The best summer gardens begin in winter.  Which is why seed companies and nurseries ship their colorful and alluring catalogs in January, of course.

I used to think these festive fliers in my mailbox were just designed to mock me during the cold, dreary days of winter and make me covetous of warmer climates where there was still color, even in January.  But as I turned through the pages, gazing at what could be – what might be – in just a few short months, I began to realize the practicality in picking and choosing and ordering seeds and planning my summer bounty when there was still snow on the ground.  And get excited.

Summer Gardens Begin in Winter

That was many years ago … and now I look forward to the seed catalogs’ arrival.  It’s what I have to look forward to after all the holiday hoopla is over … settling in with my seed catalogs and my garden layout templates and deciding what I want and where I want it to go.  It’s fun.

Over the years, we’ve tried several different gardening methods.  Some have worked out well and some have not.  But every year, we try to tweak our system and make it more efficient.  This year, for example, we’re actually moving our entire garden to a new location.

We’ve had a raised bed garden north of our house for the past few years, but it’s just not working any longer.  It backs up next to a cedar windbreak and creates a couple of huge problems … 1) My oldest daughter has an allergy to cedar, which means she can’t work out there.  While her help babysitting the 3 year old is appreciated, it would be better if she could help with garden chores, too.  2) It’s a monster breeding ground for mosquitoes, which is a problem for both my younger daughter and myself — we’re both terribly allergic to mosquito bites. Repellents, sprays, etc. are either full of chemicals or ineffective in keeping those nasty critters away.  And the way my girl swells up with each bite …Summer Gardens Begin in Winter

As you can see, it’s just not worth letting her come out and work – even though she loves it.

Sooooooo … we’re moving the garden to a better location west of the house – where we planted some of our blackberries and raspberries last year.  There’s plenty of room out there for the entire garden, plus room enough for my long-desired pumpkin patch!  Woot!  There are no cedar trees close by and because it’s an area we can keep mowed down, fewer mosquito issues.  It’s a good plan.

Last year, our ‘tweak’ was to purchase heirloom seeds from a seed bank so that we could start and save our own seeds.  This was a much more economical way for us to get our garden going – we used to spend a lot of money at the nursery on starter plants like tomatoes, onions, herbs, etc. because the weather in southern Kansas is a bit … iffy … for spring gardeners.  Sometimes it’s too cold still in June and sometimes it’s already 90 degrees in March.  Rather than try to get seeds going in the ground, we bought plants and went from there.

For those of you thinking, ‘Why didn’t they just start seedlings in the house??’ the answer is … we are a family of 6 living in an 1,100 square foot space.  We just don’t have the room to put out seedlings in the house.

But.  I found this article and decided to give it a try for our heirloom seeds.  It worked great and we had healthy seedlings to plant at a fraction of the cost of nursery plants.

We purchased our seeds here.  We bought the Survival Seed Vault with over 20 varieties of heirloom vegetable seeds, which is designed to last in storage for 5 years.  I also got seeds to plant a kitchen herb garden, a medicinal herb garden, and an herbal tea garden.

Summmer Gardens Begin in Winter

We planted almost every kind of vegetable seed, but I only used a few of the herb seeds.  This year, though, I have the perfect place in mind for that herbal tea garden.  I’m planning a renovation of my existing kitchen garden space so that it will accommodate a wider variety of herbs.  In my head, these herb gardens are gorgeous and lovely and wonderful … we’ll see how they turn out IRL.

In addition to the vegetable and herb gardens, the blackberry and raspberry and pumpkin patches … I want to plant some trees.  I’m not exactly sure at this time what kind of trees (the possibilities make me giddy), how many, or where I want to put them, but I’ve been pouring over my newest nursery catalogs and dreaming.

I’m really stoked about hazelnut bushes – we had them at our previous home and they were wonderful.  Of course, my late father-in-law loved trees so there were many, many amazing trees at our old place:  Sycamore, Poplar, Chestnut, Pine, Maple, Catalpa – even a Kiwi tree!  They were gorgeous and stately and I miss them a lot.  But hazelnuts … well, who couldn’t love the potential to make your own Nutella??

Where we live now, we have Chinese Elm trees … kind of the Ford Fiesta of the arboreal world.  They are brittle and break super easy – a decidedly bad thing in light of the Herculean strength winds that blow here.  Plus, they don’t have pretty leaves that turn gorgeous colors in the fall.  They’re by far the most plentiful trees around the house.  I don’t know if my Granddad planted them or the birds did, but, yeah – they’re everywhere.

We really want to replace them with beautiful, colorful shade trees, more fruit trees (the few we have are old and not in great shape), nut trees and many, many shrubs and bushes.  We’re tree people.  And tree people need quality trees.

So there we have it …

How My Summer Garden will Begin (mostly) This Winter:

  • Move the garden to a more allergy-friendly location
  • Plant heirloom vegetable and herb seeds in milk jug greenhouses
  • Create wondrous and magical herb gardens for practicality & beauty
  • Plant trees – lots and lots of trees

When it comes time to work up the ground and plant, I’m slightly less excited – that’s a lot of hard work.  But once that part’s over, I especially enjoy nurturing the lives of all those little vegetables and fruits and herbs.  It’s kind of like parenting, a bit … you have to protect them and nourish them … and occasionally discipline them by pinching and pruning them.  Ah, well, I don’t actually pinch and prune my kids as discipline, but you get the general idea, right?

So what kind of garden do y’all grow?  Raised beds?  Containers?  Fenced?  Truck?  I’d love to know your favorite tips and tricks!

Love & Blessings,

That Farm Mama


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