It’s time for planning and plotting out the gardens for this year. What? It’s only January, you say? Well, this is the lull before the storm. Once production starts here in late February, there is no more time for planning – only time for planting seeds and babying seedlings. In anticipation, I’ve purchased seeds already and have the seeds I saved from last year as well. I’ve drawn outlines of the gardens and what I want to plant in each one. Every year we make new gardens and expand what we grow here at Windy Thistle.
Folks talk a lot about permaculture these days but there are a lot of plants out there that do double duty – they are beautiful, attractive to bees and other pollinators and are things you can eat and use to boot! You can plant a kitchen garden and support the bees at the same time. We’ll be planting a lot of herbs and flowers this year specifically for our Honey Hives, Buttercup and Bluebell, as well as to season our foods and provide some medicinal benefits for common, treatable illnesses. We’ll also be planting fruits and vegetables, lots of both.
Last year was a year of planning out where gardens would go and covering the ground with cardboard and mulch after forking the area using a no till method. It’s not pretty in the first year while that cardboard decomposes but this is the year we get to make those new gardens beautiful. I am sure there will be failure, too but at this time of the year, I’m all optimism!
We’ll be using natural pesticides and herbicides this year, like we did last year but we’ll utilize another old farming technique that is coming back into favor – companion planting. We’ll be planting companions together to repel pests and attract beneficial insects – like Pole Beans with Beets, Carrots and Marigolds or Pumpkin, Squash, Borage and Oregano all together. Some would call this a cottage garden but I’ve done this kind of thing before and the gardens look really pretty afterwards with lots of variety for the eye to enjoy as well as the benefits from all the useful plants.
All of the flowers are ones that bees love and lots of them are also herbs. There are a number of fruits & vegetables that the pollinators also love. The pollinators improve the yield of your plants, too. It’s a win-win for everyone. So, I loaded up my favorite seed catalog and picked and chose to my hearts content. In the end, I purchased 44 packages, add in my saved seeds and there are 57 kinds of plants going into the garden this year. I know me well enough to know I’ll add to that number. It’s not uncommon for me to plant this many things – last year I had over 500 seedlings on my growing shelves. When we lived in a tiny city house, I still had over 35 varieties of herbs and veggies growing.
I get most of my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com) and my own saved seeds from last summers heirloom plants. Baker Creek has any kind of seed you might want and all heirloom. Why do I stress heirloom? The seed companies are being bought up by Big AG so they can control the seeds. These heirloom varieties will seed true - their saved seeds will grow the same as the parent plant. That's not true of hybrids and most of the seeds you get at the store are hybrids. Baker Creek also gave out extra free seed packs for every ten you order. That was pretty sweet, we scored an extra Dill and Lemon Balm that I'll share with my DIL cohort in gardening, Donna. They also sent a variety of purple Carrots and Cinnamon Basil that I’ve never tried before! I can’t wait!
In anticipation of a good year:
Flowers: Lemon Bee Balm, Marigold, Pansy, Petunia, Arikara Sunflowers (the tall kind), Henry Wilde Sunflowers (smaller with more flowerheads per plant), Sweet Alyssum and Zinnia
Fruits, Cantaloupe, Pie Pumpkin, Watermelon and Luffa Gourds – this last makes a nice natural bath sponge.
Herbs: (many are pretty flowers, too.) Basil, Blue Hyssop, Borage, Catnip, Chives, Cilantro, Cumin, Dill, Echinacea (coneflowers), Feverfew, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Marjoram, Nasturtiums (flowers, yes, but edible, too), Oregano, Parsley, Purslane, Sage, Savory, St. John’s Wort, Tansy, and Yarrow
Vegetables: Broccali, Brussel Sprouts, Buttercrunch Lettuce, Cabbage, Carrot, Cucumber (pickling), Peas, Peppers (cayenne), Peppers (green), Radish, Salad Mix, Tomatoes (ace, roma, blushing, cherry), Yellow Squash and Zucchini.
I’ll also be planting onions (white, yellow and purple), strawberries, potatoes and blueberries as soon as those become available as bulbs and starts. I hope to have a honey harvest in late June/early July, too. Add in our chickens and we'll stay busy around here during the growing season.