Preparing for the Gardening Season

Working in the GardenWill believes that some folks just aren’t gardeners and he may be right but I’m pretty sure I’m a gardener. I’m a little behind; January is the peak season for snuggling up with some great seed catalogs and sketching out the awesomest garden layout ever. But I have a HUGE stockpile of seeds already and it looks like I’ll be playing the supporting role in three gardens this year rather than running a garden of my own so it’s probably just as well that I’m not looking at the catalogs. (My favorites are Seeds of Change and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. For those who are not gardeners, there’s always the Murray McMurray poultry catalog or the ever-popular Heifer International catalog of gift animals for families in third world countries.)

I just find gardening really fulfilling. It is a pleasant form of exercise, it’s an excuse (and motivation) to get outdoors, I feel like I’m contributing to something worthwhile, and in the end I get to eat something yummy! Usually, anyway. There have been a few unpleasant surprises like the melons that smelled deliciously sweet and tasted like dirt and a few times that my lovingly tended crop was eaten by voracious wild animals but usually there’s something good to eat.

Alas, it is snowing here so I will not be headed outdoors soon. This week I am practicing my sprouting skills. I just got a sprouting jar and some alfalfa seeds and I also recently learned that it’s possible to sprout most beans so I have a batch of adzuki beans going. I am also going to coordinate with a friend who is starting seeds indoors for the Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard garden that I’ll be helping with this spring. And I’ll probably break down and check out a few seed catalogs so I can advise my mom on what to include in her garden, which I helped install a couple years ago.

Some green tips for seed selection:

1. Heirloom varieties are awesome and help preserve biodiversity, as well as frequently providing superior flavor and nutrition. Baker Creek is a great source and here in Bloomington I love to get seeds from Wiley House, a museum with a historical garden.

2. Even if they’re not heirlooms, it’s great to get open-pollinated vegetable seeds so you can save your own seeds for the next year. If you save your own seeds you can develop a variety that is perfectly suited to your neighborhood. Pretty cool!

3. Buy organic seeds when you can. Besides being free of the fungicides and other chemicals sometimes applied to conventional seeds, organic seeds were grown by farms that are using environmentally sustainable methods. I think it’s important to support them.

4. Share seeds with friends and neighbors. One seed packet generally contains a lot more seeds than you will actually need (you don’t need fifty tomato plants, I promise) so share the wealth. I hear there are stores where you can buy seeds in bulk by the teaspoon but I haven’t found those stores yet.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Dana said,

    February 15, 2008 @ 6:29 pm

    Have you read Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation? She’s the one who wrote My Year of Meats, and it retains her interesting and offbeat character and story style, but focuses on the need to preserve heirloom seeds. And it’s funny.

  2. 2

    Maggie said,

    February 16, 2008 @ 2:50 am

    I have not read “All Over Creation” or “My Year of Meats.” They both sound good – thanks for the tip!

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