Sunday, January 31, 2010

Garden Journal 1/31/10: Snow Days and the Dream Garden

And She Sleeps (the garden, not me)

Realization of the day:
It's a weekend for dreaming and scheming.

Friday's six-inch snowfall has us happily cozying up indoors—except for the three to four hours a day tending to the donkeys, sheep, chickens, dogs, and outside cats. But I don't mind doing chores even in the snow, especially when it's sunny and warm like today. (Does thinking 30 degrees is warm mean that I've officially crossed over?) It really is beautiful out there.

Now that I've lived on a farm for 15 years, I start to go a little stir crazy if I don't get outside every couple of hours. What's nice is that no matter what the weather, there's always some good reason to leave the kitchen or computer and head out into the fresh air, even if it's only for five minutes to empty the kitchen compost container, feed some scraps to the chickens, or just hug a sheep.

I'll admit that a little laziness does kick in when everything is covered with snow, and I'm perfectly content to stay out of the the garden for a day or two. I certainly don't stop thinking about it, though.

This is the time of year when the garden in my mind and the garden in my reality have so much in common. With no blister beetles or other annoying bugs, no weeds taking over, no ravenous rabbits and deer, no crop failures, no dog damage, no seeds that never sprouted, no seedlings that should have been put in the ground weeks (or months!) ago, no work that can really be done (though I'm sure I could come up with something if I tried), and all those big plans to harvest the most glorious bounty ever, it's definitely one of my favorite times of year in the garden—until I get hungry of course.

Is there anything going on in your garden right now—or is it all still happening in your head?

More snowy garden photos:
2/4/09: Why I Love Growing Vegetables in Raised Garden Beds: Reason #1
Garden Journal 3/1/09: Early Spring Planting Plans & an Unexpected Delay
Garden Photo Journal 1/11/10: My All-Weather Gardening Companion
And lots of links to Snowy Farm Photos here and here

A little help if you're dreaming and scheming about what to grow:
Favorite Heirloom Tomatoes to Grow—Mine and Yours
Growing Onions in the Garden
Growing Short Day Onion Varieties from Purchased Plants
Harvesting Spring Onions Grown from Purchased Plants
Endive and Escarole in the Kitchen and Garden
Growing Lemon Cucumbers from Seed (I love lemon cucumbers)

How to Grow Beets from Seed (and here's my favorite beet recipe)
How To Grow Swiss Chard from Seed and Why You Should (and recipes)
How To Grow Your Own Gourmet Lettuce from Seed (It's Easy!)
How To Grow Arugula from Seed in Less than a Month
Tips for Growing & Using Rosemary Year Round

© Copyright 2010, the snowbound foodie farm blog where one thing I do miss in the garden this time of year—besides all that fabulous food—is seeing all the butterflies fluttering about.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Garden Journal 1/26/10: Organizing Seed Packets (but not yet starting any seeds)

Time for all those empty envelopes and really outdated seeds to go!

Realization of the Day:
Gosh that felt good.

I actually took this photo back in January of 2007, but looking at it three years later still evokes a warm and fuzzy feeling of accomplishment. What a mess my seeds were! I'd been hoarding dozens of empty paper packets with the misguided idea that somedoay I would reuse them.

I'd also been letting my stash of really outdated seeds just keep accumulating, telling myself each year that you never know, they might actually still be good—and what gardener can simply toss out good seeds? But did I ever bother to do some simple testing for germination? Of course not—all the fresh new seeds had always just arrived!

Anyway, in a rare fit of mid-winter organization and decluttering three years ago, I spent a couple of hours sorting through my entire garden seed collection—and got rid of nearly all of it, including everything you see in the photo above (except the cute little storage containers). It really did feel great.

Of course I still couldn't stand the thought of dozens of packets of seeds going to waste, so I stuffed them into a brown paper bag, wrote 'FREE GARDEN SEEDS' on the outside in big letters, and casually dropped it next to the magazine free pile in the entryway of the library the next time I stopped by to return some books. When I walked back through five minutes later, the bag was already gone. It was the highlight of my month.

According to Martha's Calendar in the front of the January issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine (which can sometimes be helpful but usually makes me feel like an underachieving slug), somebody in Marthaland will be sowing cool-season crops, 'such as cabbage and broccoli,' in the greenhouse today.

According to my handy dandy new Gardening by the Moon 2010 wall calendar (that I received as a review copy from the publisher, and which is already proving helpful—there's even a PDF downloadable version available), I have until tomorrow or Thursday, when the second quarter moon is in Cancer, before I need to be thinking about planting above ground annuals.

