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!

Blooming Heirlooms: The Long Wait

It was June, 2017 when Todd and I went to Omaha to collect my grandmother’s flowers. This will be the first year any of them bloom. Collecting family heirlooms of the blooming variety can be frustrating. Of the many plants we collected, I would say maybe 1/3 survived to this point. Granted, I am still novice at this but we lost the lilacs, roses, and most of the peonies. The iris survived despite two winters of sitting under water and ice for several weeks at a time. There is also one chunk of peony that has refused to give up, batch of daylilies, and, one or two bits of hosta survive too!

 

This year, the iris have budded up! I have been watching as the neighbor kids hit balls into our yard. One definitely hit a bloom-stalk, but fortunately it didn’t break. Heavy storms were called for last night, so I clipped one boom stalk and brought it in. This morning, as I sit here typing this, I am looking at a big, white bloom on my Grandma Pete’s iris. It’s the first time since I was too little to care that I’ve seen them bloom.

That can be the daunting reality of collecting heritage plants. Sometimes, there is only once chance to collect and from that moment on, you are the keeper of that family heirloom. Unlike stashing photos away in climate-controlled closet, plants have a lot more environmental stress. The transplant can be stressful alone, aside from whatever weather mother nature wants to throw at you. Waiting for years for blooms can be tiring too. It is not an endeavor for anyone with little patience, that’s for sure!

As I sit here, overjoyed to see this one bloom, I think about how happy I will be to finally share some of my blooming heirlooms with family. All the time waiting and stressing about the plant, I’ve thought about how I want to share a pieces of it with all my family! I have some pretty cute ideas…but we will see how it turns out. That’s a plan for later this summer.

Thanks for the iris, Grandma!

Grandma Pete in 3322 Garden

Great Grandma’s Lilies of the Valley

If I remember correctly, the first time I thought or learned about heirloom flowers in my family, was when my mom told me her lilies-of-the-valley were originally from her grandmother’s house.  I have yet to figure out if they came from my Great Grandma Hanson or Great Grandma Petersen, but they grew at my Grandma Pete’s for years and I think several family members have splits from them. These will forever hold a special place with me as the first “blooming heirloom” passed along to me.

Many see these tiny white bells as an invasive, little weed. It creeps through fence lines and continues to pop up each spring despite all efforts to eradicate it.  Personally, I love them (they smell so good and are so pretty). Our house is no exception to the invaders. When we moved in, the entire back fence line had them growing, and there is a large patch along the back of the house too. I just mow them down after blooming.

When my mom gave me a clump of my great-grandmother’s Lilies-of-the-Valley from her yard, I had to figure out how I would keep them separate from the current patches. At the time, I worked for a garden center and had the chance to take home a large ceramic pot that had broken into a few pieces. I glued it back together and buried it about half way into one of my existing flower beds. So far, the pot has never heaved from the ground and the lilies haven’t spread from it. I will probably need to split them out more often to keep them healthy.

Each Spring they are sweet reminder of the generations of gardeners before me. I’m also a huge fan of partially buried pot! It gives a little bit of extra interest!