Thursday, March 30, 2017


My annual trip to Fredrick Meijer Gardens Butterflies Are Blooming event was hosted by my mom this year.  She took her sister Toni, my niece Chanelle and myself, all who have birthdays in March.

I have a very color coordinated and beautiful family.

My Aunt Toni is also a plant person and we had a blast.  While my mom is a good gardener and has instilled in me my love for plants as well as always having plants around, she isn’t as fascinated by every little thing like I can be.  My aunt is a bit more like me.  At one point, she and I crossed paths in the big greenhouse both holding cameras and I glanced around to see where my mom and Chanelle were.  I asked my aunt if she knew where my mom was and she replied no.  With a grin I asked her, “Do we care?”  She laughed and said, “Not really.”  We then both returned to taking pictures and watching butterflies.  Least you think I am a completely ungrateful daughter, I did find her soon after sitting on a bench with Chanelle who was desperately wanting a butterfly to land on her.  She was so adorable!

Patiently waiting for the crazy butterfly person to be done…. Just one more picture!

Despite the fact that this trip really doesn’t change from year to year, mostly the same butterflies, usually the same family members, same garden and greenhouse, I still love it.  I think it is because at this point in the year, I have a serious case of needing some warmth and green.  I was watching a food garden tour video a week or two ago with Timothy and I commented how much I liked the particular garden we were watching.  T looked at me with a bit of skepticism and pointed out that normally the untidiness of said garden would bother me.  I thought about it for a second and realized that he was right.  I guess I was just so ready to have a garden, everything looked good.  Thus the WHY I need to go see the butterflies every early spring, my garden soul needs it.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and mild outside, humid and 80 degrees inside the big greenhouse.  Many people were melting but I loved it!  In fact it was probably the first time this year I have actually been warm.  I wake up in bed cold and rarely are my hands ever warm so I am grateful when I am approaching hot.  My apologies to those who are going through menopause, I will generously offer my ice pack hands for your comfort.  Maybe we can find a balance between the two extremes.

Hanging in the narthex were large bamboo and silk creatures created by the activist artist Al Weiwei who is from China and has endured, survived and admirably thrived despite governmental suppression of art, freedom of speech and thought and multiple stints of prison and house arrest.  These kite like fantastic creatures were huge and delicate, very simple but complex in design.

Flying four headed Koi dragon fish creature constructed of bamboo and silk like traditional Chinese kites.

In the Holton Arid Garden were several cobalt blue shapes.  I love the color of cobalt and would gladly take one home to display in my garden.  Maybe I could make a replica of one in honor of his fight for the freedom to create.

I do not know if these were named but they delighted me.

Patterns  The leaves unfurl out of the middle and are imprinted with the shape of fellow leaves
around which they had been wrapped.
I enjoy pretty much all plants so I find equal measures of joy in the spare desert plants as I do in the tropical lushness.  All the lines and symmetry are beautiful and fascinating.

This makes a perfectionist artist happy.

This little guy is one of my favorite in the collection of small deserty type plants.  I love the pattern on it and it is not poky and actually small enough to live at my house.  I have never seen a baby of it for sale though.

Onward to the Jarecki Seasonal Display House where they have monarch larva eating tropical milkweed plants among all the spring bulbs and foliage.  Here little kids hunt for the caterpillars while adults range between those who search just as hard with great awe to ones who are oblivious to the life around them.

Hunting for the caterpillars..

Monarch caterpillar found!  There are actually two in the picture; can you see the other one?
The plant is a tropical milkweed that I do not have…yet.  I need seeds!

This was overflowing with bright cheerful daffodils and variegated yellow and green cannas.
I love the mirrored pedestals reflecting back all the colors.  So pretty and fun.

I was admiring the scene in the earlier picture and discovered that the pots of tropical milkweed on the mirrored pedestals had chrysalis pinned onto sticks inserted in the pots of tropical milk weed.  Ohhh…  cool!
Sadly these butterflies will not leave the greenhouse as it is still too cold outside.
The large Wardian Case that lives in the Holton Victorian Garden.  I want one of course but it would need a greenhouse to go with it.  (Confession – I just got distracted by looking at all the pictures of Wardian cases that came up when I checked the spelling on google for about 20 minutes.  T wonders why it takes me so long to write blogs.)

