It’s a cold February morning. The trees are sheathed in ice from a quick storm that blew through overnight. My gardener’s soul is so weary of winter, yet I know the worst thing to do is get out there too early. Instead, I must be content to work on my vegetable garden plan for 2016.
The garden at our house in Richfield is pretty good sized. We grow most of the vegetables we eat during summer and I preserve plenty to last into the winter. Two seasons ago I began using an interactive online garden planner from Mother Earth News.
This planner has so much information–not only about veggies but about ornamentals and trees too. From one season to the next it “remembers” what I planted in which bed so I can rotate for better soil health and pest control. It also can alert me when it’s time to sow seeds for succession planting. The annual subscription costs $25, but the first 30 days are free so you can give it a try.
My early years gardening I worked without a plan, which was fine in my small West Allis yard. As time allowed I just put in a few seedlings purchased from the farmer’s market or garden center. Pretty modest, but it was so satisfying to harvest my own peppers and tomatoes. As my experience grew, so did the size of my garden. When I had planted up all the sunny spots in my little backyard I asked my neighbor if I could grow some veggies in an unused raised bed in her yard. In exchange, I would share the yield. From this experience we came up with the idea of a community of gardens, as distinct from a centralized community garden shared by many. Our “community of gardens” let neighbors who like to garden use the available sunny spots on our block and then share the harvest. It was a fun way to get to know one another and eat healthy food.
That was the season Mike and I began gardening together…but that’s another story… We poured over seed catalogs and read up on companion planting. Mike sketched out the garden on graph paper. I wanted to plant tomatoes on Mother’s Day. Everyone in Wisconsin knows not to plant tomatoes outside before Memorial Day, but I did it anyway. The week before Memorial Day there was a bitter hail storm and my tomatoes were damaged beyond salvation. Now I listen to “What everyone knows” when it comes to Midwest gardening.