, too. By the time we can actually plant seedlings, these beds will be covered in rich compost and will be pretty. I can't wait.
I've ordered the first batch of seeds and I love seeing those bright envelopes of the growing plants that are the promise of those little tiny seeds. Seed to table is an amazing transformation! Of course, I immediately set about filling in what I forgot with a new order. I'm also planning on a few fruiting bushes this year to plant in the new permaculture beds.
One of these beds is an accident. The first year we were here, our neighbor chopped down a dead tree and was chipping all the smaller branches. I asked for the chips and he was happy to oblige. That wood chip pile is much diminished now - most of it was spread to make the herb gardens and paths. The left over chips have composted to a nice bed of soil in a rough circle at the end of the driveway where nothing was before. It's ripe and ready for planting. Elderberry grows to the size of a small tree and doesn't have a problem with walnut trees, so this is where they will go.
You would think it would be overwhelming. At this point, we've planned on planting over 80 different flowers, herbs and veggies in four areas of the property - Front yard gardens, Kitchen herb gardens, Paddock gardens and the Livestock meadows. We leave the upper meadow and tree copse alone for the wildlife and of course, the woods and ponds that surround us on all sides are strictly for walking through and enjoying the nature only. That's still a lot of work so I plot it out.
But, I am one of those people who plan for things. I'm usually working a few months in advance on any one project and so it is with the gardens. First, I have a spread sheet on all the plants with pertinent information like when to plant, whether or not it needs to be started inside or gets sown out in the garden and when, how big it's going to be, what it likes to have as companions and what it doesn't like to be planted near.
For instance - The herb Calendula loves Chives, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Basil, Carrots, Peppers, Sage, Onions, Garlic, Leaf Lettuce. Looks to me like Calendula will grow with anything BUT - Calendula is a bed hog and will self seed prolifically - it's a great flower and can be used as a cut flower and it's medicinal and beneficial, too. Best to put it in the cut flower garden that is an offshoot of the herb garden.
And so it goes, I look at each plant individually and then I look at the entire place to see where that plant is going to fit in best. To make sure I remember where I'm going to plant what and how many, I use garden plots like this one. It's not filled in and it's going to change drastically between now and planting but it gives a rough idea of the overall plan for one of the front shade gardens. Not everything is on here but it's all in my mind. I'll have it on paper before I put a trowel to the ground. This one has elderberries on it.. but they will be scratched off - I researched elderberries and found out exactly how big they are, so.. new garden!
The paddock garden is 94' x 32' and will be the main vegetable gardens but plenty of other stuff gets planted in between. This is the rough draft and each row will be broken down into five 10x5 foot plots. The hugelculture bed on the left will be the second time we've tried this method and while it takes an initial outlay of work, tends to be a self tending bed.
There will be plenty of other flowers and herbs planted here, too but the majority will be meant for our table and those of our members. That's a lot of space, so I have to break it down even more to make it manageable and not overwhelming. My layouts will come in very handy when it's time to start seedlings and get the plants sown. I can't wait!
NOTE: The first photo of the winter woods has a hidden owl. Can you spot him? Here he is in a closeup. Biologists tell us that healthy woods have top predators like owls so I guess Windy Thistle is pretty healthy!
Don't forget! February 22 is our Seeding Class - we'll be planting three each of herbs, flowers and veggies to plant out in your own home garden. We'll go over soil mixes, light requirements, hardening off, companion planting, no till methods, pest control and lots of other things and everyone will go home with a plat of seedlings for themselves. I have lots of seeds to pick from. This class runs from 2pm to 5pm but everyone is welcome to come early and see what's going on around the farm. Reservations are required, contact me here, or on facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is always something happening at Windy Thistle so come visit!