How to Improve Your Home Garden in 2015
Before I became a farmer, I only had a vague awareness of the seasons. Sure, I bundled up in January, rode my bike more in June, and looked forward to fall’s scattering leaves, but I didn’t feel the shifts in my bones, and my daily life looked the same from month to month. Farming has changed everything for me. I wake up in March feeling like March, February feeling like February, wonderfully grounded in the moments in time.
So this first month of the year, I indulge in activities that scream ‘January!’ As a farmer, my tea-drinking, computer-toiling life in January is almost unrecognizable to my calloused August workhorse-hands that never leave the field. In short, it’s a deliciously welcomed change!
I’m going to share one of my favorite January activities and invite you all to join in: Gardening Resolutions. This happens after I’ve already done some reflecting on last season’s successes and failures, and before I really dive into my crop plan for the season. It’s a fitting time to think about what got you most excited in your garden last year, what tasks got away from you, what crops you wanted more of, or any little changes that can improve your garden and your experience in it. Gardening resolutions will prompt you to prepare for the coming season well in advance, hopefully ensuring that your garden will run more effectively than the year before.
Here is a great start to a list of questions to ask when thinking about your gardening resolutions for 2015:
- What did I love about my garden last season? Crops, activities, areas?
- What became a nagging chore?
- What new crops did I try and love?
- How was my soil? What did I do to improve it?
- What did I do to challenge myself and try something new? How did it work out?
- What were the most common pests and diseases I saw?
- What did I grow that I didn’t like?
- What do I wish I had grown more of, or at all?
- Was the size of my garden manageable? Should I grow or shrink it?
- How could I make things easier for myself, to work ‘smarter’ and not ‘harder?
- Did the weeds get away from me?
- What did I do to increase biodiversity in my space?
Once you think through questions such as these, you can begin to make goals for yourself for the coming season. These can be tiny or monumental, but you know what they say about goals – make em descriptive and doable or they will hover over you like a nasty rain cloud. My major goals for Petaluma Bounty’s farm this year, for example, are the following:
- Train the crew on thorough weeding with hula hoes from day one, and schedule regular hoeing, before it seems necessary.
- Find a way to grow more carrots more regularly, in spite of the weeds that continue to out-compete them. This might mean finally embracing the flame weeder, even though I’m terrified of them.
- Add more diversity to my crop plan, focusing on foods that are culturally appropriate for the families that take home food from the Bounty (epazote, better purslane, cilantro, chile peppers).
For the home gardener, these goals will look a little different, but the point is that I can’t recommend enough the practice of reflecting upon the last year, closing in on what you want to change for this season, and solidifying those changes into concrete goals. If you need a little prompting, here are some ideas that I’ve come up with for many of my volunteers who want to ‘take it to the next level’ in their garden at home:
- Improve the physical layout of your garden this year. Begin by drawing out a rough blueprint and noting areas of sun, shade, water-logged low, spots, etc.
- Try growing long-season crops like peppers and tomatoes from seed, rather than buying transplants. You become very attached to them!
- Based on what you observed last season, make a conservation-based watering plan and schedule for this year. Remember, the drought concerns in California are still present.
- Plan out lettuce for the whole season – making sure to plant it regularly enough to be able to feed the family only home-grown salads all summer long.
- Get the kids involved in the garden – either by helping them with one bed or box they are primarily responsible for, or putting them in charge of one task – whether transplanting, weeding, watering, or harvesting.
- Grow all the cooking greens the family can eat.
- Expand the garden by one bed.
- Grow your own pumpkins for Halloween (hint: plant your seeds in mid-June).
- Stop growing the crops that go to waste, even if they’re the easiest to grow. Think of what you and your family actually enjoy eating and learn how to grow those crops!
- If you don’t have a garden, start one!
Here’s to a great 2015 in the garden (or windowsill box, or barrel, or rooftop)! Stick around on the blog and we’ll go through how to put goals such as these into action throughout the coming year. For now, take advantage of the cozy winter days and plan for the growing season with me!
Have you ever tried using gardening resolutions to improve your harvest for the coming year? Do you already have yours in place for 2015? Share your best resolutions with us in the comment section below!