Aside from a small plot of sunflowers I planted in our backyard as a kid (which grew surprisingly well, now that I think of it), last year was my first year ever attempting a garden.
It grew mostly out of a whim – my mom mentioned she and my grandma had signed up for a class in learning how to make a garden out of straw bales. The idea intrigued me and I decided to give it a try; it ended up growing bigger and better than I ever would have imagined.
I had such success and enjoyed it so much that this year I’ve decided to expand.
We have the very good fortune of having our (relatively small) backyard back right up against a protected green space that essentially gives us a giant backyard for things like letting the dog roam, exploring nature and going for walks; because of that we don’t have huge need for our own backyard. And since we pretty much suck at mowing the lawn anyway, this year’s garden is going to be allocating most of the space we have available for growing.
My plan is to have 10 straw bales under cultivation; I’ll also be doing some container gardening on the deck and planting herbs in a small rectangle of the front yard as well as within the house. I’m tempted to try a vertical herb garden, but I don’t want to go into too much experimenting at once.
Last year the things I planted were pretty much determined by what was available at the grocery store garden centre – I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my abilities so made it easy on myself and bought plants that had already been started.
With a little bit more confidence (that hopefully is not premature) and a little more knowledge on the importance of organic, open pollinated seeds (along with a total lack of desire to give anything more to Monsanto than the inevitable), I’ll be starting all my plants this year from seed, both in the house and outside.
A few weeks ago we attended an organic seed exchange in a nearby city (where vendors were also selling seeds), and as exciting as it all was, I ended up going a little seed crazy – we came away with 26 little packets of potential. I had my husband hissing at me in a whisper, “Are you sure we’re going to have room for all these?“
In further preparation, we installed a few shelves and a big fluorescent light in our kitchen (one of the only areas of the house that actually gets sunlight) and picked up some biodegradable pellet greenhouse kits to start the seeds themselves (I am still a fan of taking shortcuts where I can). There are a few supplies I’ll need to pick up as summer approaches, but for now we’re pretty well ready for getting those seeds on their way.
It’s turned into quite a fun and interesting little project for me. I have something new to research. I get all kinds of ideas from Pinterest. I bought a pretty journal where I can keep track of everything I’m planting, when it’s planted, transplanted, etc., and how it grows as a resource for next year.
Because we’ll be growing so much, I also plan to learn more about preserving and canning; my goal is to see our new kitchen shelves filled with pretty glass jars of home grown food by the time autumn approaches.
This is my plan so far for the backyard garden:
It may end up switching around a bit as I learn more/determine how much space I can actually fill, but what’s the harm in being ambitious?
The rectangles are all individual bales; the ones that will be planted up against the fence are the plants that need to be able to climb; I’ll also be adding stakes to those bales for viney things to grow tall.
The hexagon shapes will be my containers; I’ve read that both carrots and eggplant grow well in containers and Ikea has big clay pots available for $6.99 each. I’m super excited for both of those plants – we’ve got a rainbow mix of carrots that should be a blast to harvest, and I love love love eggplant.
I also plan to plant marigolds into the sides of each bale, both to make them pretty and as a pest deterrent. I’m contemplating planting stinging nettle right up on the outside of the fence to deter animals, but I’ll need to do a little research first; if it’s something that will spread widely it may not be such a good idea. I’ve got some chamomile seeds that are presenting the same issue…from what I understand they will go far, so I’ll need to figure out a way to contain them. Any suggestions from any of you knowledgeable gardening folk?
My front garden will be planted with Rosemary, Sage, and St. John’s Wort, as well as the Lavender and Mint that are already there. I also plan to plant Cilantro, Chives and Catnip in the house (that last was a request from my husband on behalf of the cat. He wants me to plant it outdoors but I don’t know that that would be the greatest idea…).
I’ll be starting some of my seeds tomorrow; more in a few weeks, and some will be started outside. In my journal I plan to keep a page for each plant – not only to record when it was planted and how it does, but to jot down hints and tips for growing each one.
Of course, I’d be happy to add any hints and tips that you may be able to offer! If I sound like I know what I’m talking about here it must be because I’m good at talking, but truly all of this is just about 100% experiment. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Here’s hoping for success!