2020 Seed Starting and Garden Plans!

I started this post a few weeks ago. When I reopened the draft, I realized just how much has changed.  Last year was a bit of disappointing growing season. Between work, bad weather, and a number of other things, a lot didn’t happen.  This year, my original plans were to focus on the infrastructure our garden and scale back on growing. Well, beyond just my inability to actually cut back on seed starting, current events have made me realize the importance of my garden. Even though garden centers are still open, who knows what the next few months will bring.

Just before the COVID-19 crisis began, I put my two weeks notice in at Target, where I had been working just over a year. My last day was March 21. It was a bit surreal to be in the thick of the panic buying. I am thankful that we have to opportunity for me to stay home this summer. Todd is a railroader and he is deemed essential, and there is  a lot of stress there during the best of times! So, this summer it really is going to be about our house, garden, and spending quality time together (and hopefully some family history sleuthing too).

We plan on expanding beds, building the raised beds, and just working on a lot of the projects that need finishing up. While we do plan on going to the hardware stores and garden centers, Todd and I have been diligently making lists and checking inventory, to make as few as possible trips. Only Todd is going to the hardware store and I do the grocery shopping.

So….here is how my ‘cutting back’ on seeds went and how I’m growing them this year:

This past fall, I used some pre-made supports and 1″x 6 “boards, stained with deck stain, to create two different plant stands. Since, I can’t quite reach my little green houses, and don’t want to completely take over the kitchen again, I’ve added an extra shelves to the larger of the plant stands. I also, for the first time ever, bought grow lights. These ones on Amazon.com.  They have several different options and the best part is how affordable they are! It took me only about a half hour to have mine set up and going. So far, I love them.  Here is my set up this year…

I started a few of my flower seeds earlier, then the majority of peppers, tomatoes, and herbs on the first day of Spring.  I decided I should start more. So, I added one more flat of herbs, peppers, and tomatoes. It’s a little late for a few of them, but I’ll give it a go. I also have all my summer bulbs potted up. While it’s a bit early for them, I typically just let them relax in there dirt and gradually pick up on watering as I get closer to plant times. So far, my set up has worked pretty well. My biggest complaint is not having quite as much control over the humidity and temp as I do with my little green houses.

Here is what I started this year  with links to where I’ve purchased them!

Here are my seeds I have picked out to direct sew (if it actually happens):

I also have big dreams to put in lettuce/greens, grapes, strawberries, garlic, potatoes, onions, and start an asparagus bed also. We will see. I currently have five urban and columnar apples planted. Two of the apple trees were cast-offs and may or may not survive. The other three are planted into my flower beds. I’m hoping for a first small crop on the Scarlet and Golden Sentinel apples.

Living A Memory: Growing a Greener World Episode with Paul James

A while back, I discovered the glory of watching YouTube shows on our smart TV (it’s new to us). Instead of watching the news, I enjoy my morning cup of coffee with a variety of garden shows. Some, like Garden Answer and Monty Don, I’ve followed for years. Others, I’ve started to seek out and haven’t been disappointed in finding. Craig LeHoullier is my tomato guru and finding his channel was very exciting. I’ve already picked up some new tips for this year’s garden. Recently, I discovered a PBS favorite on YouTube, Growing a Greener World.

A couple of days ago, I was watching Growing a Greener World and Joe Lamp’l introduced his guest for the episode, a gardener so many grew up watching and one of his own inspirations, Paul James. I called my mom to tell her before the episode ended. She watched his show on HGTV for years and I watched it with her a lot of the time. I knew she would be excited. He was the first garden show on HGTV, but the show ended when the network glammed-up and went for more home improvement and decorating shows.

It is such a great episode that I have to share it here. Towards the end Joe and Paul discuss what gardening means to many people. Paul James says,

“That got me thinking about why a lot of people garden. They garden to live a memory.”

We garden for food, sustainability, tasty things, and beauty, but the nostalgia and memories make it a deeper, worthwhile experience. Gardening returns you to your parents, grandparents, and childhood homes. We get to cultivate food, joy, and keep our precious memories alive…to live a memory.

Paul James really hit it for me. My love of growing flowers and veggies stems from a long line of memories of my mother’s and grandmothers’ gardens. I’m just taking it a bit further as a way to connect to family histories and homes long gone.

Watch the episode. Enjoy the excitement of Joe Lamp’l spending time with one of his inspirations. Enjoy seeing Paul James on the screen again. Think about the gardeners who inspire you and the memories attached to it. It is worth it.

Refocusing for 2020

Sometimes, I get wrapped up in sharing so much about my garden,  that I forget some of my other plans for this project.  Beautiful flowers and plants are just so dang distracting! I’ve shared a lot of my garden already, but I have more plans for the other side of my “Grow Your Roots” project, family history.

Last year was quite a reality check for the complexity of my project. There are so many factors that go into growing and writing about a heritage garden that it easily overwhelmed me. I also felt I spent so much time working on weeds, at my real life job, and strict genealogy, that I missed out on some of the more fun and probably more interesting aspects of this project (the  journey and experience).

