Monday, April 27, 2015

Planning and Prepping the Kitchen Garden

April is crazy-time. It is the busiest month of the year for this gardener. Clearing out garden beds, weeding, pruning shrubs and roses, planning the Kitchen Garden, buying seeds, adding compost to the raised beds, and planting seeds in the greenhouse and under the row covers in the Kitchen Garden, just to name a few chores. This also was a busy month for me outside of the garden this year – working overtime, running weekly meetings, and reading a book for a weekly book club at work, plus taking the last of my classes for my web design certificate, doing reading for that, and working on my final project, which was due last Thursday. (After two years of night classes and homework, I officially get my web design certificate this Thursday – wahoo!) Needless to say, I am running behind on my April garden chores.

I was sketching out, erasing, sketching out again, my Kitchen Garden map for 2015. I often show the end result of this map, but never how it starts. Below is how it begins: I print out a map of the shape of the beds (top part is spring, bottom part is fall) and using a pencil and eraser I start fleshing it out. I write notes about what I need to buy, what I already have, use symbols for perennial or annual, write down the plant height, and indicate what I will plant as seeds and what will be plants that I buy. What does the chopstick have to do with anything, you ask? I mark a chopstick with 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", and an inch and use that to poke holes in the soil at the correct depth, or use it to score a row in the soil at the write depth. I have plenty of extra chopsticks from all of my take-out sushi nights (mmmm....sushi...).

This year I went mostly with organic seeds. I figure that I garden organically, so organic seeds probably have the best chance in my beds. Plus, it just feels right using organic. The bulk of my seeds are from Hudson Valley Seed Library and Seeds of Change. I really like what these two companies are all about and it feels good supporting them. I’m often a Burpee girl, but only one from them this year – the Alaska Nasturtium that did so well last year.

I keep my seeds in a plastic container. I separate them out by what I need to start indoors and what I can plant outdoors under my row covers, and this year I also had one that needed cold stratification (milkweed). They get put in baggies that are marked with the year and where they get started.

Some seedlings in the greenhouse include Doe Hill Pepper and Starflower, both from Hudson Valley Seed Library. The milkweed is also in the greenhouse since it has finished its three weeks of cold stratification in the fridge. Now sprouts on that yet, though. I use APS systems from Gardener’s Supply Company for growing my greenhouse seeds, as well as their organic seed mix. I just have an ordinary florescent overhead light that I use. I have plans to go more “professional,” or at least less amateurish, at some point, just haven’t gotten around to it yet. This system seems to work ok, though.

I planted my seeds under the row covers in the Kitchen Garden this past weekend – one to two weeks later than usual. In my defense, it has been a very cold spring making it tough to get started on things too early. But if I was to be really honest, I was behind with it due to my hectic schedule.

Spinach that I had planted last fall miraculously survived the bitter cold winter and is thriving (even more so now than in this photo I took a couple of weeks ago). I planned around the spinach.

The Sorrel is also looking great right now. It is a perennial and seems to like the chilly spring weather. I absolutely love the flavor of Sorrel. Really nice added in a salad.

For the seeds under the row covers, all I need to do at this point is keep them watered. Nature takes care of the rest. I won’t remove the covers until Mother’s Day weekend. We sometimes get frost up until that weekend, so that has become my annual indicator that it is time to uncover what will be seedlings or small plants by then. Can’t wait to be able to harvest some things! Although first I need to use up some of that Spinach and Sorrel!

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