The Snarky Gardener (aka Don Abbott) is a gardener, blogger, author, educator, speaker, reluctant activist, and permaculture practitioner from Kent Ohio. Professionally he’s a software developer but spends his spare time producing abundance at Snarky Acres, his rented .91 acre urban farm. His blog – thesnarkygardener.com – assists others with growing food in Northeastern Ohio and beyond.
On Sunday March 3, 2013, I joined Food Not Lawns Cleveland for their seed starting workshop held at the Grace Lutheran Church in Cleveland Heights. It took me an hour to get there from Kent, but well worth it as nothing beats spending an afternoon talking about gardening (except actually gardening). Though I’ve been growing food for a number of years, there is always something one can pick up.
Some things I learned (or relearned) at the FNLC seed starting workshop:
– Tomatoes can be planted outside in mid March with protection
– Arp Rosemary can overwinter in Ohio
– Plant petunias with broccoli to ward off cabbage worms.
– You can create your own hybrids by seed saving.
– “The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food” is a very inspiring book (as you will see in future blog entries).
– I know enough about gardening to assist others (explained bush vs. pole beans among other things)
– I need a better camera with a flash.
After very little deliberation, I decided to start a Mesclun (aka French salad) seed mix. After planting (as seen below), I realized the date on the seed package was 2005. Lettuce is only supposed to have a one to two year shelf life. But instead of just scrapping the whole thing, I made the choice to see what happens as life is full of surprises.
Three days later (3/6), much to my chagrin, the seeds were sprouting like nobody’s business. Of course, the seeds had been sealed in a little metallic envelope, but even still, quite a surprise.
March is finally here and my garden planning is in full swing. I’ve changed my plan literally dozens of times through February as I keep refining it to perfection. Of course it will change even more times in March as I actually put plants into the ground. My starts are doing well and will be ready to transplant in a few weeks. Not sure which ones are going in right away (under 2-liter bottle cloches most likely), and which ones will get the hardening off treatment. For now I’m playing it by ear as to who goes out when. I’ve also decided to go pea crazy as I’ve been reading too much about nitrogen fixing and cover crops lately. I’ll purchase my peas when I go to get my spring onions and potatoes at the Garden Spot in Ravenna in a week or two.
Four or five years ago, I purchased two AeroGardens as the Northeast Ohio winter months tend to wear on me, and having green growth and full spectrum light helps my mood (blah). An AeroGarden is a hydroponic indoor garden that can grow certain vegetables, herbs, and flowers. I’ve had the most luck over the years with cherry tomatoes, basil, dill, mint, garlic chives, thyme, and parsley. This year I’ve taken a next step by purchasing two additional AeroGardens – a smaller one for work and a taller one for bigger cherry tomatoes. I also purchased an AeroGarden seed starting kit to do starts for my outdoor gardens this season. Because I get SOOOOOO excited and antsy with spring just around the corner, I’ve already planted some starts (Maybe too soon? Guess my royal Snarkyness will find out), including parsley, Swiss Chard, broccoli, leeks, kohlrabi, and two kinds of kale. And of course Johnny’s Selected Seeds got an order from me this week for spinach, cilantro, lavender, cutting celery, echinacea (which means “hedge hog” in Greek), fennel, and Agribon+ row covers to protect my broccoli and Brussels spouts from those creepy (and hungry) green cabbage fly worms. As indicated by the lavender, echinacea, and fennel, this year I’m adding some medicinal herbs to my primary garden to both make me feel better and attract beneficial insects. I’ll be writing about my “thymely” herb efforts in much more detail in future posts (just love a good gardening pun).
Last year I signed up for GrowVeg.com Garden Planner (“The smart way to plan your garden.”) It was $40 for two years and let’s me play “SimGarden” as much as I want, moving my virtual plants around and adding new ones. I just discovered a feature that publishes one garden plan at a time. The Fenced Back Yard garden plan (which is my primary garden) is located at http://www.growveg.com/garden-plan.aspx?p=312234 and also appears in the Garden Plan links to the right. My goal is to republish every month so everyone can see the current state of my gardens (yes, there are more than one). I will also post plans and pictures each month so each garden’s evolution can be tracked.
As you can see from the pictures below, the fence is laying (or is that lying?) down on the southern side as I’m increasing my garden size from 50’x20′ to 50’x30′ this spring. I will be tilling the new area in March or April (weather permitting) because it’s currently lawn, but not the rest as I’m going no-till as much as possible. Also, in the foreground, you can see the mounds of leaves that I piled up during the fall (thanks to my John Deere lawn sweeper). All these leaves from my lawn (oak and maple mostly) will be used as garden mulch throughout this year.
The plants you see in the garden plan below are those I wintered over. The top of the plan is to the north with a big sugar maple tree to the north west. That means I can’t plant anything that needs full sun in that corner (where the “Vit” corn salad/mache and “Seven Top” turnip greens are currently). I found this out the hard way in 2011 when I planted corn and cucumbers over there and they grew poorly (micro corn anyone?).
I spotted a Meetup.com post (in the Beyond Civilization Sustainability Group) for a seed swap Food Not Lawns Cleveland (FNLC) was hosting and couldn’t have been more excited (sad but true). Pictured below are most of the seeds I received, plus some kale and Jerusalem artichokes. With this mother load of genetic material, 2013 will be the first year I will do all my own starts instead of buying them (not that there’s anything wrong with that). FNLC does ask that we produce seeds from these and share them at next year’s swap. Hopefully I get a bumper crop and am able to give back to the cause. This time around I was able to give as well as receive (mustard, kale, corn salad) as I tend to order too many seeds at a time from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (a packet is usually $3.45 and an ounce is $5.25 and since I have to pay shipping anyways . . .).