Just because there is snow on the ground doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about the garden. In fact, I just put in my seed orders this afternoon. I didn’t calculate the order totals beforehand but I knew just from the quantity it was not going to be cheap. However, when all is said and done, I am pleased that it didn’t cost as much as I imagined! Plus, listen to how we justify it:

“$2.50 is not much for a packet of seeds for heirloom golden beets, I mean think about it, if we were to buy organic golden beets at the co-op it would cost us that much for two of them so even if we only get two beets out of the garden we have broke even.”

See how that works? Pretty slick, eh?

One of the big steps we decided to take this year is to start many of our own seeds. I’m talking tomatoes and peppers here mostly, the warm weather plants that have to be started early because my growing season is too short to accommodate them any other way. I’ve done this before but not for a very long time because I don’t have grow lights and it is so much work. However, the trade-off is being able to grow varieties that we cannot buy as plants and to ultimately save money because the cost of a seed packet from which we can grow more than one plant is about the cost of one already growing plant. The whole sprouting thing will be easier than in the past since we have a mini-greenhouse into which we can place the seedlings once they have sprouted up. Our only concern now is that the greenhouse might be too small for all the seeds we are planning to start. It’s hard to tell at this point, but we’ll find out for sure at the end of March.

Our seed order is also larger than in the past because I included cold weather seeds for fall/winter planting. Bookman and I will be building a cold frame this summer so we can harvest fresh greens from the garden in the middle of winter and start greens super-early the following spring. We will also be building a small hoophouse to extend the growing season well into the late fall.

We also decided to give potatoes and sweet potatoes a try this year. We ordered two pounds of Irish Cobbler seed potatoes and three Molokai Purple sweet potato plants. We will be using our old plastic compost bin to grow the Irish Cobblers in. Bookman has agreed to create a planter with a trellis that we can install on the south side of the house for the sweet potatoes.

In addition to all that I have already mentioned, I also ordered flax, amaranth, okra, cowpeas (aka black-eyed peas), purple cabbage, a dark purple radish, red cippolini onion, Black Beauty zucchini, strawberry spinach (not really a spinach but a spinach-like green that likes the summer heat and gets little red flowers that are also edible), a whole bunch of different kinds of greens, a couple different varieties of bush beans, and, instead of sweet corn, Dakota Black popcorn. There are also beets, parsnips, basil, and peas. And I completely forgot to order carrots so I’ll be picking up a packet or two of those later on at the farm store.

All this will be added to seeds we have left over from last year like turnips, parsley, radish, broccoli and a few others. Plus, seeds we saved from things we grew to plant again like dill, coriander/cilantro, black cumin, parsley and pumpkin.

Yes, the garden is going to be huge. It will take up all of the backyard and will be extended into the front yard. So excited!

And for those of you who are looking for some excellent gardening books, I have a few for you!

  • The Year-round vegetable gardener: how to grow your own food 365 days a year no matter where you live by Niki Jabbour. Many of these kinds of books are disappointing because they are written by people in much warmer climates than mine, but Jabbour is Canadian and while her temperatures don’t get quite as frigid as mine, there are plenty of photos in the book of her shoveling snow off her cold frames and picking lettuce and carrots while wearing mittens and a parka. It gives me hope for what might be possible and makes it seem worth a try.
  • The Wild Wisdom of Weeds by Katrina Blair. Blair focuses on 13 of the most common weeds and what you can do with them in the kitchen. Even non-gardeners might like this one since you probably have these weeds growing in your yard! Instead of pulling them out or spraying them with pesticide, why not eat them? Dandelion pesto anyone? Chickweed, knotweed, plantain, thistle, purslane, grass, and more. What, wait, grass? Yup. Did you know that all grass and grass seed is edible? Some grasses taste better than others but it’s really interesting all the things you can do with grass and grass seeds. I’m not sure that I am going to be a grass-eating convert, but I just might venture into giving my native grasses a taste this summer.
  • Homegrown Tea: an illustrated guide to planting, harvesting, and blending teas and tisanes by Cassie Liversidge. Oh my is this a fantastic book! It turns out I already have quite a few plants that are good for tea growing in my garden. Now there are lots more that I plan on growing, many of them perennial so that will be fun. The growing information for each plant is rather vague, so I wouldn’t count on her providing good advice for growing black or green tea, but she provides lots of fascinating historical and medicinal use information as well as excellent harvesting and blending how-tos. She actually tells you how many fresh peppermint leaves you need to make a good cup of tea. And if you have dried the mint she tells you how much of that to use too. And her instructions are for just that, a single cup of tea. Herbs, seeds, fruits, flowers and roots, she covers them all. I am amazed at how many plants can be used to make tea. I will definitely be trying some of them!

An interesting side note to all this gardening stuff, there is a a strong probability that the monarch butterfly will be placed on the Endangered Species List in the United States. This will provide protection not just for the butterflies but for their habitat. It will take a year before the EPA completes its review and issues its decision. It is a mixed thing, isn’t it? Good that they will be protected, terrible that their numbers are so diminished that they need protecting.

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