How Plans Can Change

Try as I might to plan everything that will grow in my garden this summer, plans can change.

My winter plans were filled with sheer optimism. I had read books about gardening all winter, I ordered my seeds in February so I could start my seedlings in March, and I had my list ready for all the soil amendments I needed to add to the front garden beds so that I could have the biggest bounty of garden goodies this year. I was so excited to put these plans in to action and watch my garden grow. Now, I was prepared for some things to go wrong, and I knew I might have to reseed a few things, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for a small bump (literally) in plans at the beginning of the gardening season. And that sounds a bit misleading, so I better hurry up and get the point.

 Our pregnancy announcement... slightly cryptic if you aren't a gardener.

Our pregnancy announcement... slightly cryptic if you aren't a gardener.

The News That Changed Everything

Shortly after receiving my seeds in the mail, and a couple weeks before I was about to start seedlings, Cam and I got some news… we were going to be expecting our own bundle of joy come October. Now this news was not the unexpected part, since we were excitedly anticipating having a mini gardener of our own one day; the unexpected part was the incredible exhaustion that immediately hit after finding out our good news. I definitely was not prepared for how exceptionally tired I would be for the first couple months of pregnancy: it absolutely killed my motivation and desire to start the seedlings in March and it limited my ability to prepare the soil by turning it by hand and shoveling truck loads of soil amendments (I know some pregnant women can keep doing heavy lifting, but I didn’t chance it.) Cam often worked sixteen hour days, so he wasn’t available to help pick up what I had let fall off the table.

 Our dinning table covered in our hopes and dreams.

Our dinning table covered in our hopes and dreams.

The Adjustment

Now, all was not lost, but it certainly wasn’t how I had forseen my gardening season starting off. Eventually I was able to muster some energy to get cracking on my long to do list. In April and May I got some seedlings started and Cam turned the front garden beds and added some soil amendments. I ended up cheating and buying some tomato seedlings. This meant I lost my tomato competition with my best friend in Winnipeg (who could grow the most tomatoes this summer.) But I realised that I needed to adjust my gardening goals. Dreams of perfectly weed free rows overflowing with veggies that were spaced perfectly, were a bit lofty. What I really needed to realise that I had to accept I would just have to be happy with doing my best, which basically meant tossing some seeds on the ground and crossing my fingers it all worked out. Just joking. I could never leave it at that.

 All the seeds I hoped would grow.

All the seeds I hoped would grow.

I had my garden plan and my seedlings ready, so May 22nd I got out there and planted the garden. Well, I started to. I was able to plant the six garden beds out front that weekend. And the following weekend I attempted to start planting seeds in the back garden. The key word being “attempt”. You see I had not anticipated that the soil in the back garden would have turned to solid rock after it had been tilled a few weeks before. I am not even kidding. It was like how the Egyptians made clay; the soil was only slightly moist when it was tilled and the following couple of days were hot and this baked it and turned it in to a clay like substance. So for a few days I was out back with a rake trying to break up these rock hard clumps and form rows. It was enough to make a pregnant person cry. Cause I did. Last year that soil was gorgeous and perfect. Everything we planted in the back did so well, so this year I had planned to plant our precious crops in the back garden hoping they would provide the staple veggies we would need. Ha. So every day I was out there getting more and more discouraged by this soil and my inability to break up these clumps and do some heavy labour, tilling soil. I would say this was probably the most discouraging moment for me. Cameron was away, and wasn’t available to help, and I needed to figure out what I was capable of doing to remedy the situation. And it did work out. I spent about an hour a night for five nights in the back, working the soil. I took a lot of breaks. And I bought 300 lbs of compost and top soil to add to the rows. I did not want to do this, since I would have preferred to get some rotten horse manure or re-till the soil, but I had to accept my limitations and work with what I had. So I used the wheelbarrow to move around these many bags of soil and dump them on the rows. I should mention the reason that I needed to add something to the rows was because I was worried that the carrots and other veggies would not be able to break through the hard soil surface that was now my entire back garden.

 Judging by the scribbles, you can clearly see how much things changed from the original pretty plan.  

Judging by the scribbles, you can clearly see how much things changed from the original pretty plan.  

And here we are. Everything has been planted, even though it took longer than planned, and I have to reseed quite a few of my seedlings since they aren’t doing too well, but the seeds are in the ground and that is the important part.

 It might not be perfect, but it is growing, and so I love it!  

It might not be perfect, but it is growing, and so I love it!  

It is interesting when you look at your previous season and decide what you will do differently, based on learnings and mistakes, you are assuming that the variables of your next growing season will be the same, but there could be many unforeseen changes that might derail your planned fixes. I guess that is one of the great things about gardening; you are working with forces of nature and it is something you can’t control, but it helps if you can learn about it. This is technically my third year gardening, and I may have thirty more growing seasons left to learn from (63 seasons, if I am as lucky as my grandpa) so that means that I may only grow carrots thirty times. That isn’t very many times to get good at something if you think about how many times you usually do something before perfecting it. I mean if spreadsheets could grow vegetables, than I would be very good at that since I work with them every day. And in my thirty attempts of growing carrots, so many things could change from weather, soil, pests, energy levels, and more. I look forward to these challenges, but I have to be honest with myself: I look forward to them when I think that I can beat them or conquer them and still come out ahead as a gardening master. But if somehow I end the year without a single carrots, there will be tears.

You know, saying that does make me laugh. In our first garden, we got one carrot out of the whole garden. Then last year, we got a million teeny tiny carrots. I didn’t cry about our pathetic crop either year. I laughed. A lot. So maybe I won’t cry if we have a zero sum carrot crop. This year also feels different because in the previous years I didn’t really try. I just assumed things would grow. But this year, I read so many gardening books all winter and bought so many great seeds specific to our area. And so I am worried that if things don’t grow it will be quite discouraging. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

I am going to do some succession planting this summer, which should increase our yield. I have also used some different planting methods for spacing and interplanting, so I am hoping that will help reduce the weeds and increase the bounty as well. All unknowns at this point, but always fun and exciting none the less.

shadow of a bump

What now?

As for our other “seed” ie the one set to arrive in October, he/she is doing well and seems to be the one seed that I am very good at growing. Cameron is also actively taking care of our little seed by feeding me home cooked delicious meals from scratch every day (that he is home.)

So even though our garden plans may have been thrown off a bit this year, it still remains a learning experience for the new gardener who hopes to make a go of it.

How are everyone else’s gardens looking? Any unexpected changes in your gardening season?