Learn to Garden While You Can

This week has been a blur of nursing and sleeping and gardening.  The spring plant out is in full swing up here in zone 4.

I don’t have any thoughts big enough for a post on their own, but I do have some little thoughts, that I wanted to share. I know some preppers have the mentality of, “I’ve got a can full of seeds, I’ll be fine.” Let me say this clearly,  gardening is a skill, not an item to be acquired in a can. Learn to garden while you can, not after the stores are empty.

Biennial Seed Saving – I FINALLY have a success in the biennial seed production category.  It only took 9 years of gardening and 3 years of  serious attempts. I have a couple of turnips that overwintered, and are flowering nicely.  The insects are very interested in the blossoms, so I’m expecting the seed production to be good.  This is one of those skills that really needs practicing to perfect.  The right amount of mulch to apply so that the root in question doesn’t freeze or rot or heave out of the ground with the frost cycle, is tricky and very dependent on location and specific variety.

Seed starting trick – I was too busy giving birth to start squash seeds a couple of weeks ago. So, my super secret gardening secret, uses the compost pile to do my work for me.  I make sure to toss all my squash seeds in the compost pile in the fall/winter.  In the spring, the warm and moist compost pile protects the little seedlings as they sprout. Even though we’ve had a frost, and not as much rain as one would like, I have a fine crop of squash sprouting.  I’ve taken the strongest of the sprouts and moved them to locations in the garden.  I was digging out the compost to put in the garden anyway, so it’s not like it was out of my way or any trouble.  I highly recommend this seed starting strategy. It’s a practically fail proof method of seed starting, whether it’s squash or melons or tomatoes. One does have to have a certain amount of patience for the unknown for this method to be a success.

Naturalizing veggies – In addition to the seeds that take refuge in the compost pile, I have varieties of annuals that enjoy my microclimate enough that they reseed and come up on their own.  Lettuce and Basil and Cherry Tomatoes are the best examples of this.  All I have to do is keep an eye out for the babies in the spring, and mark them so I don’t accidentally step on them or pull them during weeding.  Again, not something you can get out of a can, you have to try different varieties until you find the ones that do best for your location.

It’s not too late to start some seeds for the year.  Get to work, food doesn’t grow itself.

– Calamity Jane