I want to share the excitement of finding new information about my ancestors and finding their homesteads (or whatever is there now). I also want to embrace the travel aspect of it. While visiting my grand-father’s likely birth place was amazing, I missed the chance to experience more of the area and culture. While it is obviously different from the culture of 1915, spending time in the area can teach me about the landscape, people, and history of that place.

One of my core beliefs about history in general is that if you can find a way to personally connect to a historical figure, event, or place, history becomes much more important to you. While I have a degree in US History, I will admit much of it just went in one ear and out the other, aside for some cool bits of trivia. It wasn’t until I started researching my genealogy that history really became important to me.

Two examples of this are inspired by one ancestor. John Finley. Oh, is he a thorn in my side. But I have to give him credit for sparking my interest in the War of 1812 and the pioneer history of Illinois. I had really never given much thought to either topic, until researching him. Through that one ancestor so much history has come to life and I gained deeper appreciation for a state I previously only grumbled about.

So this year, in my quest to find ancestral homes and plants. I want to stop, take in everything about the place, and really dive into that moment and all the history that has lead up to it.

Plus,  tracking down the actual plants and flowers, is much more difficult than I originally expected.  Even if I don’t come home with a cool plant, an experience is worth it. And I can find an appropriate plant to honor my ancestors that will live in Zone 4!

A Look Back on 2019’s Big Garden Plans

Now that I am wiping away the failures of 2019 and looking towards the opportunities of 2020, I’m ready to start planning.

Do you remember my big plans for the garden last year? I wrote about them in 2019 Garden Plans. Here’s the list of plans and notes about what was accomplished:

  • Create a “holding bed” with good soil and good drainage while better permanent beds are made (this actually turned into my herb garden while my iris just hung out in buckets for while. oops)

     

  • Paint my existing shed, add better shelves inside (HURRAY! I DID THIS! And I organized it!)
  • Move plants from the “Big Bed” to holding bed, and dismantle “Big Bed” (We kept the Big Bed. I like it. It’s there. It would be a lot to move it. We did amend the soil though and I replanted my iris collection there)
  • Replace the Big Bed with space/pad for new shed (coming in 2020?) and two new 8×8 square beds flanking each side (Hahahaha. None of this happened, but I do have hopes for a new shed…some day)
  • Replace existing raised beds with better quality materials, refreshed soil, and good drainage (I did take out the beds, and removed a lot of the rubble at the bottom, but we never got around to rebuilding them)
  • Add two large 8×15 spaces with landscape timbers and mulch as pads for my grow bags (Nope. didn’t happen. I marked them out. Put landscape fabric down in one area. This is still on the list)
  • Add large row for cut flowers in front of the garden (HEY! I did this too. It definitely still needs some work…and to be widened a bit.)
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    Left to right: the new flower row, grow bags on weed barrier, dismantled raised beds, and the Big Bed before it’s makeover!

  • The most expensive but the most important addition will be the privacy fence. It will probably the big project of the year (We got an estimate which was so far out of our budget that we had to rethink the whole thing. I’m thinking hedges.)
  • Pour cement for new patio slab (this is all Todd) (The ground is sort of prepped, aka we have a huge section of cut out yard making walking out the back really interesting)
  • Extend and clean up the rock area along the backside of the house (I don’t even remember this plan. But we do still need to work on cleaning up this area)

What Now? I’m making a new list. For sure.

Here are few extra pictures from the 2019 season including our house’s new paint!:

Falling off the Map

Hello? So much for my posting goals of 2019. What happened? Well, I never did hear back from the current owners of the Hall Homestead (or if they emailed me it was lost in the infinite, junk mail folder). We had a huge storm in July that dropped branches over most of our yard, including my iris bed. The bed was mostly cleared out except for some special iris I didn’t want out of the ground for long. The tree, of course, fell right over that section. Thankfully, everything made it and by the end of the summer I had over 20 wheel barrows full of sandy soil added to the notoriously winter-flood prone bed. All the iris were replanted by the end of August. Hopefully, they’ll make it. This turned out to be the BIG project of the year. 

My grow-bags were, once again, a success. This year in general wasn’t the greatest garden year. Lots of rain and cool weather kept most of my veggies from producing at the top of their game. It also kept my motivation at bay. It seemed every day I had off was raining. My flowers did pretty well though, as well as the new space created this spring.

The summer and fall turned out much different than I expected. I ended up putting in many more hours at work than originally planned (I work in soul-sucking retail). In January, I hope things slow down, so I have a chance to reevaluate what was accomplished in 2019, what was successful, and what I want to attempt next.

I already have big plans for 2020, of course. 2019 was overall, more successful than 2018. Moving forward, no matter how slow, is all that matters. Did I accomplish everything I planned? Not even 10%. My goal for 2020? I hope to accomplish 15% of my plans. Small steps.

I do have many ideas and plans. I hope some of them come to fruition. I also hope I can keep motivation to share the journey!

Good Bye, 2019. Hello, 2020.