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Starting, with seeds

This garden plot has absolutely nothing going for it.I have been struggling with a distinct lack of gardening momentum. The weather finally kicked into gear and warmed up, and yet my garden plot sat, in the backyard, untidy and neglected. Sure, there’s some garlic poking up through the ground, but the rest? Home to dead sage, dead Texas Tarragon, dead rosemary, dead greens…well, you get the idea.

I never even put in a seed order. How ridiculous is that? Every other gardener I know spent the miserable winter ordering seeds willy-nilly, but I couldn’t even get myself to imagine that far in advance, so I skipped that whole process. I mean, yeah, I did buy those Italian seeds back in February, but that doesn’t possibly compete with all those gardeners who spend time plotting out their gardens on graph paper long before winter winds to a close.

On Sunday afternoon, though, after reading the Michael Pollan article I mentioned on Monday, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I took a walk over to the co-op to get a few things, and availed myself of their rack of Seed Savers seed packets. Thank you, New Pioneer Co-op, for not only providing me with a source for my favorite single source honey and a prodigious amount of wine, but for also allowing me to be utterly lazy about planning my garden yet still buy really quality seeds from a cool source.

I went for things I could plant this early in the season, because it looks like we still have some fairly chilly nights ahead. In other words, I did not pick out basil, but I did grab spinach, chard, green beans, rosemary, sage and Italian parsley.

I headed home again, seeds in my Inadvertent Gardener tote bag, glad that even though I’d procrastinated into the late afternoon, there was still plenty of light out in the garden. As I walked down Washington Street toward home, imagining how I’d lay out the seeds I just bought. Who needs graph paper, anyway?

19 Comments on “Starting, with seeds”

  1. #1 Jenny
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 8:04 am

    I’m glad you were able to make a start! As far as graph paper goes, I’ve been making plans all winter but now that I’m actually planting, things are going in pretty much wherever I think looks good at the time. (Thus, I have no idea where I’m putting my Hutterite beans…)

  2. #2 Libby
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 9:11 am

    I’m a planner from way back and have professed my love for graph paper – including gridded Moleskine notebook I carry everywhere. But the planning just got me through the winter, now I can’t say that I’m really sticking to plans.

    We are lucky to have New Pioneer, aren’t we?

  3. #3 inadvertentgardener
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Jenny, the plans have to be good for something, but perhaps just organizing all that creative thinking? But I hear ya…once out in the garden, it’s as if all plans go out the window…

    Libby, ooh, the gridded Moleskine…lovely! Yes — we’re so lucky to have the New Pi…I was looking forward to being able to shop there before I ever moved to Iowa City.

  4. #4 Nat
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Maybe I’m missing something, but if a local establishment has a good selection of quality seeds, I don’t think it’s a big mistake to skip a seed order. Here in the Pac NW, I use Territorial seeds primarily and two businesses (a local True Value Hardware and New Seasons grocery) have a good selection – enough to satisfy me. Buying on-demand also lets me tweak as I see things finishing faster or if I miscalculated seed needs.

    But if I was in BFE, I’d certainly order seeds.

  5. #5 inadvertentgardener
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Nat, I actually wholeheartedly agree with you — I have seeds left over from previous orders where I over-ordered because my catalogged eyes were bigger than my garden. Definitely — if there are quality seeds available locally, grab ‘em up!

  6. #6 gillie
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Graph paper ??? Graph paper??? All you need is a sunny day (okay I grant you may be a tad challenged here!) a pile of seeds or tubers or bulbs or possibly the real McCoy, the plant itself and a general idea (aka “oh look a gap … let’s fill it”) and you’re away. I used to think that one day, when I was grown up, I would spend the winter planning and the spring planting. But I don’t, I spend the winter dreaming and the spring catching up and then the summer marvelling at what I did and trying to second guess what’s going to come up next and where (and usually being surprised!)

  7. #7 Shaila
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Very cool idea. I stumbled upon your blog when I was searching for upside-down tomato growing. I grew up in Iowa and my Dad, being the farmer-guy that he is, always had a gigantic garden. These past couple of years he told me about the “Square-foot” gardening. How do you gardeners feel about this technique? I now live in Salem, Ma and I am going to embark on my first garden, square foot style because unlike in Iowa, open green space (that is part of a condo) is hard to find on the coast.

    By the way, how did those hanging tomatoes do?

  8. #8 Heather's Garden
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I haven’t placed a seed order before, but now that I sort of know what I’m doing in this gardening adventure and have my little greenhouse, there’s a good chance that I will next winter. Good job getting started on your garden for this year!

    And don’t you just love Cafepress? I made calendars for my friends and family with them this past Christmas. I was pleased with the entire process from start to finish — my order even showed up 3 days earlier than they predicted. I’m sorely tempted to buy that tote bag, but I’m trying to only spend money on necessities and I don’t NEED a tote bag, I just WANT a tote bag!

  9. #9 Michelle
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Must. have. tote. bag.

