We woke up this morning to snow, which was beautiful until I got onto the road to take the kiddo to school. Apparently Michigan has become too complacent this year, with our mild winter, and has forgotten it needs to salt its roads! The drive was one of those steering wheel clutching drives, nervous and slow down the winding road to his school. My brakes locked up, I saw another car hit a stop sign – the driver was ok though thank goodness. These are the parts of winter I don’t like. I love the walks in a gentle snow, I love being inside, huddled against the cold with a book and my family, but I don’t like the idea of driving in it, or any of my loved ones driving in it either. It made what I did on Monday seem even better. I planned my garden.
Well, a rough plan at least. My sister-in-law Chrissy and I got together Monday morning with coffee, and strudel and seed catalogs with our little helper, my niece . And her Care Bear. And we got to talking and planning and the room just seemed warmer and more full of life just discussing what we hope to grow. I had Chrissy’s houseplants behind me, adding to to the ambiance.
We discovered we have both been watching or following The Elliot Homestead on YouTube and Instagram. And while we are planning nothing like they have, although dreams there, we have both been inspired by their gardens. I love the idea of a potager garden! I love the look of an informal garden, with vegetables and herbs and flowers all packed in together, spilling out and spilling over with color and goodness. So when I picked my seeds, I divided my garden into three different distinct areas – our front garden, Wyatt’s little garden, a potager garden, and then special features like a strawberry garden and an arch covered in squash and beans. We decided to order the seeds that we felt essential first, the ones that neither of us could live without, and combine forces growing. We ordered carrots (Tonda di piragi), Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, and Easter Egg radishes that grow in all the pretty shades of spring; we ordered Ice Queen lettuce, arugula, and all sort of peas and peppers and squash. We threw in a few flowers for good measure, dahlias and strawflower and sunflowers. I can see them all growing and reaching for the sun, when it finally returns stronger in the spring and summer, not this weak little half light we have been getting. We have another order ready to go, and that one is more flowers than vegetables – a flower called strawberry fields, some apricot lemon cosmos that my niece picked out, nasturtium and phlox, hummingbird mint and pumpkins and marshmallow flower. I am super excited about something called a Mexican Sour Gherkin, that is going in Wyatt’s garden – they look like teeny tiny watermelons but taste like a lemony cucumber. I can’t wait to get started! Then in a month we have one final order, one that will have strawberries, a lemon tree for Chrissy, a cherry tree for us.
This feels really ambitious for us right now. We haven’t had a real garden in more than 6 years probably, and our backyard has turned feral, so before we do anything we need to get it under control. But what better motivation than a garden, in my opinion, to get us out there again? Last year we loved our front garden, where we grew flowers and salad greens and lettuce and basil, and a tiny pumpkin grew all on its like magic. The amount of insect diversity grew last year in our front yard – funnel spiders and caterpillars and praying mantis and snails; flying insects like bees of all sorts, and butterflies. We had a magical summer out there, and hope that this one will be even bigger and better.
One thing Billy and I love is our front yard apple tree. It builds such a sense of community for us. The neighbor kids love to pick the apples and eat them as they play outside, and while they are not the prettiest all the time since we don’t spray them and they get attacked by squirrels and birds (the apples , not the kids) they taste amazing. My family comes over and picks them to take home, to enjoy in pies or just on their own. We eat them, and we feed the less attractive ones to our snail. We used to feed those to the local deer but then learned that we are not supposed to do that, so I might find another place to donate them too, perhaps a farm animal sanctuary I heard about nearby. This is something else we want to encourage – we are planting our strawberries next to our house, not in our backyard, and we hope that the neighbor kids and Wyatt can just go out there and grab a handful and eat them. I love the idea of growing enough so that we can share, although growing enough for us is also important. It’s been a long time since I canned or made jam, and I hope to do that again this year as well.
So we have a few goals, and we always start with a big picture, and work our way through it slowly, bit by bit, area by area. And planning a garden in winter is one of my favorite things to do.