During the weekend of The Great Denver Blizzard of 2012 (don’t believe the hype — it wasn’t all that), my thoughts turned to our garden. That doesn’t really make sense, but this always happens to me in February. Nothing against winter, but after the holiday sparkle of December and the glorious new year of January, by February I’m thinking about spring and summer. The good news is that there are some gardening-related things you can do in February. Here’s what I’m doing this month.
1. Learn from last year’s mistakes.
Last year, I made some of the same mistakes I always make (this year will be different!). I ended up getting my seeds started too late. I started everything at the same time and wasn’t with it enough to start cool-weather veggies like lettuce early. The biggest mistake of all? Too much damn zucchini and yellow squash. No disrespect to zucchini, which is awesome, and yellow squash, which, truth be told I don’t like as much because it develops a pretty thick skin when you let them get big, which you’re bound to do when your shit gets all overgrown and you don’t even see the gigantic squashes lurking under all the foliage, but they kind of took over the garden, crowding out some of the other veggies like cucumbers, bless their hearts they never had a chance. As much as I enjoyed writing my “WTF to do with all this zucchini” posts, too much is more than enough. This year, I think we can get by with one (maybe 2) zucchini plants and one yellow squash plant.
2. Plan and get some seeds.
Our 2012 garden will be our 2011 garden +. The “plus” means we’re adding variety. We have leftover seeds (in the freezer) of everything we planted last year. I hope these work. I’m also planting:
- moon cake edamame (edamame is one of Soren’s favorite things in the world; it’s also a fantastic snack to take to baseball games)
- rainbow chard
- De Cicco broccoli
- Bloomsdale spinach
- Hanover salad (spring) kale
- Connecticut field pumpkin (good for carving)
- Victoria rhubarb
- evergreen hardy white onion (bunching)
- wild garden lettuce mix
- Cisineros grande tomatillo.
Oh, and I have some arugula seeds, too. This is quite ambitious for our limited space (and time), but I’m hoping for the best. My plan is to plan (that’s probably the point of a plan) well enough to get cool-weather veggies like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, lettuce, spinach, chard, etc. out there early. If they’re still hanging in there when the warm-weather stuff like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash are ready, cool; if not, we’ll have more room for the new guys.
I order most of my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
Also! I’m happy to report that I found some super-helpful and free info. about Denver gardening on the internet:
- This Guide to the Colorado Growing Season (Denver area) tells you when to plant what.
- Down to Earth in Denver (Colorado State University Cooperative Extension) tells you pretty much everything you need to know about gardening in Denver. Organized by month, the site provides a calendar, tips, terms, and information about pests and weather. The February calendar tells you it’s time to start drawing up vegetable garden plans. That means I’m actually on time (for once)!
3. Start composting.
Okay, yeah, if you’re a good gardener and/or hippie, unlike me, you probably already do this. But we’re just about to get started (finally). Because we have dogs who eat things, we need something covered, but I was horrified by the cost of compost bins ($100-200, what?). So what to do? We bought two 32-gallon trash cans from Home Depot ($15.47 each) and we’re going to drill some holes in them and hope for the best (I’m thinking something like this or this — I like the second option because it doesn’t require screens and seems easier). I also got a little fancy and ordered this compost bin for the kitchen ($19.99). So, $50 and a little effort and we’ll be keeping stuff out of landfills and providing luscious compost for our garden soon. Yay!
4. Start making toilet-paper-roll seed pots.
We usually buy one of those plastic seed-starting things with the little compartments and the cover. These are nice in theory and great for the early days, but I always run into trouble because plants grow at different rates and I end up with tomatoes and peppers that don’t fit under the lid and want to get outside in the sun and leggy little lettuce sprouts that aren’t ready for that madness.
Then I found this awesome post about using tp rolls to make seed pots. It’s environmentally friendly, free, and, well, fantastic. I’m not that good at it yet and mine don’t really like to stand up on their own, but I’m sure that once they’re filled with starter mix and next to each other on some sort of tray, it’ll all be good. Getting an early start on this project means I should have plenty of seed pots by the time I need them.
5. Be a total dork about gardening.
I think I have that one covered. I can’t wait ’til summer!