    I’m glad to hear you’re getting started! I’m right behind you!

  10. #10 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    I have packets of seeds sitting on the kitchen table, waiting to be planted. It’s as though I don’t actually believe that it’s Spring, and that the ground is finally warm enough for planting.

  11. #11 Sally
    on Apr 24th, 2008 at 8:18 am

    The only reason to buy seeds from a catalog would be to get the things you can’t pick up locally. And DON’T PULL UP THAT SAGE!!! It’ll come back. Pretty soon you’ll see green leaves on it. Same with the Rosemary, and Thyme and (probably where you are at) Parsley. Oh, and Oregano, Marjoram, Lemon Balm, and, oh, just practically every herb (except Basil) that you grew last year. Herbs (mostly) are perennials. We can even get several years out of Sage, Parsley and Rosemary up here in the cold north. If we have a mild winter (which we DIDN’T!!!) or they are on the south side (read: micro-climate).

    But, that’s OK Genie – I’m sure you’ll find uses for about 50 more sage plants when the seeds germinate……

  12. #12 Jeanne
    on Apr 24th, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Those herbs will come back. My sage looked terrible last week, but one week of good sun and warmer temps, the sage looks terrific. My chive blossoms have come up – can’t ait for them to open! And I’ve been picking thyme for about 10 days.

    I was the envy of the garden center last year because I brought a map of my garden! No graph paper, just a rough handrawn map with the dimensions written in and circles where I needed plants. (I just do flowers and herbs – no need for me to feed the crazy squirrels). Worked fine.

  13. #13 N. & J.
    on Apr 24th, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Being newbies we did not plan, we did not plot things on graph paper, we didn’t analyze our soil. No we took a look online and found vegetables with cool names that we are oh 80% sure can survive in Colorado in the summer. We did take the libraries copy of “Bountiful Container” with us to the nursery to make sure the pots and planters we purched would be deep enough so there was SOME thought involved in the process :)

  14. #14 PrairieRobin
    on Apr 24th, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    I’m going to do the square foot garden thing this year too. I’m curious to see if it’s as good as I hear.

    Genie – do you start your herbs from seed? My herb gardens in the past have been small, but I’m more ambitious this year. For budget reasons, I’m going for seeds for all of my annuals but not sure about the herbs.

    I got out over the past few days and cleaned up the perennial bed. Things are getting green and the peonies that I moved a few weeks ago are about a foot tall already. My hosta order arrived and I got 10 in my shady side garden.

    I’m so ready for a long string of dry 70 degree days!

  15. #15 inadvertentgardener
    on Apr 26th, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Gillie, I’m glad I’m not the only one who does sheerly no planning…

    Shaila, I’m very intrigued by the whole square-foot concept, and if/when I move to a bigger city, I might have to put it to use. We’ll see how it goes. I haven’t tried it yet, myself, but I’ve heard really good things about it. As for the hanging tomatoes, the experiment was a failure, but I think I didn’t quite do it by the book…

    Heather, I love Cafepress — I need to make some more products, and am planning to do a calendar myself this year, too. I thought yours last year looked terrific!

    Michelle, have you planted yet?

    Lydia, how is your weather doing? Still not springy enough this weekend? I hope you get that planting urge sooner rather than later.

    Sally, I only pulled up part of the sage — I left the part that was coming back! But I planted more…and so there’s going to be plenty coming! I can never have too much sage…

    Jeanne, that’s so cool about your map! And I can’t believe you’re picking thyme already — amazing.

    N&J, a ha…taking a guide to the nursery with you is a great idea! I had no idea the first time I went to buy all that stuff what I was doing…

    PrairieRobin, I do start my herbs from seed, but do it directly in the ground. I don’t have all the seed starting equipment I need to start them out indoors. And yes, I’m ready for that string of dry 70-degree days, too!

  16. #16 PrairieRobin
    on Apr 27th, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Genie – Sorry for the off-topic message, but I managed to lose your email address. Thought maybe you could help – I’m thinking about starting a food buying co-op in my neck of the woods and wondered if you knew of any in the Iowa City area that I could contact for advice & info. Thanks!

  17. #17 inadvertentgardener
    on Apr 27th, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Hi PrairieRobin, I have an email coming your way. In the meantime, though, if any other commenters have ideas and/or resources that might help PrairieRobin out, I encourage you to post them up or send them to me. Thanks!

  18. #18 Karen Ledebur
    on Apr 27th, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Oh Gardening Queen….I will be sending pictures soon but in the meantime while you are planting your much more advanced garden please know that the first Penny Friends garden has been planted. It’s a lovely raised bed garden with four varieties of tomatoes, three varieties of peppers, basil, oregano, zucchini, and yellow squash. The mojito mint is planted in a pot. It’s so exciting!

  19. #19 inadvertentgardener
    on May 6th, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Kären, I not only can’t wait to see pictures, I cannot wait to see it in person! I’m so excited about getting a tour of the garden from the ultimate gardener himself. And you can tell him I called him that!

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