Knowing the Plan

I don’t like surprises. To be more specific, I don’t like knowing about an impending surprise. If you are going to surprise me, then let the surprise be a surprise. Don’t tell me “I have a surprise for you” if you plan on withholding the surprise for more than a few hours. Here are two examples of my struggle with knowing about surprises:

I peeked at Christmas presents when I was an adolescent. I’m not talking about looking in the closet where my parents kept them hidden. That only happened once, and was almost entirely on accident. Oh no. It was much worse than that. One year I peeked at the wrapped presents that were sitting patiently under the Christmas tree. Being ever so careful, I would use a pocket knife to cut open the tape, carefully unwrap one end of the presents, and slide the box out, just enough to see what it was, then repair the damaged tape and place the box exactly where it was, as if nothing suspicious ever occurred. I came to find out that I wasn’t careful enough, when my parents told me that next year they wouldn’t put the presents out until Christmas day. I only did it that one year, I swear!

More recently, when my wife was pregnant with Logan, I wanted to know the sex of the baby while she did not. Fortunately she didn’t care if I knew, as long as I didn’t tell anyone else, lest they accidentally tell her. Believe it or not, I did keep the gender of my future child a secret for 7 months, much to the chagrin of the future grandparents!

You see, I want to know what’s coming, even if there isn’t much I can do about it. Even if there is no plan, I want to know that too.¬†Backstories aside, I’m don’t generally over-plan or obsess…at least, I tell myself that for psychological comfort.

I’ll discuss the planning that went into these gardens a little bit later, but for now I want to show you how I’ve organized myself for the coming season of planting and picking.

I started by deciding what seed to buy, which was based primarily on what we eat, while also considering space, climate, and the price to simply buy produce at the store or farmers market. I also decided to buy heirloom seeds for a few reasons; the variety of available seeds, the novelty and nostalgia of it (contradictory, I know), and because I plan on saving the seeds so that next years harvest will be even better than this year. You can’t reliably save most commercial seeds, because they are bred to produce one really robust crop, while the offspring are genetically unpredictable. It’s a by-product of Mendelian genetics (consider how inbreeding results in lots of genetic problems, like in pure-bred dogs and ancient royalty), and it’s just smarter economics for the seed companies.

Once I ordered the seeds, I transfered them to plain envelops (primarily so they would fit better), and organized those into an old recipe box. Some of the original packets are still in there, which I’ll transfer once I’m ready to plant. I started to do all of them, but then I got tired of it…so I’m stalling. I can’t be proactive all the time, can I?

To organize the information I’d gathered about these seeds, I created a spreadsheet to compile the necessary information about each plant. This included planting time relative to the last frost, spacing, time until harvest, etc..

I also created a garden journal to keep track of the whole gardening process, from building the beds to planting the seeds, and eventually the harvest yield and storage/preserving. I took the original seed packets and taped them into the book, with the adjoining page reserved for recording information about how I used the seeds, and the eventual vegetables.
If you check out the previous picture, you might notice that I’ve already planted a few veggies. While I’m in Plant Hardiness Zone 6a (find out what yours is), which puts the last frost date in late May, I’m pushing that back by a few weeks due to the unusually warm winter, and because the combination of raised beds and my home-made greenhouses give my garden a big boost in temperature. When I planted, I took a copy of the plans, highlighted to pertinent rows, and slipped them inside plastic page-protectors. That way they stayed clean and dry, and I was able to keep them on hand when I was planting.
It’s good to have a plan, especially when doing something for the first time. In the end, it doesn’t matter if the garden fails, but who wants the unnecessary death of hundreds of plants weighing on their psyche?
Next week I’ll show you more details of the garden beds, and what I did to create them!
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