Monday, November 19, 2007

Almost Thanksgiving. It's a sad time of year for gardeners. No catalogs yet. This year's plants died from frost. If you're an industrious gardener, you've already cleaned last year's debris and collected leaves for compost or mulch. Now what?

Take a break! Yeah, right... Well, then, it's time to start planning ahead. New raised beds? A water feature? Maybe something as simple as crop rotation (or is it so simple?) There are endless possibilities to rationalize the way you spend your time planning next year's garden.

What about planning some things that can be done in the EARLY spring, like starting seedlings indoors, or wintersowing?

Maybe you don't have room for all your seed starting indoors, maybe you need to build a greenhouse - there's something worthy of planning! You could have a little one, or a big one. It could be attached to the house, as a solar heater to save on your home's energy consumption, or it could be free standing. It could be a simple cold frame, or it could be a hot house, where you could grow tropical plants. (Just think of the headstart you could get with your tomatoes!) It could be made of thin plastic and pvc, or wood and glass, or maybe aluminum and polycarbonate. I say dream big, then scale down. Figure out what you really want, then scale to what is realistic.

What about planning a theme garden? More endless possibilities...

One example of a garden theme is Native American. Did you know that tobacco and tomatoes are native to the Americas? Even if you don't smoke, you might enjoy the visual and olfactory pleasures of the tobacco flower, aka nicotiana. No vegetable garden would be complete without at least a few tomato plants. If you have more than a little space, you could follow tradition and create a Three Sisters garden, consisting of a symbiotic interplanting of beans, corn, and squash. This was done by several Native American cultures across the continent. The arrangement varied by region, but the one I find most convenient for the modern home garden has beans growing amongst the corn, and squash planted around the perimeter to deter raccoons. Consider using heirloom varieties to deepen the connection to the past.

Your garden structures could also reflect this continent's past. A garden tipi can serve as a morning glory trellis in the summer, and a greenhouse in the winter. You might even consider arranging the beds or rows in a circle instead of a square, with a tipi at the center?

So get yourself a cozy place to plan. You might be "working" from your laptop, or the drafting table, or by the fire with an extra number two pencil, a ruler, and a pad of graph paper. Make sure it's comfortable, wherever it is, because you'll be spending a LOT of time there in the coming months!

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