Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Gardeners' Holidays 2016: Festival of Seeds

We've been having a pretty weird winter here in New Jersey. We've only had one snowstorm, but it was a big enough one to make the national news, dumping two feet of snow across much of the eastern seaboard. Okay, maybe that amount of snow in one shot is no big deal to folks who live in Wisconsin, but around here, it's enough to bring things to a standstill.

So basically, we spent one day being snowed in and the next day digging ourselves out. But ever since then, the weather has been quite mild, even unseasonably so. So two feet of snow dumped on us in 24 hours, and ever since then it has been slowly melting away. There's actually quite a bit left even now—proof of just how much we had to start with—but the piles are getting smaller every day, in testament to the fact that spring is on its way. Not here yet, of course, and we may yet get another big snowstorm or two before it comes, but winter is definitely on the wane.

And of course, that means it's time to start thinking about next year's garden. Our new seeds for this spring arrived last month—all of them, including the coveted Klari Baby Cheese pepper—and I spent some time last weekend planning the layout of the beds for this year. This is always a tricky job, since there are certain crops I make a point of rotating (tomatoes, peas, zucchini), and I only have a limited amount of space to rotate them in. And, on top of that, there are certain crops I always want to keep together if possible (tomatoes and basil, cucumbers and green beans) and others I want to keep apart (peas and onions). So the whole thing, as I noted last year, is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

The easiest way to do it, of course, would be to come up with an arrangement that works one year, and then simply rotate the four beds from one position to the next over a four-year cycle. But the problem with that is the zucchini, which take up nine square feet per plant. If I simply shifted an entire bed's worth of plants, then I'd always end up with a zucchini plant in the spot occupied by a zucchini plant the previous year. So I have to move the zucchini to the other end of the bed, and that means I have to displace the pepper plants as well to make room for them, and then it's back to the jigsaw puzzle.

Fortunately, this year the pieces fell into place without too much trouble. I was even able to make a little bit of extra room, squeezing in the peas and lima beans behind the zucchini plants, so as not to waste a bit of our precious trellis space.

So now all that remains is to get out our seed-starting apparatus and start the first seedlings of the year, the parsley. This will be the first year we've set out the seedlings in the presence of our new cats, and I'm hoping they'll be able to coexist peacefully. (Last year, when we adopted the kittens, the seedlings were already established, and the full seed-starting tray didn't really leave enough room for the cats to jump up on the table and mess with the plants. So until we have a full complement of seedlings, we may just need to fill up the table with other odds and ends to keep the cats off.)

Here's to the coming of spring...ideally without another blizzard first.
Post a Comment