Late Winter Garden
I crept downstairs all puffy eyes and disheveled with a non-sleeping toddler on my hip. His puffy post-sleep face is irresistible, whereas mine leaves something to be desired. It was 5am, and the perfect time to check our new irrigation. I opened the front door and stood barefoot on the concrete. The smell of wet soil and dewey air was crisp and delicious. I could hear the freeway nearby, which normally makes me shudder. You’re not supposed to hear people suffering amidst their soul-stealing commute as you stand outside your home. Birds chirping, yes. Bees buzzing yes. Cars driving, noooo. But this morning it sounded beautiful. I had created our tiny little slice of downhome backwoods country life smack dab in the middle of it all. My 64 square feet of home.
Late last summer (6 months ago) was the beginning of a season of loss for me and my family. I had abandoned the garden and let it completely die off (or so I thought. I’ll get to that later.) and go to hell in a handbasket. I was bummed to neglect something I loved, especially coming off the high of a summer harvest, but I needed to keep the few things alive that were truly important - nothing more.
As we turned the page on 2018, I felt that pull again. That pull to get outside in the dirt and down into the garden. I wanted to be checking my plants daily and watering in the mornings with Boyd. He loves to water things, and I love that he loves it. So I set my sights on a late winter planting.
A few Christmases ago I was gifted some Foxfire books and had picked them up again. One of them has some old farmer’s wisdom in it about planting by the signs. You know, astrological signs. I had heard about this, as well as planting by the moon phases (same thing, but kind of also not the same). You can be more broad by just following the patterns of the moon, and get crazy specific with the Zodiac as a guide. It fascinates me, and obviously I must know all the things about it. More to come on that soon. But, per the usual, I have minimal time and maximum intentions, so I just went to the Farmer’s Almanac website and referenced their “best days” gardening section. I picked a great day for planting and put it on the calendar.
This season we focused on just five veggies. I learned from Summer that a lot of variety is fun for me, but hard to share with my neighbors. Since my garden is technically a community garden (gosh darn my husband for making me do that), I need more volume than variety. I went for kale, arugula, butter lettuce, broccoli, and tomatoes. Everyone knows what to do with tomatoes, so they love them. Plus I wanted to experiment with growing them without much sun. Yes, I’m already regretting it.
I also replenished the soil, added some worms to it and fertilized as I planted. Simple. I keep things basic mostly because the way garden blogs explain how to make soil healthy is so science-y and confusing that I can’t pay attention enough to read all the info. Also when I was at the garden store my toddler was submerging his body in water fountains so I only had time to grab worms and beg forgiveness while running out carrying him surfboard style.
So far, all the plants look happy and healthy, thanks to five days of rain. Though I must say, I’m curious about how much to water because of a very very special someone in my life. My cauliflower. Or as I call her, The Little Cauli That Could.
Remember in August when I let all the things die? Well, one of my cauliflower plants somehow survived, even after being attacked by flat little grey critters and having her leaves noshed on by rats? Squirrels? My child? Who knows. I stepped out of the car one day and stopped mid car door slam to see a tiny little pop of white emerging from her soft green leaves. I was so stunned I stood there with an open-mouth smile for at least 10 minutes. I ran into the house immediately to tell my husband, who looked at me like, “yeah, and?”
My Little Cauli That Could. She’s defied the odds and proven that lack of water, care, sun, and overall life is no match for destiny. She’s my proof that dreams don’t die, they just take their time.
In case you’re thinking of throwing some veg into the ground, here’s a little rule of thumb I use when picking plants.
How I Choose What To Plant In Any Season:
Eat: what do you eat most? For us, broccoli, arugula, and butter lettuce this season.
Try: What do you want to try to grow? Because either you want to try eating it, or it looks pretty, or it’s hard to grow, or it’s easy to grow. For us, tomatoes and kale.
Cut: What would be nice to cut and have in the house, or gift to a friend? For us, nothing yet this season.
That is my simple recipe for what to plant and how to map out the basics of the garden. There’s much more to consider like companion planting, crop rotation, etc., but we’ll cover that another day.