January and February is for dreaming. Dreaming of green things from the soil, which has been so absent since September.
I find February especially hard, usually it seems like we get the coldest weather that just never ends. The light is returning, but it seems like a tease because we invariably get some of the coldest temperatures of the year. Sometimes it lasts for weeks, with highs of -20C and lows of -30C, plus the wind chill, battering our collective resolve.
So I hunker down and dream of my garden. I start going through my massive stock of seed, and trying to figure out how many things I can grow, where they’ll all go, and starting a timeline for what needs to be done and when. I’ll start germination testing on older seed to see how many I may need to start (or perhaps, realize I can put that variety off to a future year and grow something else out).
I’ll start formulating lists of what I’m going to grow that never really finalizes until everything is in the ground in May. But right now I dream and plan and scheme.
I have a lot smaller space than I had before we bought our house – the place we rented was run down and not great for a variety of reasons, but it had a massive back yard that I built a good sized urban garden into. I don’t have that now, but I do have permanence, knowing that I can build and maintain and I’ll still have it for years to come.
This year I’m going to be trying something different, because I don’t have all that space. I’m going to be trying square foot gardening for the first time, and we’ll see how it goes. Some people swear by it, others don’t. I have one large bed for vegetables until I get my other one built, and that’s it. I want to make the most out of the space I have because I don’t really have the luxury of row planting large amounts anymore.
I’m not going to be religiously abiding by the law that is square foot gardening – it’ll be a hybrid row/square system because I want some rows, and frankly, some of the spacing recommended seems insane to me (16 carrots in a square foot? Don’t they get crowded and dinky?).
I have already started purchasing my seed, so I’m committed to some crops. As it stands now I have the following slated:
- Black Plum
Black Sea Man
Hahm’s Gelbe Topftomate
Silvery Fir Tree
- Aji Chinchi Amarillo
- Bean ‘Koala’
Bean ‘Mr. Tung’s’
- Beets ‘Lutz Green Leaf’
Beets ‘Cylindra Formanova’
Broccoli ‘Di Ciccio’
Carrot ‘Early Scarlet Horn’
Slocan Snow Peas
Turnip ‘Gold Ball’
I’ll have some herbs in there too. Plus I have all the dye plants I’m hoping for this year, which are:
- Cempoalxochitl marigold (Tagetes erecta; growing out with some friends to see if this is actually the large, wild marigold or if I was sold the wrong thing)
Mexican Tarragon (Tagetes lucida)
Scabiosa ‘Black Knight’
Hopi Black Sunflower
That sounds like a lot for one smallish plot, but many tomatoes and several other plants will be in pots, so it’ll all fit. I’ll also be starting more black hollyhock – mine all flowered last year, and I left some in the ground to see if they’ll come back, but being a biennial I’m not super hopeful, and I neglected to start a fresh selection of them last year to have more blooms. So, next year I’m planning on harvesting for dye again. I’ll likely put the Hopi Black Sunflower where the Hollyhock was last year.
I also have some Japanese indigo, I will likely be growing that in a pot as well and harvesting just for seed, because I know the stock is older and I’d like to get a fresh stock, then next year hopefully, grow a small amount to make my own vat with.
There’s a fair sized, full sun community garden near me too, but I don’t think I’ll have the time with a just-one-year-old to dedicate the time needed to it. I dream next year of maybe growing all dye plants in it – wouldn’t that be amazing? Until then, I’ll grow with the space I have here, and make it work. If gardening isn’t about working with what you have, what is?