I was going to write about Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel today but it snowed and I am tired of snow and it is the middle of February which means there is no better thing to do on a day like today than plan the garden.

Bookman and I enjoyed the vegetable garden so much last year that we decided to expand it. But instead of waiting until spring and the very hard work of digging up long established grass, we put down black plastic to kill the grass. Once the snow melts and the ground thaws, it should be a piece of cake to dig it up. In theory. We’ve never tried the black plastic kill your grass method but the get rid of your lawn gardening books tell me that’s the way to go. If it works our neighbors will have the pleasure of seeing black plastic on a few different areas of our yard through the summer. But when we have prairie meadow and other beautiful things growing in those places (eventually) the ugly black plastic stage will be a dim memory.

So I inventoried what seeds we didn’t use from last year’s garden and then Bookman and I sat down with the Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog and started figuring out what we are going to plant in our expanded garden. Last year we grew beets, peas, beans, cantaloupe, pumpkin, radish, tomatoes and bell pepper. Oh and lettuce but we had a sudden heat wave in May following lots of rain so the small lettuces didn’t make it. This year we are going to do everything we did last year plus kale, pac choi, red cabbage, sweet corn, pole beans, summer squash, cucumber, kohlrabi, spinach and mustard greens. Yummy!

Before the woodland garden fail

Before the woodland garden fail

In addition, the side of the house where we put up bamboo fencing last year and I attempted to grow a native woodland garden. Didn’t make it. It turned out to be too hot and dry and sunnier for longer in the day than I ever noticed. So this year I am going to try herbs. I haven’t decided on all the herbs yet but there will be basil, chives, lemon grass, borage, bronze fennel, and thyme. Also, there will be some edible flowers like nasturtium and Johnny jump-ups, bachelor buttons and calendula. Pinetree Gardens doesn’t have bachelor button seeds though, anyone have a favorite seed place that sells them?

We’re doing more ornamental annual flowers this year too. I found out nicotiania planted near the vegetable garden will help keep pests away so I’m going to try that. There will also be zinnias, morning glories, and sweet peas. And we always do sunflowers.

I’ve also been looking at the Prairie Moon Nursery catalog for native plants. We’re going to get some varieties of coneflower we don’t have and might try a few other prairie plants from seed too. We are also going to get some wild strawberry plants from Prairie Moon. These are native strawberries that will tolerate shade. We are going to see if they will grow under the apple tree in our front yard.

All that and we haven’t even gotten the catalog for the big local plant sale we go to every May. I do know though that we will be purchasing two blueberry shrubs at the sale. We will be building a raised bed for them because they need acidic soil and my garden soil is too sandy. I have big garden dreams this year!

A large part of the garden dreaming has been driven along by a few books I borrowed from the library. The Edible Front Yard is a practical how-to book garden design tips, and suggestions on how to mix food plants with ornamental plants. Edible Estates is less practical and more inspirational, showing how one can turn a grass-covered front yard into a beautiful edible garden. And the best part is that the majority of the front yards they transform are regular urban and suburban front yards. American Green: the Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn is part social history part horror story. It looks at how the lawn became such a pervasive part of the American landscape and why that perfect lawn is so environmentally dangerous.

I’ve been slowly digging up pieces of my lawn for years so I don’t need to be convinced. What grass I do have left, and there is still quite a lot, only gets mowed never weeded, fertilized or watered. I am trying to kill it with neglect but darn it, it is hardier than I would like. Still, I hope within the next two to three years Bookman and I will be able to mothball the lawnmower for good. It’s about time we make that final push and with the expanded veggie garden, the flower seeds, and the prairie seeds we’ll be making big strides toward that goal.