While I (im)patiently wait for spring, I’ve put together my list of 2019 garden and outside projects. I’d like to call this my honey-do list but I don’t think I can just drop this in the hubby’s lap and walk away. There’s too much to do and I have specific ideas about some of the projects—no surprise there!—so I definitely need to be involved.
I’m hoping we can get started as soon as the weather allows. I’m also hoping we get through all of them. 🤞
- Fix the koi pond.
Unfortunately, part of the koi pond wall fell in last year. It has been stable since then but we really need to fix it this spring. And, since it must be fixed, we’ve been discussing redoing the pond and surrounding area entirely. We’d like a smaller pond that is easier to maintain and includes built-in shelves for plants. Given that all of our big koi died between 2017 and 2018, we can certainly make this change without affecting the handful of babies that made it.
This is the largest project on the list because it involves digging out the current retaining wall and figuring out what to do instead. The hubs and I spend a lot of time outside, so we’re also discussing extending the deck and creating a dedicated fire pit as part of this project.
At this point, I’m not sure if we’ll be doing this project or finding someone to help. Ideally, we’ll find someone to help but I’m pretty sure it will be costly so we’ll probably tackle this on our own. Check back in April to see what we’ve decided. Or leave a comment if you know someone who can help!
- Start an orchard!
We already have two peach trees and two apples trees. They’ve been in the “nursery” area since we bought them and are definitely ready to be replanted. We also need to decide what else we’d like to grow and then we’re planning to buy the trees locally at the Growing Value Nursery.
To help the fruit trees flourish, I’m planning on building a fruit tree guild. This permaculture method builds a mini ecosystem around each tree that reduces maintenance, attracts beneficial insects, and helps maximize yields. It takes planning and upfront work but I’m excited to start implementing more permaculture methods in our garden.
- Show the raised beds some love.
My raised beds are doing great but they’re also getting old and could use some maintenance, including doubling the height, laying down hardware cloth (over existing soil) before topping up beds with compost, worm castings, and lots of other lovely amendments.
This is also the year all three beds get outfitted for hoops. I may not use all of them as hoop houses but I really want the option this fall. There are only three 4’x8′ beds so this is a relatively easy project.
- Create a better compost system.
Right now, we have a compost head. And it works pretty well but I’d like to make it more orderly and easier to manage.
I’d also like a dedicated area for leaf composting so I can make leaf mold.
- Create a butterfly garden and expand the wildflowers at the rental house.
Pollinators needs our help and these are both relatively easy projects. I’m planning on purchasing a pre-planned garden from Prairie Nursery for the butterfly garden, which is about 70 square feet. The area for this garden is already defined and I’m going to sheet mulch it to get it ready for planting.
I also purchased the wildflower seeds last month so we just need to put down a few tarps to kill more grass and then sow the seeds.
Voila! There’s my list. Of course, it doesn’t include “smaller” projects like splitting/moving perennials, planting an edible berry hedge, installing landscape lighting, or figuring out what to do in the front of our house but at least it’s a start!
My 2019 word of the year is presence. There are a number of reasons why I chose presence but I’m excited to see how it plays out in my life over the next year—including my garden life. I dabbled with using phenology to guide seed starting last year but, honestly, relied on my spreadsheets more than signals from the trees and shrubs in our yard. Presence, phenology, and permaculture…my 2019 motto? Joking, sort of.
As my garden continues to expand, and I continue to look for ways to make it easy to maintain and kind to Mother Earth, I’ve been learning more about permaculture. I could try to define it but this article does a better job than I would!
Speaking of permaculture, I’m super jazzed, like kid on Christmas morning jazzed, about attending the Cincinnati Biennial Regional Permaculture Convergence on January 12. I’m not always comfortable going to events on my own but I know these are my people. Amy Stross, permaculture gardener, writer, educator, and author of The Suburban Micro-Farm, is giving the keynote about designing for the future by meeting the suburbs where they are, so there will be at least one familiar face in the crowd!
Use Real Stuff
Um, yeah. This disposable world we’re living in makes me want to move off grid somewhere. John isn’t necessarily onboard with that idea, and I don’t know if that’s the life for me either, but I am really trying to reduce and reuse.
Gardens Are a Safe Place
“In Milwaukee’s poorest ZIP code, fruits and vegetables become powerful weapons for saving young boys.”