Ah YES!!  On to the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory and BUTTERFLIES!!!  I am not excited at all, there is not a big silly grin on my face and I do not have my camera clutched in my hands awaiting a shot of a beautiful fluttering flower.  Nope, not at all….  Ha!  I am not ashamed to say that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my visit and everyone I smiled at seemed to as well.


This year there was a new system of releasing butterflies into the garden.  The process of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis is called eclosion and takes place in the butterfly bungalow.  In the past the butterflies complete the emergence process which includes the hardening of their wings in the bungalow and then were caught and transported out into the garden in a plastic shoe box by a docent.  I have watched them open the box and let them all fly out.  This year I noticed an empty glass box sitting on a beautiful wood pedestal but didn’t explore it as I was distracted by a passing Morpho.  Then THIS happened.

Coolest use for a Wardian case yet!

The bottom of the box opens up and allows the butterflies to finish eclosion and fly away on their own schedule.

Box of butterflies!

Blue Morpho butterflies – the much sought after inside wing side and the more commonly seen outside

This palm is spectacular, I love the leave shapes

One of the butterfly shots I really liked.  A Tiger Longwing resting on the glass “ceiling” of the box.

There were many tillandsias (air plants) fixed in the trees where they would naturally live.
I have become the proud owner of one earlier this year.
There were several people who I would call “serious” photographers there.  Their very expensive cameras had zoom lens about a foot long and they seemed very grim.  I struck up a conversation with one of them and he was lamenting to me how hard it was to get a blue morpho with the wings open.  About a half an hour earlier, I just happened to be in the right place at exactly the right time taking pictures of a closed blue morpho that was in a perfect position and in the sun.  It opened up for me and I got 15 shots of its open wings before it flew off.  Yes, I was patient and had really looked for promising events but I still consider it such a gift to “get” the picture.  When I joyfully shared a picture with him, he looked so disgruntled that I, a not serious photographer, had gotten that shot, made a face at me and walked off.

My immediate response was surprise and wondered why he didn’t like my picture.   Then I thought how sad for him that he couldn’t enjoy another person’s accomplishment.  Mentally reviewing the incident later, I looked for the character lesson I could learn.  How many times have I not rejoiced in another’s success?  Do I encourage others even when they are “winning” and I may not be?  The idea of being a good sport applies to more than just a volleyball court or diamond.   Also, am I careful to not rub in my accomplishment in the face of another’s frustration?  I have been blessed to get many good shots of the morpho almost every year I go, that poor guy hasn’t apparently ever gotten one.

Hey there… wanna open your wings for me?

Yes!  So amazing….. Thank you Heavenly Father for creating this gorgeous creature

I took many, many pictures of butterflies and a few of orchids as well.  We spotted the little quail birds that live in the conservatory too.  They were hard to track because they never stood still.  Of the 10 or so shots I took, this one was the best and I wouldn’t call it great.  However, this was the first time I have actually gotten pictures of them.

These little guys move fast.
Lady’s Slippers, our North American native orchid are aptly named.
I would love to create the environment in my yard to attract these beauties

When I was a child, we had little purple lady’s slippers growing in the “woods” behind our house.  These woods were state planted white pines in neat tidy rows that were many decades old.  I remember the first spring I discovered them and being in awe of several hundred square feet of delicate purple flowers.  We brought one home to my mom who came out and looked at them.  She explained that they were protected and we wanted to save them and to not pick them.  Every year we would go look at them blooming.  I wonder if they are still there.  I live about 5 miles away from that house, and according to google maps, the woods are still there.  Bike trip!

Ah… beautiful!

