A few friends have asked recently how we do the garden around here: so here’s a long overdue post with a glimpse into our humble, hard-working greenhouse. Come on in for a little tour and I’ll give the low-down on what we’re up to this season!
First off, if you’re not growing a food garden but would like to, I highly recommend Carolyn Herriot’s book A Year on the Garden Path. Especially if you live on Victoria! It is an invaluable resource as she walks you through what you should be doing, week-by-week. This is my absolute go-to handbook and after years of dragging out multiple books from the library, trying to figure out zones and soil types and being generally confused…this has made it all so simple for me! OK, ready to get started?
1. Choose your seeds!
You get to start with the fun part! If you’re organized and motivated, you can order way ahead in January. This is when the first of the seed catalogs come out, and it’s cold & dreary outside, and you have time to dream about getting your hands in the dirt. Otherwise, you can wait till they come into stores in early spring. Or a bit of both! This is the year I’ve missed the boat on planning ahead (for pretty much everything)- so I went with the quick and simple, and bought a pile in one fell swoop at Buckerfields. I purchased all Westcoast Seeds this time- they are well-priced with a reliable germination rate, and have a huge selection of Heirloom variety to choose from. (But be careful, those $3 see packets do add up fast. Still way cheaper than groceries, I figure. And better for you than candy. Or coffee out. Now you see how I justify these things…)
For seed purchasing, I also highly recommend:
One good stock-up lasts us a couple of years, and it’s fun to have some extra seeds to swap with friends. I have done a little seed saving in the past (lettuces, arugula, beans and peas) but to be honest, its just not my favorite thing to do. No good reason, it’s just too fiddly for this stage of life. But don’t let me discourage you! Heck, it makes sense. I just need to figure out how to make it simple. Maybe this will be the the year.
Here’s the stash:
Most years I start tomatoes as well, but they do need a little more loving at the seedling stage. Knowing my time is limited, this will be a year for buying established, robust tomato plant that someone else has loved up on! I try to find them for cheap at random roadside stands…or waiting for The Garden Path’s sale to pick up Carolyn Herriot’s fabulous heirloom varieties. I haven’t bought them yet- so I’ll keep you posted what we find. More on that later this month!
2) Gather your Planting Supplies.
I’ve had these trays for about 5 years now and well…they just ain’t pretty. I don’t love that they are plastic, however they do last, and they make planting out really easy. There’s lots of cute links that show homemade biodegradable newspaper pots, or peat pots…and we’ve tried those. But this is what works best for me so for now, I’m sticking with it.
Sorry, I know that’s a bit uninspiring…but trust me, its worth it. Buy your supplies at Integrity Distributors on Keating X-Rd if you want the best prices and great service. (And you feel like a gardening professional shopping at a wholesale landscaper store. At least, I do.)
Next: starting soil! I know almost zilch about the proper chemistry of soil, but I do know that seeds germinate best in a starter soil that’s not full of lots of nutrients. I was told this one is best, so this is what I do. My seeds grow into happy sturdy seedlings and then I plant them out and it just seems to work. The label reads “Sunshine Professional Potting Soil- #5″.
3) Fill ‘em up!
We’re all about speed here- so I put my fine-looking eldest son to work for about 15 min to fill me up a whack load of trays. We water them so the soil is cool and dark and moist, and then I stick in my little babies and label with simple popsicle sticks. Most of these were started a month ago- but really only just started taking off in my open greenhouse in the past couple weeks.
(leeks, romaine lettuce and cauliflower)
Filling these seed trays really only takes an hour or so, maybe twice in the spring. Then it’s watering every couple days, and gradually, I plant things out as they are ready (and as I can get my act together out in the garden to have the soil ready.)
I aim for lettuces, spinach and salad greens to go out anytime in mid-April, and they can be continually seeded every couple weeks for a good summer supply. Sugarsnap peas can go directly in the ground in early April, and I wait on the squashes and tomatoes until late May.
When all else fails- plant out the whole garden around the May long weekend and you are good to go! Seriously, everything basically grows best in the summer months!
And… that’s it! Oh, and don’t feel like you need a greenhouse to do this. Inside works too- same trays (or smaller if you’re using your windowsills), add a clear cover and leave them in a sunny place. And make sure your toddlers don’t dig ‘em up. (Been there- SO messy!)
The garden beds themselves are being tended, little by little. We have a bit of (chicken-pecked) Swiss Chard still from last year, the rhubarb is emerging, there’s oodles of flowers on the apple, cherry, plum & peach trees, and plenty of green buds on the blueberry bushes and raspberry canes.
Oh, and a lot of chickens that are enjoying their final days having run of the place. And mulch galore.
And the good news is… it’s not too late! You can start seeds or plant starters easily this month. I’ve got some kale & cucumber seeds still to pop in the soil later today.
One last tidbit- I found an amazing deal this week, and today is the LAST day for this incredible book bundle. I have read a few of these titles already and love many of the bloggers. Crazy good value with some pretty amazing writers and their books! You can print out the ones that really catch your eye, or you can read on your computer or device. (I am loving that I can sneak in a few pages of reading on my kindle app for iphone while I’m out & about, or while breastfeeding my little guy. I print off recipes once I’ve tried them, and find these resources are a great way to create my own management binder and worksheets with the huge variety of free downloadable forms. I’ve also learned a ton from bloggers in these books- super useful tips all round. I am so grateful for my internet community!)
Here are some other great reviews if you’re not sure whether these are the books for you:
Have a fabulous weekend digging in the garden, playing with your kiddos and sneaking in some time to read!
(Disclosure- this is an affiliate site and if you buy through me, it helps me devote a little more time to this blog space! And buy more seeds. Thanks so much!)