I was awoken by the sun shining through the windows this morning--I usually get up in the dark, so this was a total luxury. I hopped out of bed, threw on some old leggings, an oversized sweatshirt, and my gardening clogs and ran (or a close proximity for running for this 56 year old with a gimpy leg) for the door. As I approached the slider out to the patio, even the plants looked a bit greener today. I had every intention of getting my hands dirty...nothing wrong with getting a jump on some weeding right? I slid the door open with jubilation, stepped outside and froze. I mean literally froze. It was 28 degrees out (probably should've checked that before getting so excited). Alas, my dreams of getting out in the garden would have to wait. Disappointment!
This time of year always seems to be a struggle for me. Waiting for the first signs of spring--warmer temperatures and longer days. We're almost through January (in my opinion the longest month of the year)--February is a short month--and March? I wait for the forsynthia to bloom then start the spring clean-up and prunning. While there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it does seem far away. Much of December and January was filled with seed catalogs and research. But honestly, even for me, there is just so much shopping one can do (gasp...it's true). Unless I do some drastic garden plan revisions, I am running out of room on my scant 1/4 acre plot and have no place to put anything--although I am going to bite the bullet and shovel prune some struggling and underperforming perennials this year. Honestly, if a varigated hydrangea I planted 20+ years ago hasn't produced one bloom to date, it's time to go! We will take a closer look of who's on the chopping block this year in another post.
This year, I decided to take on a project that should help keep me busy well into gardening season. I am putting in three raised beds and renovating an established bed to create a micro vegetable and cutting garden. First time for both. Sure, I've grown the lonely tomato plant in a grow bag, and I've grown plenty of annual flowers and perennials for years now, but it's been a LONG time since I've done any from seed, and I've never planted flowers with the sole purpose of harvesting them. In preparation for that project there's been a lot of planning--spreadsheets, graph paper, seeds (more than I could possibly use), and late night vlog watching (I can attest to the fact that late night vlog watching is most definitely worse than infomercials for the pocketbook).
So far, I've planned out my beds, bought seeds/corms/tubers/etc. and now I sit here waiting for seed planting time to get here and wonder what I can do to keep busy. Here are some ideas I've come up with:
Create a spreadsheet of every seed and include as much planting information as possible. I had started this weeks ago and finished last week. I was watching Nicole from Flower Hill Farm and she had done the same... I felt validated. If you want to get an idea on how to set-up your seed starting spreadsheet, feel free to have a look at mine here. You can copy my Google sheet (although I'm sure Nicole's is much more comprehensive) to give you a head start. At the very least, you can see what varieties I am trying--as well as all the mistakes I'm making :)
Create your planting labels ahead of time. I don't know about you, but planting seeds or plants is a chaotic mess for me. Not the time to be writing your most legible labels. I'm going to work on mine in advance so I'm ready to go. I'll keep them in zip bags by type (e.g., Zinnias, Snapdragons, Dahlias, etc.) until I'm ready for planting. I'm especially concerned about labeling the Dahlias correctly as I have--ahem-- many different varieties to keep track of this year.
Practice germinating seeds. This has proven to be a point of frustration. Stupidly, I started with the hardest "seeds" first--Lisianthus. Mind you, the seeds were questionable (I DON'T recommend buying seeds off ebay) and Lisianthus is known to be a bear. Never fear, I haven't given up--I have Lisianthus seeds on order. If I am able to get one bloom before the frost, I will consider this experiment a success! I also am trying out some herb seeds. I figure I can create a window herb garden with those. So far, only one lone cilantro seed has germinated. Worried I must be doing something wrong, I have been checking my seed trays incessantly (have I created a new addiction?). Is there enough moisture? Did I pack the seed starting mix correctly? Are they too hot or cold? Should they be under the lights or not? I am experimenting with a heat mat and and tracking soil temperatures vs. ambient tempertures--if I invite you over for a roast dinner, it's quite possible you might get a grain of perlite in your meat ;).
Create a planting calendar so you have a visual of what needs to get done when.
Prepare your supplies--sanitize tools and trays, clean off your gardening bench, organize drip irrigation parts, etc.
Plan who's on the chopping block and possible alternatives.
And, finally, keep dreaming. This is what truly gets you through the cold winter months. The dream of what is to come--even if it doesn't look like Martha's well currated gardens (remember she has an army of workers helping her get to perfection), you, however will be able to celebratre the fact that you have created something out of nothing with your own two hands. Happy gardening from the Bumbling Gardener!