Friday, March 27, 2015

Grow, little plants!

Our next stop on our gardening journey is starting some seeds indoors. We got organic seeds from a variety of places. Locally, we shopped at the Good Foods Co-op, which has a nice selection of organic and heirloom seeds. I also ordered some from Territorial Seed Company. They have a very nice catalog. We also have catalogs from Nichols Garden Nursery, Seed Savers Exchange, and have some great Hadassah Flower Power certificates for Proper Plants locally. Each certificate you buy gives the Lexington Chapter of Hadassah a small percentage of the proceeds. So you can have beautiful plants and do a mitzvah, too. [Contact Vinnie Dubilier or email for more information.]

We only have a few sunny windows available in the house - this one above is in the new food prep pantry, on a dresser filled with canned goods. It faces north, so I have been rotating the plats to my office, which has the only two southwest facing windows in the house.

The pie shelf below was actually out in the garage holding gardening implements, but I dragged it into the house and placed it in my office at the sunniest window in the house. When it is past time for indoor seed starting, I will put it back in the garage.

So far, we have several garden plants started: Asparagus, Broccoli, Cabbage, Peas, Peppers, and Tomatoes. I started these particular plants after receiving my weekly "personalized planting reminders" from Mother Earth News online. They have a variety of helpful tools to get your garden planned and growing, indoors, in pots and containers, or in the yard.

I also started several herb seeds. These can technically be planted anytime, and can be grown indoors as houseplants. But several varieties are perennials, which means if you plant them outdoors they will come back year after year. We are going to be putting those out front in the permanent raised beds (which aren't built yet, lol). While I was at it, I also bought several nice indoor pots for some of the herb seeds, just in case a late freeze or some other mishap kills the ones planned for outdoors. We also had herbs growing at our townhouse, in the landscaped area outside our front door.

Thyme, Oregano, Sage and Tarragon are herbs I use frequently, as well as many annuals such as Parsley and Cilantro/Coriander. We are going to plant two varieties of Thyme, English and French. I hope they will be far enough apart not to cross pollinate, but it won't be terrible if they aren't. I started several new rosemary bushes as well, to replace the dead ones. They are in pots, and I will bring them indoors in the fall. Apparently, our winters, usually mild, have since climate change included too many polar vortices (presumably, the plural of vortex though the spell-checker doesn't like it). Rosemary doesn't do well outside in sustained very cold weather.

Speaking of climate change, you can contact the Fayette County UK Ag Extension Office for the latest news on our planting dates and varieties of vegetables and fruits that do well in Central Kentucky.

If you would like help pondering what things you can grow in your space, let me know and I'll ponder with you. In the meantime, Pesach preparations continue apace. Hope you are enjoying the crazy spring weather, too - seventies one day, snow flurries the next. Ah, Kentucky.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

First Steps Toward an Urban Homesteading Odyssey

Well, well. It has been a while. As you probably do not recall, in May of last year we were in the nerve-wracking process of trying to sell our townhouse in a condo-style development run by a clique of people who have literally run the place into the ground. We didn't take a bath on our unit, as some who sold later did, but we did lose $2500 from our original sale price. That made me very unhappy, as after ten years our home should have appreciated at least $25,000 from our purchase price. But because of the bad management and the fact that realtors had all heard about the place and steered their clients elsewhere, people trying to sell were having a hard time. I hear it is no better now. There are several angry lawsuits. Essentially, we got out just before the major meltdown.

We did end up living in a hotel for 9 days, as the closing on our townhouse was on the 14th, but the closing on the new house was delayed until the 22nd. We chose a cheap place, not very clean, but conveniently located. Such is life.

So fast forward to last fall, and we're thinking about gardening. Here is the original plan of raised beds for the sunny side of our front yard:

We built the first two boxes, the continuous bed closest to the sidewalk. Those odds and ends blocks you see were holding down clear plastic sheathing, which we just removed:

The whispy things are garlic bulbs, which we planted last fall and covered. They seem to be very happy, though not all of them sprouted:

Now, I'm glad we didn't get to build the rest of the boxes before cold weather set in, because over the winter I noticed something rather important. This picture below, taken today, looks sunny. But from November to February, that part of the yard up near the house received zero sunlight. You see, this is the north-west side of the house. And the building is angled in such a way that during the mid-winter period, the scalloped edged mulched area was in darkness. The rosemary I had planted there is dead as a doorknob. I did not realize the low angle of the sun would never reach that area under the front picture window.

So now I am thinking we will not build the two boxes diagrammed to be closest to the house. I fear they will not get enough thermal mass from lack of sunlight to keep roots warm and promote good growth. So in the interest of not having any more dead herbs I am modifying the plan. The side yard area, next to the neighbors driveway, will be planted in blackberry and blueberry bushes very soon. I will post pics of them as soon as we get them in.

The other side of the front yard is the northern-most section of the property. I plan to plant trees there. I have some ideas as to what I would like to plant, but I need to do a bit more research and pondering before I decide.

Also, my DH is taking a master gardener and master composting class with Seedleaf, a local nonprofit that promotes community gardening, food security, and self-sufficiency. I encourage you to find a similar organization in your area, or to contact your local ag extension office, to learn how you can turn even the smallest yard, or no yard at all, into a productive space. Join together with members of your shul, dayschool, or other group and create a community garden - or join a CSA. Every little step is a good one. As Pesach approaches, we are encouraged to reflect on ways that we might need to free ourselves from bad health, bad habits, inactivity, and apathy. A garden can help with all of those things. It is a political, economic, social and environmental statement - as well as a step toward good health - all rolled into one. It doesn't get much better than that!

Shalom, and have fun with that pre-pesach clean-a-thon - also a good time for decluttering, I might add. :)