Ah, January. The perfect time to be planning our gardening!
Last year, a lot of what we did was flying the the seat of our pants. Yes, we did some planning, but mostly we were just forging on ahead before things were fully ready. If we waited until we were ready before starting all the time, things would never get done! 😀 Sometimes, you just have to just say “screw it” and jump in with both feet.
There will still be a lot of that this year, but we have more information and are in a better position to plan things out.
One of the things I’ve done was find some Facebook groups that are dedicated to Zone 3 (or colder!) gardening. One of them is dedicated to cold hardy fruit and nut trees! It’s been pretty awesome to be able to talk to people about the different things they’ve come up with to extend their growing seasons.
Some of them are already talking about starting their onion seeds NOW!! It turned out these are people with greenhouses. They start the seeds indoors, where it’s warm, later move their trays to their unheated greenhouses to start hardening off before finally transplanting them outdoors.
This had me wondering… I know my mother grew onions, but I had no idea how she started them. I remember we had a cold frame with cabbages in it. I know she grew tomatoes, so she had to have started those indoors, somehow, and while I remember the onions in the garden, much later in the season, I have zero memory of how she started them. Did she use seeds? Sets? I didn’t know.
When we first moved here, my mother was quite furious that we didn’t plant a garden right away. The way she did it, years ago, of course. 😉 One of the things she kept saying to me is that we should at least plant onions. They’re easy to grow, and we’d save money, so we needed to at least plant onions…
It seems to be a really big deal to her, for us to grow onions.
Now, over time, while she still tries to guilt me about not allowing her to hire someone to plow the garden area, because there was too much other stuff that we needed to focus on, first (an offer she has stopped making, now that we are more ready! LOL), I think she finally has started to understand that the land she remembers as being so perfect in every way, isn’t. At all. Of course, nothing we did do was good enough; we used mulch, which she’d never heard of being done before, therefore it was bad. We used only a small part of the old garden area. She didn’t approve of how we planted them anything, and she did not approve of our growing sunflowers at all, because when she grew them, the birds ate the seeds, And so on. She also kept asking me about her onions and if they were still growing. There were a few that started to come up, along a section of fence that used to be around the old kitchen garden, but they didn’t grow much. She seemed quite disappointed and I got the impression she thought I deliberately killed them off.
Still, when I had the chance, I asked her about her onions. I told her I was going to plant 4 varieties, three of them from seed and one from sets, but that I could not remember how she started hers.
We talked a bit about the cold frame I remembered, and it turned out that cabbages and tomatoes where the only things she started in the cold frame. She did not start onions from seed, nor did she get sets.
It turns out she had a variety of onion that comes back year after year. She referred to them as Spanish onions when I last spoke to her, but I remember a previous conversation with her where she mentioned Egyptian Walking Onions. I think that’s what she actually meant.
It turns out she didn’t like the onions themselves, but just used the greens.
All that fussing and verbal abuse, and it turns out she didn’t even like the onions she grew? She just grew them because they were “free” and she didn’t have to buy them.
I did mention to her that, while that can be good, sometimes you get what you pay for! In this case, it was onions she didn’t like to eat!
She was absolutely indifferent to my telling her I was planting onions this year, too.
It’d be nice to be able to learn from her experiences, but that doesn’t seem to be much of an option. Ah, well.
With so many seeds that we ordered already in, more still stuck in the mail, and others to be shipped closer to planting time in our zone, we needed to find a way to organize them and plan things out. I’d spent some time looking at planting charts, many of which are available as free printouts, but none of them were suitable for us. It took some digging to find any for Zone three, but they also all had lists of vegetables already on them, most of which we aren’t growing. Sure, someday, we’ll probably try to grow some of them, but not yet. Meanwhile there are things we are planning to grow that weren’t included.
On top of that, these were all printer sizes. Too small!
I decided to make my own planting chart, large enough to stick on a wall or something.
Time to dig through my craft supplies!
I had a sheet of foam core that got pretty beat up during the move, but not enough to throw it away. It was just the size I wanted!
My daughter loaned me her T-square and steel yardstick. The sheet is 30 inches long, so I marked of a grid of half inch squares in pencil.
Then I broke out my collection of Sharpies and marked off a table with the weeks, with a different colour every 4th week, and so on.
Before erasing most of the pencil marks, I remembered to keep the week numbers in permanent marker.
Of course, the months don’t line up with perfect 4 weeks groups, so I counted back on the calendar on my phone and found our last frost date of June 2 falls in the middle of week 22 this year. So I highlighted that week. I figure, from year to year, it’ll still be around that week.
After the pencil marks in the grid were erased, I brought out the seed packs we have right now, sorted them in alphabetical order, then worked out the times for starting seeds indoors and transplanting or direct sowing.
There is room enough to add the other seeds that have yet to arrive.
How the months line up are not as important as the last frost date. We can now look at it and see at a glance, what time range the seeds should be stared indoors. If something needs to be started 4 weeks before last frost, for example, I marked off blocks for 3, 4 and 5 weeks. Some things recommend succession sowing directly into the soil, starting before the last frost date, so I marked off every other week for those. Things like that. We will probably mark off harvest times and the first frost date later on, too, but this will do for now.
After looking it over, one of my daughters added the Post-it Notes. We will also be starting up a shopping list of materials we will need to make the trellises, covers and deer fencing. Having all the things we’ll be planted, listed out like this, will also help us work out where some things will be planted, how many boxes, trellises, etc. we need to build, and so on. Thankfully, one thing we do have a lot of is space. It may mostly be hard as cement, but we can work with that!
All of the squash and melons need to be started at basically the same time. That’s the period we’re going to have the biggest challenge with, as far as space for seed starts. There are just so many varieties we will be planting!
And yes, I plan to start corn indoors. From what I’ve been reading, I’m going to try planting them in toilet rolls for pots, so that we can later transplant them without disturbing the roots. Some of the people in the Zone 3 gardening group use the red plastic beer cups. My mother had always direct sown corn, but I’m remembering this from the very warm decade of the 80’s, when it was hot enough in May and June for kids in school to be passing out in the hallways. Most of the people in the gardening groups are saying they have never been able to successfully grow corn without starting them indoors first; things had cooled down quite a bit over the 90’s, and the 2000’s haven’t been any better, really. Any hot summers we’ve had did not make up for late, cold springs. I really, really want that purple corn to succeed, so I want to give it every boost I can!
I even have the Kohlrabi on there. I want to find a way to grow those, without them being decimated by deer, caterpillars and beetles!
I think this will work out rather well, and if it does, we can potentially reuse the chart, year after year.
The first thing we need to do is get those aquariums ready to use a cat proof greenhouses!