planning a spring heirloom garden with methodology, seed lists & organization because #gardengeek
I can’t be the only one who thought gardening didn’t begin until the spring?! Last year was my first ever gardening and we got a later start because it didn’t cross my mind until the weather started warming up consistently in April.
But what I learned is that gardening really begins in the winter with the dream. Did you know there are different ways to garden? I’ve lived in mid Missouri my whole life and around here, gardens typically resemble miniature crop fields, Everything neat, tidy, and in a row with dirt in-between. So, that’s what I aimed for last year.
But as I started reading and learning and weeding and weeding…and weeding, I started to think – there has to be a better way than this! So I’m going to talk a bit about how I garden in this post too.
methods: mulching & polyculture vs. bare dirt & monoculture
SO, here’s what I’ve learned so far! The big farms I’ve grown up seeing my whole life are a monoculture system. The focus is on just one or two crops in rows in a big area with dirt in-between. This large scale system of growing is totally different than what is found in nature and tough to maintain without genetic modification of crops and chemical treatment.
But, when it comes to a backyard, homestead garden the goal is usually to grow a big variety of food on a smaller scale – just enough to feed your family for the year. At least, that’s my goal! Keeping that in mind, it makes sense to approach gardening differently than farming.
And yes, my farming friends who read this will probably eye roll and think I’m crazy. But, like the Turtle Man says: “they think I’m crazy, but they can’t help but like me.” Thank goodness for friends who put up with us crazy ones.
I first learned about mulching in the Back to Eden documentary on youtube. Or, should I say, that’s when I first associated it with edible gardening. I knew mulching was a thing, I just hadn’t seen it done around vegetables! Watch that tho – it will blow ya mind. And some people fail to notice the bit where the guy fertilizes his crop with chicken manure. Don’t miss that part ! Yes, you still need to fertilize a mulched garden.
watch how I organize my spring seeds!
This is just a way of saying that your garden resembles a jungle rather than neat and tidy rows of one kind of plant. A polyculture garden utilizes companion planting, consideration of root depths, clustering, and live mulching to create a big food forest in your back yard. The idea here is that your plants will be more resistant to disease, yield will be improved, and your garden will mimic what happens in nature.
And did I mention, this way cuts down on weeding? Yeah, that’s what got me. Plus, I read this book on gardening and living life that changed me as a person, so I knew I had to get down with the polyculture way.
choosing heirloom seeds
I originally bought a mixture of hybrids and heirlooms last year. But after reading, I decided to grow all heirloom varieties because they’re not altered, but instead are passed down over time staying true to the original plant. You can also save seeds every year. So even though you may pay a bit more up front for heirloom seeds, you’ll never have to buy seeds again if you follow proper seed saving practice. Long term win!
I would have loved to be the recipient of an ancestors seeds, and so – I will start now, save them every year, and pass them to my children and grandchildren. Maybe they’ll like it, maybe they’ll think I’m nuts. Who knows. Either way, we’ll be eating good all the while and I’ll have seeds for dayyyss.
I shop at Baker Creek, because they have all heirloom seeds, a huge variety, and they’re in Missouri so I’m biased.
And seed catalog mail is almost exciting as oily mail!
What to grow
To keep it simple – grow what you know you like to eat! Or at least, mostly. Last year I got online and ordered a bunch of seeds that looked cool. While de did grow a lot of food that fed us, I had lots of seeds go unused and not enough of what we really needed. So this year I stuck to the foods I know we like, and just tried different varieties of those plants! With a few thrown in just for fun, like Luffa Gourds! And some for the bees and to add pretty-ness. Like these flowers.
What I’m growing in our spring garden
I mentioned in the video that I like to think of the garden in seasons. There are the seeds you start indoors in the winter to be transplanted in early spring, and those you direct sow in early spring. Thats what I’m going to list here and what I call my “spring garden.” Seeds that don’t get sewn until well after last frost constitute the summer garden, and then seeds sown late summer for fall crop make top the fall garden. There are even crops that can be grown in the winter, too.
But for now, it’s all about spring!
Seeds I’m starting indoors in February
- broccoli (waltham 29, calabrese)
- cauliflower (purple of Sicily)
- cabbage (glory of enkhuizen and Brunswick)
- tomato (SO MANY – brandywine, pink German, Roma, atomic cherry….)
- peppers (SO MANY – cayenne, tabasco, peach habanero, jalapeño, lots more..)
- asparagus (Mary Washington)
- onion (yellow of parma, Wethersfield red, ailsa Craig)
- oregano (wild zaatar)
- eggplant (black beauty)
Seeds I’ll direct sew in March & April
- carrots (so many kinds!!)
- radishes (pink beauty)
- chard (swiss rainbow)
- lettuce (tennis ball, Paris island)
- beets (Fuer Kugel & Detroit Red)
- potatoes (fingerling, gold, German, red)
How to start seeds
That’s actually my next blog post in the queue! I use a homemade seed starting mix, but you can buy a mix too and use just about anything for little start pots, make sure they have light, water, and enough heat, follow the depth directions – and watch them sprout! More details to come.
When & how to prep the soil
Well – if you watch the Back to Eden documentary you’ll learn one method there! But there are lots of ways to prep for a garden. Our garden this year will be mostly in ground with a few scattered raised beds, and we are going to have goats, pigs, and chickens “till” it up for us. I’d recommend watching Justin Rhodes time lapse if this sounds confusing to you!
Its best to start prepping your garden space in late fall, but work with the time you have. If you’re prepping your ground last minute, thats ok! But you will need to till it up. The “no till” method of layering materials to compost has to be started in the fall in order for it to be ready by spring. If you’re not sure what I mean by no till, check it out here!! The Earth is living, and leaving it intact has its benefits.
Happy seed starting! And come back soon to see our new hooved farm friend who I’m completely obsessed with.
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Heirloom seeds from Baker Creek