Garden Planning 2021

It’s the middle of winter here in the U.P. We have a bunch of snow, and more on the way today.  Typically this time of year I am planning my garden, but I was way ahead of the game this time, and actually drew up plans in the late summer/early fall of last year.  I was taking a look at what had worked, what I was tired of picking, what things we didn’t want to grow again this coming year.  Because last year was such a mess trying to get seeds (with Covid lockdowns, and everyone wanting to grow a garden suddenly, seed companies were out of things –  I had to order from 5 different places to get all the varieties I wanted), I just stocked up in the fall.  So I really don’t need to get any new seeds this year. I might add a couple things as spring gets here. We’ll see.

Here you can see my snowy cottage garden as it looked this morning: (We are getting a bunch more snow as I type this).

I started my onions in January – they are doing pretty well. I am growing a large yellow variety called Ailsa Craig. I am on an ongoing quest to get really big onions. Last year I had some get to a decent size, like a small baseball size, but not the full size they could have gotten. We just recently used up the end of my saved onion stash, and we were down to a lot of tiny 1-inch onions at the end. I am hoping to increase the amount of large onions I grow, and hopefully get less smaller ones. Even if that means growing less onions, so be it. Besides those large onions, I’m also growing leeks, green onions, and shallots from seeds. I also started some red onions – the seeds are from year before last, so they are not as viable as I’d like, but I got some to sprout. Onion seeds only last about a year or so – a lot of other seeds are viable for longer. I have been fertilizing my onion sprouts this year – something I read about this winter. I’m hoping that I will have close to pencil-width onions ready to go into the ground by April or May (probably May but a girl can hope for an April warm-up).

I planned this year’s gardens last fall, just drawing up a plan on a couple pieces of paper. I did go through all my seeds this fall, and I made a big spreadsheet so I know what I have to work with. I then had to decide what to NOT grow this year. I tend to want to just grow it all – I am using some restraint and only using about half my seed varieties for this coming year. Below are my plans I drew up:

As you can see, I’ve changed things a little bit here and there – there are some scribbles where I made revisions, but going in I knew a few things we’d do differently this year. We had too many winter squash last year, and I have frozen a lot of them. I fed extras to the deer before they could go bad on us (and because we got really sick of squash). I won’t be growing any winter squash. I’m growing 2 plants of cucumbers (2 varieties, one plant of each). I’m only growing 12 tomato plants total! (I had over 24 last year). We still have a lot of frozen tomatoes. They are good but we were a bit overrun in the fall and I got really tired of harvesting them. The only problem with planning is you never know what the weather in the summer will be like. I hope we have a nice hot summer and those 12 tomato plants actually produce as well as they did last year.

I took the seeds that I decided to grow this year, and set up groups (all rubber-banded together) in terms of when they get started and where – so I have a big group of “start inside in March” that will get started around the first official day of spring. I have a few types of seeds in the fridge cold-stratifying, those all will get started in March – those include two types of Milkweed/butterfly weed. I’d like to get some established in my yard for the Monarch butterflies. I also have some sets of “Start outside” for as soon as the snow is gone and I can get into the soil, and “start outside May/June” for after the last frost (mid-late may, depending on who you ask). I ordered a couple of things that should be coming this spring – Ginger for sprouting (probably coming late March) and also more Strawberry plants – I think those come in April or May.

I’m excited for this year’s upcoming garden. For now I am just looking out the window at our snowy yard and dreaming of spring.

Spring is here, 2020

Spring is finally here – it comes a little late to us here in the U.P.  I am on a lot of garden groups online and have seen all sorts of people showing their gardens already, and we are just seeing the snow melting now.  I’ve been a bit jealous this spring but my turn will come soon, since it’s warming up now.

We made the difficult decision this spring to get rid of our poultry – the costs for feeding them all were getting too hard for us, so we sold them to our neighbors, who were happy to get already-laying hens and ducks. I do miss them but it’s for the best.  I will be using their old chicken yard for gardens for greens and herbs, and there are spots I can un-fence now – the deer don’t bother these areas but the chickens always liked to dust bathe in a few spots and would decimate plants, if there was no fence. I can take those fences out now.

I went around today and took some pictures of our yard, here is how the snow melt is going:

old chicken yard
Here is the old chicken yard. I have a plan to take this whole space over with plants this year.

garlic
Here is an existing garden – the snow is right over where I planted garlic and shallots in the fall.

cat in rafters
While taking pics, I heard meowing from the old chicken house. My cat, Wizard was inside, up in the rafters, chasing mice. He didn’t go in when the chickens were here, but he’s been spending a lot of time in there now.

back garden
Here is a back garden space, we are thinking of adding a porch where the big doors are. We’ll see if that happens this year.

strawberries
Here you can see my strawberry plants are waking up.

snow melting
Our yard.  We still have a lot of snow, especially where there were banks around the house. I am glad to see it melting.

crocus purple
Our crocuses are up! Here are some purple ones.

crocus yellow
Yellow crocus.

iris
Here you can see a bearded iris – I found them on sale in the fall and got a dozen – they are planted around our oak tree in the front – they all seem to be coming up.

spruce trees
Here are our spruce trees in the front. The little one looks like it still needs to recover from being completely buried by snow all winter. The largest one is about 4 feet, and that one was peeking out of the snow, but we had times where the other two were completely buried.

onions
I started onions in February – they are doing well. I am planning on starting tomatoes and stuff today so they are nice and big for transplanting into the garden in June.

poppies
Here are some poppies, I started these in February as well. I have tried to start them in May before and they are always really small when I’ve transplanted, and they don’t seem to survive. So I thought I would try to have them larger for transplant. If this year doesn’t work I’ll throw seeds in directly in the fall so they come up next year.

Tons of snow, and a tiny bit of green.

I have been pretty busy this winter, but haven’t had much to post about. We had a somewhat mild winter for most of November and December, but then got pummeled by the Polar Vortex and a bunch of snow the last few months. Here are some updates of our farm:

late december snow
Here was the snow in late December. You can see how the garden was covered. This was pretty mild for us and temperatures were not bad. They went down right in time for the new year.

snow feb
Here it is today. (same view). We have about 2-3 feet on the ground at the moment. We’ve gotten most of this the last few weeks.

snow now
Here you can see our snowbank next to the chicken coop. The chickens are not enjoying this – they mostly stay inside right now. The ducks mostly stay inside too.

digging snow fort
Here is my son, in the trench he dug between the snowbank and the chicken coop. He’s building a fort back there.

d snow fort
Here he is inside the snowfort.

seed starting
I started some Seeds! Onions (Yellow Spanish on the left and some Red onions on the right), and Black Gogi berries in the middle. I’ll start other stuff way later, but the onions needed to be started now. The Gogi berries will be bushes so I figured they could start now too.

onions
A closer view of the onion seeds. These sprouted within 2 days of planting. I was very surprised at their speed.

onions 3
Another view of the onions. I decided to start with seeds this year instead of onion sets because I could pick exact varieties instead of just “red” or “yellow” – these are a Yellow Sweet Spanish and a Weatherfield Red. I got my seeds from Baker Creek.

onions 2
More onions. So exciting! There are tons! I love onions and we ran out of our grown supply at the end of December – I’d like to have enough to get us through the whole winter next year.

gogi berries
Here my Gogi berries are sprouting – just came out of the soil today, I planted them last Saturday (so just over a week). I have 10 or so that I planted so I expect to see more come up soon.

We have a lot going on here, and I’m dreaming of spring; Doing a lot of planning for this year’s garden, and planning to order some new hens in the next few months. Right now we’re just trying to keep ahead of all this snow.