Saturday, March 21, 2009

Planning and sowing

Earlier in the winter we had a nice sunny day. It inspired me to order seeds for the garden. There are so many seed companies out there, and lots that offer heirloom varieties and organic seed. In the end, I chose to go with Brother Nature out on Vancouver Island. Not exactly local, but really, seeds aren't particularly bulky and shipping them isn't a huge carbon expense.

Brother Nature provides all organic seed, which is nice, and I found their website easy to navigate and understand, which was the real selling point.

I got home from a meeting in Tampa late last night, and this morning realized that it's already the end of March. I need to figure out when to plant everything.

This poses a problem. I'm a neophyte gardener. With help from books such as How to Grow More Vegetables, I can lay out a garden for good companion planting, and I can figure out how many plants I'll need. But when do I start each one? Which ones do I start in flats and which can be directly sown into beds?

I struggled with this. How to Grow More Vegetables starts almost everything in flats. I don't have nearly enough space in my apartment for that. I have just shy of 350 square feet of densely planned beds for the back garden. Flats for most of those plants would fill my bedroom!

But the bigger question was when to start each plant. To answer that, I used two great online resources. The first is the Canadian frost date selector page at the Victory Seed Company. (I'll certainly be looking at their seed offerings next year.)

The second is a wonderful online planting calendar at the Skippy's Vegetable Garden blog. Just enter the date of average last frost, and it calculates when to sow certain plants indoors, when to sow others directly, when to transplant and so forth. Exactly what I wanted.

Of course, it also tells me that I'm behind with a lot of things. But the ground is still frozen and I didn't get anything in until June last year, but still had a bumper crop, so I'm not too worried. Will be starting some seeds indoors this weekend.

So, what will I be planting this year? The short answer is, "A lot of things." In most cases, there will be small quantities of each item, as I see what works and what doesn't. Also, variety is half the fun.

I do not expect, for instance, to get a significant quantity of food from the eight or ten corn plants or the handful of fava bean plants. But I think they'll look nice and work well with some of the other plants. If last year's crop is any indication, then the seven cherry and plum tomato plants should produce plenty for my household and neighbours, and probably some for canning. I do expect to have more onions, garlic, beets, lettuce, radishes and carrots than I can eat (I'm planting some purple carrots just for fun). There will also be some broccoli, peas, black and purple eggplant, zucchini, squash, spinach, chard, cucumbers and various herbs.

The beds are being laid out for good companion planting, with creeping vines among tall sturdy stalks and so forth. There will be lots of marigolds, the workhorse companion plant in any garden, as well as nasturtium to protect other crops. I'll also plant some other flowers, such as stock, lobelia, snapdragons and sunflowers, just to look pretty. Haven't even begun to think about the boxes on my deck. We'll see what looks pretty later in the spring.

Enough typing. Now it's time to get to work. There's raccoon-proofing to be done!