The garden is blanketed in snow and I’m enjoying the excuse to cozy up inside and dream. My plans for this year are all centered around two main goals: growing more food and using fewer inputs.
This year I’m starting seeds indoors. I’ve wasted a lot of time over the last five years trying to direct sew everything outdoors, out of laziness, I think. Seed starting gives you a fun gardening project when you’re most desperate to garden, so I’m excited to get started. Being a new indoor seed-starter, I was happy to find some great advice about gearing up for the task affordably. It’s so true that while seed starting equipment from the garden center is often pricey, you can find creative solutions to meet almost all of your needs at the local dollar store.
I took inventory of the seeds that have accumulated over the last few years and I have a lot more than I thought. Writing it all out and organizing it by family and planting dates helped me get a sense of what additional seeds I should buy to fill in any gaps. Thinking back to past successes and failures helps too. I’m being careful to buy things that I love, things I can preserve, and things that will grow well with my garden conditions. I’m looking for compact, high yielding plants that are also flavorful. With all that in mind, this year I’m trying long cayenne peppers, shishito peppers, one early and one late carrot variety, pole beans, and two bushing tomatoes, one red and one yellow. This is in addition to the seeds I already have, a mix of brassicas, radishes, Kermit eggplant, vining tomatoes, and basil, cilantro, and parsley I’ve also been eyeing chamomile and calendula to expand my herb and edible flower collection. When I think about all of this on top of the perennial herbs, garlic, and onions already out back I get so excited about how much food we will be growing. I’m just trying to balance that excitement now so that I don’t get overwhelmed later.
I collected seeds from some cos lettuce that I planted. It’s such a rewarding process and I love the way the bolted lettuce looks. I also saved seeds from cilantro, morning glory, and columbine. I’m excited to save more seeds this year.
Our first sub irrigation planter has become more and more of an eyesore, so I’m going to take it apart and repurpose the wood. In its place, I’d like to build a raised bed above a dead wood swale. I was inspired to try this idea after reading about it in Toby Hemenway’s permaculture gem, Gaia’s Garden and seeing the concept in action here. I have some logs and branches from pruning back our mulberry tree over the years. I figured why not put them to use underground warming the soil, holding moisture, and adding nutrients along the way.
Which brings me to my last planning project: composting. My worm bin is going strong but we need to expand our operation if we want to be able to compost all of our vegetable scraps. Currently we are not and it feels such a waste every time I throw something compostable away. I’ll probably buy another bus boy bin and lid, which was pricey but turned out to be quite durable and a perfect, manageable size. I’m also planning to build a three bin compost system in place of my current passive piles to make outdoor composting more efficient, and I’m looking into finding a leaf shredder so that I can use the abundant leaves from my neighbors chestnut tree to mulch everything. Hopefully in the spring I’ll be starting the free master composter certification program in Brooklyn and getting ready to introduce composting to my whole building and at work.
At this point, the year ahead is all potential!