It’s the most wonderful time of the year- almost springtime! We still haven’t officially planned out our garden, but by golly, we had better do it soon. We have a lot of saved seeds from last year, but will be ordering some new ones from Johnny’s. And in just a couple of short weeks, it will be time for us to start our seeds indoors!
Today, my “pickins'” will be focused on seed starting and garden planning. This is partially because we need to be doing it ASAP, and partially because I think it goes along with my $25 grocery challenge. Chances are, we couldn’t eat on that little a week without having our own preserved garden food. Planning ahead for a successful garden will help to keep us well-fed next year too!
Find Your Hardiness Zone– Find out what you can plant depending on where you live. All seed packets are labeled with a “Zone,” so do make sure you’re buying plants that match your official zone!
Seed Library with Origami Seed Envelopes– It’s a little late for me this year, but this would have been a smart, pretty, and functional way for me to store my seeds over winter. Let’s just say I put various mystery squash seeds into plastic ziplocs and didn’t label them. Oops.
Simple Seed Germination Test– If you have saved seeds from last year’s garden (or old purchased seeds), you can find out if they’re viable with this simple test. No need to waste a bunch of starting medium and grow space on your seed-starting shelf.
A 10 Step Guide to Starting Seeds Indoors– From Backyard Roots. This series is super helpful for the newbie who wants to start seeds inside rather than waiting to buy a plant at the local nursery. Kellie breaks down each part of seed starting into super simple steps, and helps you to avoid common problems along the way.
Planning Your Vegetable Garden– Grow a Good Life shares how she goes about planning and mapping her vegetable garden each spring. I like her approach. She is sure to consider crop rotation and succession planting, and gives priority space to her “necessity” crops first.
If you want to use technology to plan out your garden space, try Mother Earth’s vegetable garden planner, or The Old Farmer’s Almanac garden planner. While you can try them both for free for 30 days, they do eventually have a fee. My husband was so impressed with the Old Farmer’s Almanac version that we considered paying the annual subscription cost— but didn’t! Just having printable plans made up was helpful enough for us.
Do you plant a garden? Do you have any favorite resources or tips to share? Link them below so I can learn from you!
The short grey days are increasingly wet and cold here as December brings on its greeting of sleet and snow. The chickens are favoring their coop more frequently, and I am favoring our kitchen radiator over any other spot in the house. The garden is long done, and soon the snow will cover our last layers of compost for a long sleep.
So what does one do around her mini-homestead when there’s no food to grow or harvest?
Preserve leftover food. The leftover turkey from our Thanksgiving turned into several reheated meals, six quarts of turkey soup, and about six and a half quarts of broth. Mine went in the pressure canner, but you can easily freeze yours if you don’t have one. Also, I have been pressure canning cubed pumpkin and squash leftover from our fall harvest. They only hold up for so long before you have to take another step to preserve them!
Plan your spring garden. No, it’s not too soon. Not even for planning a pot garden! Take your time now to research which plants will do well in your zone, which plants are good companions for one another, and how to make the most of your garden space by using succession planting. Find out how much space each different type of plant needs to thrive and what type of soil they grow best in. We used the free version of this garden planner last year, and it was really helpful! I’ll be honest, I never planned my gardens this meticulously when I first started, but my husband does- and his plants always grow much better than mine ever did!
Grow plants indoors. Along with planning your spring time garden, you can start some of your seedlings indoors at the right time. For many plants this is about 6 weeks before the last frost in your area, which means you have to have your seeds and supplies ready before then. (See why planning ahead can help?) Also, certain herbs and edibles can be grown indoors throughout the year with the right care. (Check out my Pinterest Board on indoor gardening for some great ideas.)
Make compost. We still toss all of our fruit and vegetable scraps into our big pallet compost bins throughout the winter. If you’re new to composting, read up on how to start here, here, or here. We’re not very fussy about how we compost, and we’ve never spent a dime on the process- but we still always end up with good stuff! There’s no reason why the cold should stop you from creating a rich soil additive.
Complete indoor projects. My hubby just installed some free (to us) cedar closet liner upstairs. Now he’s working on converting a dry corner of the cement block portion of our basement into a little recording studio. I have high hopes of finally organizing my craft room completely. And I really hope to complete a couple of sewing projects using up-cycled clothing. Winter provides a little more time for these types of projects.
Chicken Care. We have to make sure that our chicken’s water doesn’t freeze this winter (we have an electric water heater) and check that their bedding stays dry and warm. (We are trying the deep bedding method to help keep the birdies warm.) And of course, the birds have to stay fed! We want to make our own homemade chicken feed once our current bag is eaten up to help save money and control what our birds eat when pasture is low.
Make maple syrup. While tree-tapping is officially a spring activity, the sap sometimes starts running in our area as early as February. We have to make sure we have everything prepared- our trees marked, our taps, tubes, and sap containers, and a way to boil down the sticky liquid. On our eventual to-do list is building a reclaimed material outdoor evaporator to make to boiling process faster and bring it out of the house.
I’m certain that if we had more animals to care for or a greenhouse to look after we would be much busier, even through winter. And-be sure of it- I am positive that certain duties will be dropped as we attempt each one of the above. This is like a to-do “wish list,” not a list of our perfect accomplishments! We will be gradually working towards these goals- and if they don’t get done this winter, then maybe the next!
What are you doing around your home or homestead this winter?