Dear Friend of Half-Acre Homestead,
I’m back after taking some quiet time in January. I enjoyed daily deep relaxation sessions, some reading (mostly about seed starting!), and a few extra hot baths with epsom salts for my aching muscles after the farm work. I also revived my ballet practice and started weekly low-impact aerobics sessions to upbeat music, both of these in the eco-cabin on my own.
For a few years, I had a lot on my plate, with the eco-cabin construction, off-grid living without running water, milking cows off the homestead, and all the usual homestead tasks. Once things calmed down a bit this past fall, I was really feeling the effects of these long term exertions on my mood and energy level. This extra attention to my health has been wonderful and I am feeling the healing effects of this TLC. As I teach in the course, health is not something that you simply HAVE, it is a dynamic process based on the CHOICES you make each day. When I saw the signs that I needed extra rest, I reflected on what I needed and adjusted my schedule.
And now, that exciting time is back again: I am starting my early seedlings today! I thought you would enjoy a peek into my garden plans: What I will start inside and when, and then, when I plan to plant it outside. What I will plant outside. And the big question: how many???
As well, as you know, I always love to try new things. I am also going to share my garden “experiments” with you and what they are intended to do. At the end of the gardening season this year, I’ll return to these plans and review my results.
What Plants Will I Start Inside and How Many?
For those of you who have completed your free online course, “Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture,” you will know the answer to this question: What is the main criteria I use when selecting the varieties of plants I grow? If you haven’t yet started that course, it isn’t too late to log in and get started! It’s there for you to help you in diverse aspects of self-sufficiency!
My garden is not going to change very much this year. So, my overall garden plan is not too different from what I posted last year. If you’re new to the Half-Acre Homestead community, I encourage you to have a read through the past blog posts. They are not too long, and they contain a lot of my best ideas regarding my gardening, especially.
To draw up the summary of my garden plan, I just needed to go to my garden book and find last year’s version. I am adding a couple of new plants, which I will talk about in more detail below. Here is the summary of what I will plant. You will see three main columns: how many I plan to plant for myself, any extras I plan to grow, and how many the community gardens needed last year. Then, the grand total is on the left hand side. I consider the “extras” to be a bit of insurance and always give them to friends and family.
Most of the plants will be started in professional seed starting medium that is mostly peat (see my blog post from last year on why I chose this), and they will be transplanted into an organic gardening soil with a built in slow release fertilizer. However, the plants highlighted in orange on the sheet do not generally like to be transplanted, for various reasons, so I will plant them in a 50-50 seed started/organic soil mix and plant them in larger pots that are a good enough size to last until they go directly into the garden.
Here is a photo of that piece of paper:
When Will I Start Each Seedling and When Will I Plant Them Outside?
This requires a bit of background: I am in Canada Hardiness Zone 5B. To determine my Last Frost Date, I had to choose between the two major cities, I live between, Kingston (LFD: April 21-30) and Ottawa (LFD: May 1 – 10). Because I am in a low lying area prone to hard frosts, I actually chose NEITHER of these, choosing instead to extend Ottawa by two days. So, I have selected my last frost date to be May 12. It has occurred to me that I should record this every year. From now on, I will!
So, I now have a conservative date of May 12 for my last frost date, and a plan to use simple low tunnels on a few of my early plantings. The piece of paper below will show you when I will plant each type of seedling. Due to their differences and preferences, each of these plants may prefer to be planted well AFTER the last frost date, or even quite a bit BEFORE. So, I have recorded all of these and then used the number of weeks and the before/after to identify the actual date on the calendar. I like this plan, as there is some staggering of plantings, with May 26th being the biggest day. Because that is an important planting day, if there is any sign of colder weather, I will delay it a few days.
On another LFD map that is more detailed, I do appear to be on the borderline between two areas, with one having risk of frost up until May 20, so I am now thinking that I may delay the major planting by a few days, just to be safe. Thankfully, I have a small portable greenhouse, that I could also use to keep some of the seedlings outside if it is a cold start for our spring here. For those of you in Ontario, Canada that are interested, here is a link to that map: https://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-ontario-last-frost-date-map.php
What’s New This Year?
