True to weather patterns in our area, we had a tease of mild weather in January followed by cold, snowy weather in February with a very cold snap that froze us for a few weeks. We always know it is coming, and yet it always still comes as a surprise after convincing myself that this year we won’t get that cold snap.
The cold however, has finally lifted and we are once again seeing mild temperatures, with lots of sunshine. This is the time of year when I can actually be really surprised because anything could happen. Right now it feels like we will have an early spring, allowing us to get out into the garden and yard early…but I know better than to get my hopes up. It is not unusual to get snow in the first few weeks of March. Granted, it never stays long, but still a possibility. Because of that, we are dreaming of spring, but trying not to get too excited about it.
In order to curb our enthusiasm about the upcoming gardening season, we decided to take advantage of a nice, warm, sunny afternoon in the yard to do a little planning…and a little poop scooping. It was nice to be able to get back into the yard and start thinking about what we would like to accomplish this year. We know that the tomatoes will be removed from their 5 year home and planted on the other side of the yard where our finished walls have made some beautiful beds. One of our main goals this year is to finish building walls! I would love to get the tomato tower side of the yard terraced, walls built and be ready to plant more garden there next year. That area gets a good split of sun and shade so it will be good for lettuce and other plants that don’t need the laser beam of summer sun. As soon as the ground is soft enough, Kurt is going to start digging out the levels. Once done, we will get all the posts cemented in and start working on filling the walls. It is looking like I will still be working part-time from home, so I will take advantage of the flexible shift options and afternoon spring weather and try to get those walls built before summer hits.
The other thing we are planning on doing in early spring as soon as the ground has thawed, is replace our two remaining fences. We did one fence last year with out neighbours, and now we want to finish off the full fence. The fences are definitely in need of replacing, and we are looking forward to taller fences that offer a little more privacy. We really like our neighbours, but we also like just chilling in our yard without feeling like we are on display. The current 3′ and 4′ fences don’t do much to provide any sort of privacy, but the 6′ fence we built last year did wonders to closing in the yard. Now we only really get to chat with those neighbours when we are out front taking the garbage out, or heading to work. I really need to sit down and determine our supplies list and costing for the new fences so that once the weather is turning good, I can put in our order. It will certainly be more expensive this year as lumber costs seem to have increased significantly, but it will be worth it.
Continuing on the trend of privacy, Kurt had some really great ideas for our garden planning and providing even more privacy. We have a sloped property, so event with a 6′ fence, when we are coming down our path, our back neighbours are in full view. With our new tiered garden beds, Kurt suggested planting some of our tall plants on the upper garden bed, against the path. This will help block some of the view as we are moving down into the bottom area of the yard, where we will have privacy due to the taller fence. So we started mapping it out.
In the beds above the path, we still are not sure what we will plant, so we have left those for now. There is also still some landscaping to be done in that area, so we may not plant there this year. Also, the dogs now use what is supposed to be a garden bed as a main path. My plan had been a herb garden. Now it may be a dog route. Starting at the first bed below the path, we plan on putting our tomatoes along the landing. They are always 6-8′ tall, so that will help block a portion of our path. We plan to put in 8 plants, spaced a little closer together than they usually are. As the top is wider, we will also plant peppers and possibly a watermelon plant in front of the tomatoes, leaving a path between so that we have access from all sides. The watermelon will be grown over a bit of an A-frame so that it utilizes some vertical space as well as horizontal. Beside the tomatoes, peppers and watermelon will be 2 rows of corn, about 16 plants. Again, planning for height to help block the path a bit. At the bottom portion of the bed, we are going to do a row of sunflowers with some squash in front.
In the bottom bed, it is quite wide and we may find that we can pack a lot more in next year, but for this year we want to test it out without over-crowding. In the widest section, closest to the fence, we will have brussels sprouts. I am hoping for more luck with them this year and have planned a bit of companion planting to hopefully alleviate bug activity that caused issues last year. Beside the brussels sprouts, we will have a few rows of beets & carrots. I will have to build a little cover for the carrots to keep Basil out. Although, we have some other plans that might help keep them out. I’ll get to that. Next to the carrots, we will have some cucumbers growing over A-frames, utilizing vertical and horizontal space. Beneath them, we are going to try some celery. Next to the cucumbers, we will do spring onions, sweet onions, chives and shallots. Last, at the very end of the bed, I would like to do a few heads of red cabbage so that I can make some Rohtkohl / Rotkraut / Blaukraut (depending on which area of Germany you are from or visited), a braised cabbage dish that goes well as a side for so many meals. If all goes well with the growth of them this year in the garden, then I will share the recipe for Rohtkohl with the first one I harvest.
Since my herb garden area may not be a possible option due to the dogs, I am thinking about adding herbs to the planters that are by the air-conditioner. We still want flowers as well, but we will find some that are good companions to the herbs that we plan to plant. Likewise, I am going to build some nice little wooden planters that are small enough that we can move around year after year, to utilize in the bottom area around our garden. This year we plan to add some marigolds to them to help the brussels sprouts and cabbage this year. All of our beds have been planted with companions in mind, and we may still add some bits and bobs here and there. For example, we may still add some basil and oregano around the base of some of my tomatoes; some rosemary with the brussels sprouts & cabbage; Thyme with the shallots, brussels sprouts & cabbage; parsley with our carrots, and one day with our asparagus patch; etc, etc, etc.