Same orchid, different angle

My poor camera has been through a lot.  The flash no longer works.  Auto zoom is sketchy at best, and if the light is poor, it refuses to focus despite manual finagling.  I am so grateful for its use these past 10 years or so.  I have learned a lot about light and shutter speed and the understanding there is so much more I could learn if I wanted to devote some time and energy to it.  For every few fuzzy photos, I can usually get a good one.  It has made me get creative and plan out shots better knowing that I am working around limitations.  However, it is getting to the point where I really do need a new camera.  I have the money, I just have to figure out what would be the best fit for me.  WAY too many choices.  Somebody please just put a camera in my hands.

I love the contrast between the colors and sizes of these varieties

Take us to your leader….

I don’t appreciate orange as a color as much as blue, teal and purple, but flowers like this remind me that it too is beautiful.

These were a deep rich velvet maroon purple that I just could not get my camera to replicate.
The eye is incredible in its discernment of color, regardless, these are still beautiful.

The butterflies did visit the orchids, in fact I have a picture of this orchid with several other butterflies,
but they cannot get nectar from them.
We were greeted by several groupings of identical orchids upon entering the conservatory. 

Last year many of these orchids were planted into incredible massive balls of sphagnum moss to create orchid balls. My understanding was that there were more than twenty plants in each ball.  They were awe inspiring and delightful.  It was also the most orchids I have ever seen in one area in my life.

The horticultural staff has changed up a bit since last year due to people leaving to be mothers or moving onto other things.  The new staff or staff that has taken on different responsibilities in the garden are still settling into their roles and it takes time to organize the displays in unique ways like that.  It is interesting to me to see the different personalities of the gardeners in the displays.  I have enjoyed meeting and talking to many of them and taking classes from them.  Learning and change is constantly going on when you work with the garden.  I need to remember that nothing stays the same and if that is truly what I want, well then, I should go invest in some silk plants.

Or porcelain flowers, another display from the Ai Weiwei art show. 

Each one of these life sized flowers is individually handmade, glazed, fired and assembled into a grouping that I estimate to be about 5 feet wide by 10 feet long.  I know I can’t really appreciate the amount of time and skill this required to create thousands of flowers.   I found this to be amazingly gorgeous and fascinating.  However, I will still prefer the living despite the constant change and imperfections.  There is a joy in appreciating the fleeting.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The search for my Splendid Truth…

The end of December generally triggers thoughts of goals, life changes and a review of the past year.  I try to blog about it and post the good, the bad, what was ugly and look forward to the next year type of thoughts.  Granted, my bad and ugly lists usually outnumber the good in my review.   I started a dissertation but never finished it due to illness, perfectionism and the fact I didn’t know how to finish it.  Bearing one’s heart is hard and over thinking it pushed it farther and farther into January.  Once January had past, I thought, “What is the point?  Now, it is too late to post a blog about last year and my goals for this year”.  This stuckness contributed to my lack of blogs for the month of January and most of February.  I unstuck myself by simply starting a new blog post.  Seriously, that was not as intuitive as it seems for my perfectionist personality urges that I must finish my plate before being even allowed to look at dessert.

My ice cream cone birdbath

This evening I was going through my blog documents and organizing them.  I tend to dislike working on the computer as things “disappear” on me.  Meaning that I clicked somewhere else and don’t know how to get it back.  I love tactile interactions.  I would rather write something out by hand than type it up.  My blog folders were a mess and it was difficult to ascertain the status of a particular file without opening it.  I sorted all the confirmed posted blogs into labeled folders, deleted partial ones or duplicates and was left with a small handful of incomplete ones.   Rereading said unfinished post, I realized that there was still value in it despite its tardiness.

Goals are valuable regardless of the time of year.  What I have learned is never wasted and sharing my heart is the best way I can be used by my King to encourage and bless others.  So step back in time with me to the end of December for my year end blog, slightly polished and edited.


The end of 2016 is upon us and frankly it seemed to go by way too fast.  While I did not blog much this summer as I was gone for weeks at a time and the garden was definitely on hiatus, the few blogs I did do seem like such a meager handful.