I promised earlier to share my special projects this year. Sometimes, I call these my “experiments.” While I love to grow my favourite heirloom varieties, I am always on the lookout for something that might suit my microclimate and sandy soil, or make a unique contribution to my collection of veggies. Here’s what I’m trying for the first time this year:
Welsh Bunching Onions – These are on the starting list. I am starting a flat of these. They are easy to grow, originated in Russia (must be cold-tolerant, right?) AND they are a “reliable self-seeding biennial.” I would LOVE to have a self-seeding onion patch! I planted one flat of these today in a 50-50 mix of seed starter and organic garden soil.
Spinach Strawberry – A plant that grows BOTH berries (like mulberries) AND leaves that taste like spinach? I want to expand my fruit-growing ability here on the homestead. AND it is a self-seeding annual. Gotta try this! Can you see the theme of labour reduction here? Self-seeding would be good!
Kohl Rabi – (Replaces late purple cabbage and brussel sprouts) Extremely cold tolerant, which is good for my low micro climate. Gotta love a plant that can start FOUR long weeks before the LFD. AND, it has a cabbage-like bulb and leaves that taste like kale. As cabbage hasn’t been doing too well lately, I am hoping this might do better with a very early planting and a late planting.
Royal Burgundy (purple) Bush Beans – (replaces Purple Queen Beans) This is apparently the most cold tolerant bean there is. Another trend here: trying to work with my microclimate and get an early start on things! Another heirloom variety. I am very excited to try this!
New Zealand Spinach – (replaces quick to bolt lettuce mix) Although this isn’t really spinach, it looks and tastes like it AND it is heat tolerant. Our summers are getting SO hot here, so I thought this might help with bolting problems. I will plant it near a fence where I can give it a propped up shade cloth, as apparently the flavour is better if the plants get a bit of shade. Hey! What if I put it in the corner of the garden where the fence shaded (and stunted!) the corn last year – what a great idea! This is another plant that likes a cool start, something I can easily give it.
My Basil “Trial” – You may have noticed on the sheets that I am doing two plantings of Basil. One will be with the extra early plants today, and the other will be a fair bit later, just five weeks before my LFD. This is to compare my own feeling of what might work better here with advice in one of my resource books. I will let you know how it all goes once they are all underway!
I will admit that I don’t usually try so many new things each year. In fact, as I have written before, I usually limit myself to trying one or two new things per year. I guess I am feeling extra adventurous this year!
In my next blog post, I will share more details about my seed starting. I will also write about the plants that go directly into the garden, and my planting plans for them. These include carrots, beets, turnips and many many more!
So, that is where I am at with my garden planning right now. I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into the workings of Half-Acre Homestead!
The time of year when I plant my first seeds always feels like a sacred time to me. No matter how many times I do it, I still can’t quite believe that these little hard seeds, some of them so tiny I can hardly handle them, can bring forth life. When we garden, we are truly participating in the miracle of life.
I like to take this time to reflect on what seeds I will strive to plant in the hearts of those people I meet. I hope that they are seeds of love, kindness, and hope. I believe that, in order to plant those seeds in the larger world, I also need to plant those in myself. I strive each day to be kind to myself, treat myself well and nurture my own sense of hope and gratitude for my life.
What kind of seeds do you want to plant this year, both vegetable, and flower? What kind of seeds do you want to plant in yourself, in your loved ones, and in the larger world? I hope that my website and blog provides you with some inspiration for that!
Speaking of beautiful seeds, check out this artistic photo taken by professional photographer Chris Goodyear, who visited the homestead this past fall from a neighbouring city. She specializes in portraits. In future posts, I will be sharing more of the gorgeous photos she took, including a big future reveal of the portrait she took of me! Thanks so much, Chris for sharing your talents with me and the Half-Acre Homestead community.
For more information about Chris, please check out here website here: https://www.chrisgoodyear.com/
Thank you so much for reading! I look forward to connecting with you soon!