Monday, April 4, 2016

Growing a Garden: What to Do While Seedlings Sprout

Spring thus far has mimicked my mood quite accurately. One minute we have mid-60 temperatures with a smattering of sunshine and the next we're grabbing our winter jackets and chunking ice out of the herb spiral pond. I swear to you, late last week I flipped the lights on, then off, then on, then off again while the sun played peek-a-boo with ridiculously dark thunderclouds intent on dropping huge, giant flakes and balls of ice everywhere.

Mother Nature and I are in perfect sync. When we feel, we feel with the power of a million burning suns

Spring is a constant wave of ebb and flow - I feel like I am hovering over the great, sweet valley that is warm weather and I'm waiting, just waiting, to leap off into it. I need to plant! I need to build more raised beds! I need to take a permaculture design course! I need to clean up the winter brush! I need to build fences! I need to water and weed! I need to know exactly when the last frost will be for my specific backyard and why oh why can't someone just tell me already so I can get to it!

And just when I think I'm about to get out there and implement all these things I've planned, the flakes fall. The water freezes. The sun plays peek-a-boo with thundersnow clouds. 

Now instead of collapsing on my bed like a Disney princess and vowing to move somewhere, anywhere with a longer growing season getting frustrated, I've devised a series of productive tasks to keep my mind in a garden-positive place and my hands focused on the beautiful weather that is sure to come.

Secure Mulch
This is a fantastic time to grab some free mulch. Everyone is cleaning up the yard and leaving piles of old leaves, pine needles, and the like in giant bags at the end of their driveway. Grab some from neighbors or take some time to pile up your own leaves. Toss the stuff over any of your planting areas now to inhibit growth of weeds and grass during this peak sprouting season. 

Secure Building Materials
Construction season is underway! Many homeowners take advantage of spring sales to get their windows replaced, siding fixed, and roofs repaired. Old windows make great cold frames! You can use old siding and roofing materials on makeshift sheds, chicken coops, or even edging for your plant beds.

This is also a great time of year to check out craigslist to grab some old pots and gardening castaways. Everyone is upgrading their gardening stuff which means you can score a great deal and break the waste cycle all in one fell click!

Burn Baby Burn
It may be too cold to plant, but that doesn't mean you can't set things on fire. Fire is naturally warm, after all, and helps diminish debris piles. Stick last year's death into the pit and get cracking! You might just get warm enough to sit back and enjoy the evening :)

Read Up
When it's too cold to plant, read about planting. Take some time to learn a little more about the varieties you've started or check out a book from the library on innovative tomato tricks. Take notes, draw pictures, and create memory triggers that will help you later if/when craziness hits your garden. It's the perfect way to stay up-to-date while you wait!

Plant More
I am not at this level yet, but if you're up for a challenge, consider planting continually....meaning, start seedlings and then 2-3 weeks later start another set. The idea is you'll extend your growing season by creating varied harvest dates and thereby a longer period of optimal harvesting for your chosen plants. I can barely remember what I plant where, so this isn't the best option for me at this point, but I must admit the appeal of having more food for a longer period of time is absolutely enticing enough for me to consider continual planting sometime in the future.

You can also check out winter sowing, a method of using recycled plastic jugs to create mini-greenhouses that can withstand the crazy fluctuations in spring weather. Another item to add to my list!

Greenhouse Field Trip
When push comes to shove my favorite way to stay motivated is to visit plants. They can be any plants, really, as long as they're healthy and happy. Local nurseries are awesome options, but can be expensive if you are like me and have limited spending self-control. I see those flowers and I just need them all, right now, immediately.

I also live in an area with a number of incredible botanic public gardens and arboretums. They are fantastic places to visit this time of year and often have discounted entry or parking fees in the off-season. The point is to get out and surround yourself in the beauty you are patiently waiting to see in your own yard. It is a lovely and brightening feeling!

I get so amped up about getting outside again, smelling the dirt, and getting my yard beautified.....but sometimes it's less about getting stuff done and more about just finding ways to stay patient. The ebb and flow will continue forever, ya know? Life gets busy, then seems to stop, then ramps up again. Better to float on with the waves than fight the current, amirite?!

How do you stay busy while anticipating the final arrival of spring? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)

Did you miss a Growing a Garden series post? Don't worry! Click the link below to catch up!
Where Do I Start?
Starting with Seeds
Organic Pest Management 

**Can't get enough homesteading? Check out the Homestead Blog Hop, hosted by some of the best and most beautiful bloggers in the self-sufficiency world. This post, and many of my others, are shared on the Homestead Blog Hop each week. From breadmaking to seed selection, home-grown recipes to herbal health, the Homestead Blog Hop has it all! Enjoy! :)



  1. I'm so with you! Last week it was snowing in the sunshine! Oh Good Grief! So I planted some zinnia seeds on 4-1-16 and today, 4-5-16 I have sprouts! 4 days?!? So I take the plastic cover off now, right? Do I remove the tangle of Christmas lights I have underneath the tray for a nice heat source? (I keep my house at 67-68 degrees when the hubby isn't home). I feel so stupid and I feel so Thrilled at the same time! Thank you for your post, Jennifer.

    1. Absolutely! Once the seeds have sprouted the heat isn't as necessary - go ahead and open those containers up! Too much heat and moisture can actually cause a little bit of mold so you want to be sure they get fresh air :) Don't forget to do the hand wave!! :) Thank you very very much for reading!

  2. These are great ideas to keep busy while waiting! I love that many of them are so frugal, too — nabbing what's freely available this time of year.

    1. Thank you Lauren :) And yes my favorite word is free! Tis the season! Everyone is getting their tax returns and upgrading everything - big deals for us scavengers!! :) Wonderful to have you and thanks for stopping by!

  3. I love gardening but I definitely need to get better at it!

    1. Thanks Kari! It does take a little practice but when it starts to click, it is an incredible feeling!!

  4. I am always trying to find things that grow well in the south. My cycle right now is finishing up since we plant in October but I'm always trying to push the envelope & grow into late spring & summer without the plants frying.(or the bugs having a smorgasbord!) So I'm with you on patience and appreciation of beautiful spaces. Great article!

    1. Thank you Linda!! This is going to sound seriously silly, but I never thought about how the south can't plant in May and June because of the heat! Thank you so much for stopping by - would love to hear more about your October planting!!

  5. A friend of us has an amazing garden here in SoFlo - but they don't have many animals on their property. We live on a golf course and lake, so have loads of iguanas, squirrels, raccoon etc. I've been told that we are screwed should we choose to do this, though I'm dying to try strawberries during the winter, and zucchini and organic lettuce. Even pumpkins do well here!

    1. You should try something! Anything! I promise it is so worth it!! And pests can be a PITA but there are ways around them - vertical gardening is one of my favorites for strawberries. If I lived in a hotter climate I would go nuts for all the fruit I could grow!! Jealous!!!

    2. ok sold! Thanks for the encouragement!