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What does a gardener do during the winter? Hibernate? That would be a good way to store up energy for the work ahead, but all gardeners have time for is cat naps – last year’s garden must be reviewed and improved, seed catalogues perused, seeds ordered, this year’s garden organized, and seedlings started. It is also a time for reading and attending workshops and conferences.
Snows started early this year, the end of October, as we were finishing spreading cow and horse manure. We have had quite a bit of snow already, but this means the ground should not be frozen too deeply when spring comes.
The Centre has a 2 ½ acre organic garden, one acre of fruit trees, some herbs, a pond, an area for small fruits (strawberries and blueberries) and a section for green manure to revitalize the soil. This is not a backyard garden!
We have a detailed calendar for each fruit and vegetable growing in the garden. If you think you might also like to try this, you need to consider three things. First, when to plant the seeds, also the period of growth for each plant, and finally, which plants prefer a cooler or warmer environment.
For the first time, we are sowing our own seeds indoors and outdoors. For indoor plants we will start around March 15th with tomatoes, then around April 1st tubular flowers like lilies and begonias, April 15th for cabbage, pumpkins and squash, and the final seeds should be planted around May 1st, such as lettuce and some herbs. We start sowing others seeds and transplanting indoor seedlings by the end of May or beginning of June, depending on the weather. We usually have about 70 different plants and by the end of the gardening season have placed 20,000 individual plants into the ground.
We also looked at the period of growth for each plant. Some plants, like cabbage sauerkraut, take up to 120 days, while others, like radishes, only need 20-25 days. Certain plants can be enjoyed throughout the summer months, so they are planted successively (every two to three weeks), lettuce and radishes are an example.
Like people, plants have preference for cooler or warmer environments. Cool season plants include lettuce, bok choy, and spinach, for example. Those plants that like a warmer environment would include tomatoes and cucumbers. By starting them indoors, early, they can grow in warmth, be transplanted during the warmer days of summer, and harvested before the first frost.
Gardening involves long term planning especially when the garden is large. We want to have as high a yield as possible, to feed as many people as possible coming to the Centre for courses, to visit, or to buy organic produce.
So while we would like to hibernate, we can only take cat naps and know that in only two months we will be ankle deep in earth and manure.