Thursday, June 14, 2012

Notes for next year – or how to avoid panicking over gardening.

(This video has nothing to do with the post! It is the queen bee from one of my hives which we managed to catch on video.)

I saw the first potato plant poking it’s little head out of the soil last night – halleluiah! And the clouds opened up and it rained unicorns – it felt something like that. Because, truth be told, I’m not that great of a gardener. Oh, you wouldn’t know it looking at my place, but I muddle along, faking it the whole time. OH, I love getting dirty (who doesn’t) but I just don’t have that much experience, and gardening is definitely something you get better at with practice. This year I had great success starting my own seeds inside. It was a combination of the right amount of water, heated seed mats and luck. Mostly luck.

So much of gardening is about watching the seasons and working WITH them, not against. Knowing that our growing season here in the Chinook belt at the base of the foothills of the mighty Rocky Mountains is incredibly short (but the days are gloriously long) I bought all short season seed (60 days or less) and started seeding indoors in March. Yes, March. I am hiding under my desk now, as I am sure you are laughing. If you’ve done this before you would be.

There are 21 tomato plants in my sun room. This sounds like a confession. My husband calls it the jungle, my friends call it the grow-op. They were officially evicted over 2 weeks ago but it poured cold rain and threatened to frost. So they have sat, leaves tangled together, reaching for the sun, setting fruit, drying out, crowding around the windows in the sunniest room in our house.

And this brings me to the “what I have learned” part of this post. Here are my gardening dates for my region (west of Calgary, just north of Cochrane, Alberta):

Plant potatoes and peas as soon as it is possible to dig. They like the cold. – beginning to mid-May. (Also onions, I think.)

Plant seeds – carrots, kohlrabi, beets etc. when the dandelions bloom - end of May, beginning of June.

Plant beans, tomatoes and other tender things out when it looks like it will be more or less consistently 15 degrees C (60F) or better during the day. Mid June if you’re lucky. When the lilacs bloom (and thank goodness they bloom for a couple of weeks).

Do not start anything indoors until at least April. Middle of April, even. This is the hardest part. Remember the forest in the sun room, and the eviction notice but forget about the threats of composting them all; he wasn’t really (all that) serious.

Conventional wisdom in these parts (even my grama said this, and she lived on a farm a short drive north of me for over 50 years) is to plant your garden after the May long weekend (very end of May), but I think this sets you up for angst about getting the tomatoes out before it’s truly warm enough, and you miss the boat a bit with the spuds and peas. Plus, spreading the planting out over a couple of weekends is far more doable in terms of time anyway (especially considering May birthdays and spring snowstorms). Next year I know what to expect, and I’ve got a plan, so surely, some other thing will happen! But, Life’s a journey, right? This here’s the fun bit, the learning. One day we will laugh about the year the tomatoes took over the house, and surely they will have reached the ceiling by that telling.