It's winter and my garden is a beautiful emerald green of parsley, celery, silverbeet or swiss chard, as well as some kohlrabi and cabbage doing their best to thrive in the cold. There is plenty for us to juice and make into green smoothies. We are even using the pulp of the juices as the main ingredient of a recipe to make crackers and "biscuits" in our dehydrator.
But with my garden, while living in the present and harvesting what I have, I am also always thinking ahead to the next season, which is spring. Now that I have a glass house, I can get some things started earlier than previously, but what to start?
I am a record keeper, so it is easy to look over last years harvests and see what was most successful.
And then I feel inspired to create a trusty garden plan, as loose as it may be at this time of year. What do I want to eat? Or more importantly, what does my raw vegan in-house chef require? (See earlier post).
Now is the time for writing lists and plans.
Now is the time for checking my store of seeds - what do I have, what do I need, where can I order from? I use only heirloom seeds for maximum control and the ability to keep saving seeds for free. I am a member of the Southern Seed Exchange, a South Island-based, (actually based in Christchurch, where I live) heirloom seed group which consists of members and seed-guardians, whose job it is to grow certain seeds for sharing. The difference between heirloom and hybrid seeds is that heirloom seeds haven't been doctored at all, which means that if you plant the seed the next season you get a reproduction of last year's plant. Hybrid seeds have been cross-bred with two or more different parents, so hybrids will not produce plants with identical qualities as the one before. Apparently plant and seed companies have recently begun patenting their crosses so that only have the right to reproduce the hybrids they’ve developed. I don't want their hybrids anyway though, so that is ok.
Now is the time for researching new food to grow. I have never before grown watermelon, sweet potato or beetroot, for example. Is it suitable for this area? Would it be warm enough? Could it grow in the glass house, or under a hot frame?
Once I've done all this, I usually draw up an actual plan figuring out what groups of plants I have (eg which are root plants, brassicas etc), which plants are compatible with each other and should therefore be planted close together, when it is best to start seeds off (indoors or out) and so on and so forth. It doesn't need to be this complicated, I just like it to be, because it's winter and it is my way to still feel connected to my garden.
However, if I do want to be super organised, I can actually get my calendar out and start marking off some key dates, such as when to start seedlings indoors, and approximately when they should germinate, and approximately when they could be planted outdoors with a cloche to harden off, when to fertilise with my home-made seaweed fertiliser, etc and I could even project when to expect a harvest.
Oh my gracious, this garden planning can be exciting stuff!