This is the time of year that one looks back and plans forward.  Looking back I did not accomplished very much in the garden except for my pond removal.  Plants were overgrown and “weedy” everywhere the mower did not reach and I can definitely say that I did not want to show my mess to anyone.  The idea of Shemita was to let the land rest and vicariously, the gardener rest as well.  While I did not DO much, I would say that my garden’s neglected state was most definitely NOT restful.  It made me cringe every time I looked at it and thus rarely ventured out into it for the sole pleasure of just enjoying it.

I am looking forward to engaging again, but at the same time, I am very overwhelmed by the neglected state it is in and the sheer amount of work it is going to take to return it to some semblance of order.  Part of the problem also stems from the fact that much of my ornamental gardens have needed to be reworked for the last couple of years, and one full season of no tending tipped the scale to full out jungle.   My ornamental gardens have taken a backseat to the food gardens and definitely show it.  How do I manage both and not get discouraged while wrestling them back to “properness”?  Here is a great challenge.

Espaliered fruit trees on a wall outside Chicago Botanical Garden.  I appreciate the orderliness.

I am currently reading two books, “Born Again Dirt: Farming to the glory of God” by Noah Sanders and “Garden Revolution: How our landscapes can be a source of environmental change” by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher.  I also start my permaculture course this week.  All three address a fundamental perspective change that is needed in how agriculture and gardening is typically done.

“Born Again Dirt” explores the concept that I am not just a Believer who happens to garden but rather a Christian Gardener whose practices are directly influenced and defined by my faith and scripture.  “Garden Revolution” explores the ugly truth that gardening in America typically does not improve the environment and ecologies, but instead damages it due to its high chemical use, demand for needy plants, mass produced plants and all the problems associated with that type of monoculture, and the unrealistic expectations of perfecting nature to maintain a standard it was never created to do and often in places that are totally unsuitable.  The permaculture class explores in depth how to work with the natural systems to preserve life in the soil, water, creatures and people who live and eat from the land.

Perhaps my unhappiness with the status of my yard needs a new measuring stick to judge it by.  I am interested in finishing these books and perhaps gain some ideas on how to revitalize my ornamental gardens.  Hopefully the permaculture class will give me some concrete ways to design my area better.  The Permaculture Design Course is scheduled to start December 30th.   It is a 20 week college level class that I hope I’m capable of keeping up with, with 4 additional weeks to complete the “final exam”  project.  Pretty cool anniversary gift to ourselves.  I will get the certification for the class but both of us will take it.

A table in the Japanese garden at Chicago Botanical garden, it’s years of life distinctly outlined.

I have read many books and articles with different suggestions for making goals and following through with them.  The most common theme is to write down the goal in detailed language and create a specific plan for completing that goal.  So instead of a vague statement saying I want to lose weight, I would specify that I wanted to lose 20 pounds.  I would create a plan to lose one pound a week by changing my exercise and eating habits.  While I would love to lose 20 pounds and would be in a healthier state for doing it, I have yet to accomplish this goal despite repeated attempts in various ways.

Let there be light…

Today is the third day of Hanukkah and the focus of today’s prayer is to repent for lack of faith which is fear.  I actually thought for a moment that I don’t have a problem with faith, before my Heavenly Father nudged me and gently said, “You don’t have faith in my ability to truly change you”.  My failings are the same every year.  I work at the same issues and problems and find myself falling again and again until I give up and believe that I will never conquer this problem.  I will never change.  It is true, I will never change but HE can change me if I let Him and have faith in His power.  I don’t have faith in my ability to be changed and that fear keeps me stagnant in my problems.  It is hard to make goals when you fully expect to fail….again.


This is where I was stuck.  Discouraged and sick, it was the end of blogging and beginning of avoidance of self-review.  Novels and mindless computer games are where I tend to hide.  While reading and playing games is not evil, they did do an exceedingly good job at helping me waste my time and not listen to the still small voice of my Father.  Feeling ill but unable to sleep, I would spend hours on the computer reading about other people’s lives of adventure or conquering yet another level of candy smashing.  Because I do not work outside the house on a daily basis, most people do not see my real state of pain and fatigue.  I am a good actress and can “pretend” to be well for a bit when needed.  I tend to crash and pay for it later, but people never see that part.

