Despite the freakish cold snap we've been having (and pulling the winter coats and hats back out), I've been spending a lot of time digging in and planning out the garden. While the knitting around here never stops, I find this time of year very exciting - we go from barren trees and neutral colors to pops of brightness bursting from the ground, buds on trees starting to poke out and the sound of lawn mowers and birds filling the air.
We moved in late November to an area with a better school system, a home that provides both my husband and I with real office space, walking trails through the woods in our backyard, a bigger bedroom for our growing son, and best of all, a huge yard. We've moved a lot over the past 12 years and sometimes we find a place with a tiny patch of grass, perhaps a corner to plant some flowers in, or if we're lucky, enough space to put in a small raised bed. I always hesitated to go all out, knowing that eventually we'd leave that place behind and it was too small to do what I wanted. Now we find ourselves with something we've never had before - room to plan.
Perhaps we jumped the gun by going to Lowe's last weekend, stuffing the car to the gills with dirt and mulch, my son squeezed into his car seat with the seed packets on his lap, fanned out like playing cards with questions about what this plant is and what that plant is, me balancing our sprouted vegetables on my legs with my feet on a bag of dirt, my husband at the wheel with a shovel handle by his shoulder, and all of us with huge grins on our faces, ready to dig in the garden. It's too cold to plant anything yet with this weird cold spell and the seedlings are tucked into the garage where it's warm and dry, but as my Grandma Myrt always said, "Prepare in leisure to use in haste."
Since our new home had a well-established yard with very little variety (I love azaleas, but I don't love that there are about 50 in the yard with a handful of daffodils and an occasional tulip), we began by digging. This is a space with so much potential and I found myself planning out spacing and color combinations in a very similar fashion to how I plan out color work knitting. Pulling up old plants that have gone unbothered for years is difficult but important work, and while I toiled away in the front yard preparing an empty space for new and exciting flowers, pulling, ripping, tugging and tearing things out, my husband was in the back, clearing a space for raised beds, the kind I always dreamed about but never had the room.
The thing about raised beds is that they are expensive. Using cheaper wood like pine means that they'll rot out relatively quickly (dependent of course upon your climate/mold/elevation/rain fall) unless you stain (outside the beds only) or paint, treated pine means the wood has had a chemical applied on it and we read conflicting information online about whether or not those chemicals leach into the soil and eventually the vegetables you plan on eating. Cedar or cypress is ideal, but very expensive, the same with the plastic boards. So after having conversations about how we could make this project affordable and practical, my engineer husband disappeared back to Lowe's late that evening while I put our son to bed.
The internet is an amazing thing. After doing lots of research, my husband found online tutorials about using cedar or pine fencing to make raised beds. Significantly cheaper than using pre-cut boards of cedar or pine, but with the same benefits, he built me 2 huge beds and filled them with good planting soil for less than $30. If we bought pre-made beds online at this size x2, it would have been well over $400 not including soil. The soil was on sale, he did the labor himself, our Lowe's only had pine fencing, so we'll have to paint them eventually, and they'll last for years. We'll grow our own vegetables and herbs, knowing exactly what went into the soil, knowing there are no chemicals on them, and feel good about it. We made it a family affair and got our son in the dirt, too!
Vegetables are pretty hardy, but it's important to plant in the proper season. Flowers are a bit trickier, since the country is split up into growing zones. I won't plant the same flowers in my garden that someone in say, Arizona or Minnesota might. Making proper planting choices is like getting gauge on your knitting, if you don't do it properly, it won't work.
Now we just need the weather to warm up so we can get our planting started!
What do YOU do this time of year when you're not knitting?