No matter what, I obviously need to get cracking, especially since I'm determined to successfully grow brussels sprouts from seed this year (to feed my Quick Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Parmesan addiction), and they take forever to mature. Did I mention I haven't ordered any seeds yet either? Though I do have at least one 2009 packet of brussels sprouts seeds (along with dozens of other varieties) kicking around here someplace. I also want to direct seed some arugula, mache (a cold loving little green also known as corn salad), and lettuce in the unheated greenhouse to see if they'll sprout this early.

My excuse for not yet ordering seeds is that I need to take stock of what I already have first, and my seed collection isn't quite as organized as it was after the above-mentioned 2007 purging. Time to hurry up and take on the task, though, since before I know it, it'll be time to start all the warm weather seeds—and I can tell you from personal 2009 experience that if you live in southern Missouri, putting your tomato plants in the ground in mid-July (or even in June) is really not a good idea.

As far as storing and organizing my seeds, I have yet to come up with a surefire system that works best for me. I used to put seeds I save myself in plastic vitamin containers (there are a few in the photo above) rather than paper envelopes since they're airtight, but they take up a lot of space and don't stack well, so now I use itty bitty zipper bags that I buy for a couple of dollars per hundred from a vendor at a nearby antique/junk mall.

I like the little purple snapping lid containers pictured above for separating seeds by type, but lately I've found myself just using quart and gallon zipper freezer bags instead. One of the best places to store garden seeds is actually in an airtight container in the refrigerator (the freezer is good, too), so these bags take up much less space than the boxes. Now all I have to do is actually put the bags of seeds in the fridge.

So how do you organize and store your garden seeds? I'm sure some of you have figured out much better ways than I have!

Related posts:
8/6/05: New Cat on the Potting Bench
2/7/06: My Seed Starting Headquarters (with seed starting tips in the comments)
3/18/06: J2 on the Potting Bench
7/24/09: How to Beat the Heat
8/17/09: A Peek Inside My Potting Cabinet
9/4/09: Sacked Out Sylvester

4/28/06: Sublime Direct Seeded Salads for Those Who Are Short (on Time, Space, & Sunlight)
7/1/07: How to Grow Your Own Gourmet Lettuce from Seed—It's Easier than You Think!
5/31/06: Book Review: Astrological Gardening by Louise Riotte
From my early farm stories: Midnight Mothers & Minding the Moonsigns—A Busy Spring at Windridge

© 2010, the can't bloom until you're planted foodie farm blog where starting containers of seeds is one of my favorite parts of gardening, but putting together the related links above, it quickly became clear that the farm cats get a lot more use out of my potting bench than I do. And I haven't forgotten about posting my list of new year's garden resolutions, although there's no big rush since I can't yet check anything off it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Garden Photo Journal:
My All-Weather Gardening Companion

Sylvester the Superfluff

Happy New Year! Between the bitter cold (it was minus six without the windchill yesterday morning) and this month-long flu I'm finally getting over, it's been a slow start to the new year, both in and out of the garden. But despite the snow, Sylvester, who spends much of his time in the garden and greenhouse, is ready and willing to get in the way lend a paw whenever I step outside.

I did make a New Year's Day list of hopes and resolutions for my 2010 garden, which I'll be sharing in my next post (and asking about yours!). In the meantime, are there any four-footers who keep you company in the garden? If you've shared photos of them on your own blog, you're welcome to include a link in your comment.

Want to see more of Sylvester?
1/8/09: Meet the Newest Member of Our Feline Family, Sylvester the Cat
8/5/09: The Pollinator and the Pussycat
9/4/09: Sacked out Sylvester on the Potting Bench
1/5/10: Cold Lover

Of course Sylvester isn't my only companion in the garden. Some days I'll have three or four supervisors out there with me, though of course supervisors never do any actual work. It's been a while since I've foolishly allowed any sheep in the garden, but there are days when I do miss having my sweet little Cary in there with me. It was almost as fun as letting a lamb in the living room! (Don't know who Cary is? Meet her in A Tiny Tail for Mother's Day.)

5/23/06: Cary on the Cucumbers
5/27/06: Turtles Attack!
5/28/06: Thinning Beets with Cary for Company
6/19/06: Lunching in the Greenhouse
6/28/06: Eating Weeds and Inhaling Asparagus Ferns
6/30/06: My Scuffle Hoe and a Weed Eater
7/12/06: The Weed Eater Was Working Perfectly
7/27/06: Falsely Accused (and Let Back in the Garden)
7/31/06: Sucking Down Surprise Lilies
8/17/06: The Destructive Duo Has Been Kicked out of the Kitchen Garden
1/7/07: What I Learned from Cary Last Year
4/18/08: A Little Look Back at Cary and the Nanny Bear in the Greenhouse

© Copyright 2010, the never alone foodie farm blog where I may rant and rave about the destruction caused by various critters in the garden, but I really wouldn't trade their companionship for anything—well, except a beautiful 8-foot high stone wall around the entire garden, which would also keep me from having to deal with the dreaded deer.