Getting the garden ready

larger garden
The newly upgraded garden space.

I’ve been planning this year’s garden for awhile, since sometime in February. Over the last few years I’ve learned some things about gardening in the U.P.  We have a shorter growing season, so I can’t plant pumpkins or other things that need 110 days, because I most likely won’t get that long.  Luckily there are a lot of shorter-season versions of those kind of vegetables out now.   I grew some smaller, shorter-season pumpkins last year.

I’ve learned that even though our last frost is (usually) in May, it’s better to wait to put things in the ground. I used to garden in southern Michigan, and I could start my garden at the beginning of May.  Here around June 10th is probably best (or after the first Full Moon in June – which is June 9th this year)  – we are well past the last frost dates, but the soil also takes awhile to warm up – a couple years ago I put things into the ground mid-may, and my plants just languished there – some wilted from the cold, some died outright, and I had a lot of replanting to do.  I’d rather just put the whole garden in once, than have to replace everything.

I doubled our garden space for this year – the last couple years I had a 10×30 bed, this year it is 20×30.  I started my seeds in early May, and have some nice seedlings that are now hardening off on the back porch. I tilled the garden yesterday – there are some grass clumps that need to get taken out, and then I’ll re-till it again before planting, which will happen next weekend.

seedlings
Some of my seedlings. I also have a bunch of tomatoes and peppers.

I have three flats of seedlings, and I am making seed tapes for small seeds like carrots, using newspaper.  I cut strips of newspaper and then used a water/flour paste to glue seeds at the correct interval – I can lay the tapes down, cover with a bit of dirt, and then the seeds won’t migrate.  I won’t have to thin them either. I also have a bunch of stuff that I will be seeding directly into the garden, like corn and beans.

I’m excited for this year’s garden.

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Seedlings

Some various flower seedlings
Some various flower seedlings

My seeds are sprouting! Its exciting.  I have them in the seed trays and keep the domes on most of the day, taking them off for a couple hours, just to keep the moisture from being too much – I don’t want any mold to form. They are in a sunny window and also have a grow light.

My tomato seedlings
My tomato seedlings

I’ve got charts for each seed tray, so that I know which plants are which.  I have noticed that the strong sunlight coming through the window attracts them a little more than the grow light above, so the tomatoes have been “reaching” for the sun.  I have been turning the peat pellets instead of the trays, just so I don’t get lost in my grid of seedlings, and forget what is where.   I also decided to try to keep track of germination, or at least how long each kind of plant takes to germinate.  Here’s my chart for this round of seedlings:

seed germination chart
My germination chart

I just marked down the date I planted the seeds, and the first date I saw sprouts.  It will be helpful in later years in case I come across a batch of bad or old seeds or something.

Most of our snow is now gone also, so I’ve been thinking about how best to start the new garden beds.  I’m going to need some cardboard so I can do a lasagna-style garden.  It’s a lot easier than digging up grass.  Lasagna-style gardening is where you first layer paper (cardboard, newspaper, or paper bags) over the grass, and then layer compost, leaves, and soil to make a garden bed.  The compost-type things break down under the growing plants, and the first layer of cardboard/paper keeps the grass and other weeds from growing up into the bed. You end up with a really nice rich soil.

Here is part of my yard, almost completely snow free as of today!

Our snowless (mostly) side yard
Our snowless (mostly) side yard

I took this picture out our upstairs window.  In the foreground, the fenced bit is our dog run. There is a bit of snow still in the dog run area, and a tiny bit near the woods.  My new main garden will be adjoined to the long edge of the dog fence in this picture.