Gardens bring communities together and can provide a safe place for younger people who may not have anywhere to go. Sharing tomatoes and stories with Monica is a start on my end. But I know there’s something bigger for me, gardening, and giving back…just waiting for it to manifest.
Let’s Save ALL the Bees
This. This is why I spend so much time and effort planning and planting a large variety of perennial and annual flowers. Most campaigns focus on saving honeybees. What about my favorite leaf cutting bees? Or the lovely black and yellow bumble bees? Or sweat bees, carpenter bees, mason bees…?
I’m always looking for ways to save money and time in the garden. While it’s fun to make the rounds of my favorite nurseries, it’s also time-consuming and expensive! Same with perusing and buying from seed catalogs—those seed packets can add up quickly!
I’ve always saved “easy” seeds including nasturtiums, marigolds, cosmos, zinnias, peppers, radishes, squash, peas, and beans.
I decided to step up my seed saving game in 2018 and I’m proud to share that I met one of my 2018 garden goals, which was to save more seeds.
In addition to my easy list, I also saved borage, salvia, tithonia, oregano, lemon basil, dill, cilantro/coriander, tomatoes, and the helpfully labeled “plant bees like near hanging platform feeder by raised beds” seeds. Admittedly, I should have saved some of these—like dill and cilantro—all along but I didn’t take the time to.
5 Seed Saving Tips
Some seeds are easy to save, some are a bit harder, and some I just guessed at. Interested in learning how to save seeds? These 5 tips can help:
- Use online resources. I knew borage seeds could be saved, but I had a hard time actually finding the seeds. A search led me to this video by John from GrowingYourGreens. After watching the video, I learned exactly when to look for the seeds and quickly became a borage seed-saving pro.
- Experiment. I wasn’t sure about how to save tithonia seeds so I cut the heads off the dried flowers and I’m storing them in a paper bag. I’ll toss them on the ground when I plant in the spring, which is similar to my lazy method for saving and replanting zinnias.
I’m also experimenting with this method for saving tomato seeds. I’ll know if this method works when I start tomato in March.
- Label, label, label. Similar to seedlings, many seeds and dried flowers look alike. During the busy end-of-summer harvesting, I always took the time to label what I was saving. Even the previously mentioned “plant bees like…” label works!
- Organize your seeds. I spent about three hours this past weekend cleaning up my seed starting area and organizing seeds. By the end of the growing season, it will be a hot mess again but getting organized during December or January helps me get ready for the upcoming gardening season. I like to store seeds in a few different categories:
- Cool-season crops – grouped into greens, radishes, beets, peas, etc.
- Warm-season crops – seeds grouped into tomatoes, beans, peppers, etc.
- Learn how to store seeds properly. There’s no point in saving seeds if you don’t know how to store them correctly. I’m fortunate enough to have a cabinet decided to seed storage and other gardening supplies. I store seed packets in plastic bins and seeds in either paper bags or Mason jars. My friend Amy recently gave me an adorable and useful seed organizer tin, which you can see below, and I’m now resisting the urge to upgrade all my plastic bins!
Does this mean I’m giving up on making the nursery rounds and buying new seeds? Of course not! But savings seeds does save money and time and, as a frugal and busy gardener, I appreciate both.
It’s that time of year. We’ve had a few hard frosts. Most of my raised beds are covered in a thick layer of leaves and barley straw. Some hardier vegetables are sticking up here and there – scallions, Brussels sprouts, a few radishes.
It wasn’t the best growing season. Lots and lots and lots of rain helped some plants, hurt others. Tomatoes took their time ripening this year but, man, they were SO good. I had a bumper crop of cucumbers, which is rare due to cucumber beetles. And the peppers – they grew and grew and grew until the first hard frost hit. My favorite ‘Trombetta di Albenga’ squash grew like a champ as usual.
On the other hand, beans broke my heart this year; harvests were paltry and none of the plants produced like last year.Greens, in general, were not happy with all the rain. Flea beetles got to the bok choy seedlings. I had a great spring beet harvest but some animal – rabbit? – came through and ate the fall beet seedlings.
Each year, I try to convince myself I need a break from the garden in late fall and through the winter. In reality, I would be happy if I lived somewhere that allowed me to garden outside throughout the year. The garden is my place of solace, it’s my therapy, it’s where I learn about – and even challenge – myself, it’s my stress reliever, it’s my happy place, it’s so many things to me. You’ll still find me wandering about in the yard and garden this time of year, even with snow on the ground. But my heart and thoughts are already longing for spring 2019.