To change my status is a much desired dream and while I have made many changes in my life in regards to diet, banishing most chemicals and carpet from our home, changing and removing stress from my life and looking for more ways to “be better”, I have yet to find the “magic” solution for health.

Beautiful… but dying….

Two weeks ago at Sabbath service, I asked for prayer for my health.  I rarely ask for prayer for this huge obstacle in my life because it is something that I figure I am supposed to fix and am capable of fixing.  I just have to find the right…. fill in the blank… to do.  A friend of ours was giving the message and before he spoke, he asked Sir T and I to come up and he prayed for me.  He has known me for a very long time and we share similar affinity for lines and rules and being the “good” kid.  He “gets” it.

His message that day was from Galatians and had to do with what God actually asks of us to do.  It is to love Him.  The rules and instructions are all good and important but that is not what He wants of me first.  The best rule follower is no more worthy than the worst rule breaker of His love.  I don’t need to find another rule to enforce in my life to earn health.  As I sat through the message with tears running down my face, I heard my Heavenly Father speak to me.  He said, “You will find your health in my joy.”

My mom has admonished me many times over my life that I need to let the joy of my salvation be my strength, to lighten up, to let myself have fun and to not take everything so seriously.  CHILL OUT!!  My tenacious attention to detail is a blessing to the many functions I organize and volunteer with, but it is not a place to constantly dwell.  My health cannot heal in a place of extreme criticalness.  As an all or nothing type of personality, I am all on and specific to the nth degree or I am totally checked out and uninvolved.  Neither end is a restful place for joy to frolic.

That day two Sabbaths ago, I created my own altar call and spent some time on my knees repenting and giving myself to my Heavenly Father to fix.  To help me find my joy, to see joy and be joyful.  This would require my submission of my mind and my thoughts.  No more daydreaming up worst case scenarios, or fashioning vindicating razor edged responses to previous slights that while would never be said aloud to the offender, did replay over and over in my mind.  No more instant bashing of myself with a sledgehammer of wrath when a gentle pause would be so much more effective for progress.

Blue Morpho Butterfly, picture taken 2011 at Fredrick Meijer Gardens

Music for me is the best way to “keep my mind on things above” and I have a pretty respectable list of great songs that vary from worship to bouncy.  I can be found dancing around my kitchen with sudsy hands on occasion when a good song comes on and I just have to move while doing dishes.  So I have been playing music, consciously changing my mind’s thoughts when I realize they are degrading and have deleted all of my fiction e-book requests.  Non-fiction is where I need to stay for now.

The book I just finished is “Happier At Home” by Gretchen Rubin.  It was recommended to me last week by my dear friend who is my accountability partner.  Gretchen is the author of The Happiness Project book and blog and is a researcher, experimenting with her discoveries on herself.  She has a list of 4 Splendid Truths upon which she explores and embellishes on throughout the book.

For some reason I love the idea, the title of a Splendid Truth.  It is so… going off on a wild adventure type of feeling with a rolled parchment map beautifully inked in vibrant colors and calligraphy showing the way to the treasure which is in a beautiful city of crystal in the middle of a glorious jungle garden fluttering with butterflies.  And no, there are no monsters lurking in the shadows.  

Splendid Truth…. 

What are my splendid truths?  What makes my heart leap for joy and see beauty?  That is what I need to make my focus this year.  My Splendid Truths…. The first of which is…

I am loved

Friday, March 17, 2017

Plant Lair Tour and Seed Starting Videos

March is back to normal but it sure doesn’t feel normal.  January and February were extremely mild weather wise and we had a lot of sunshine.  I recently posted a garden tour taken in shoes and a light jacket around my yard in February.  Crocuses were blooming and the annual worrying over the state of Tulip Time blooms and fruit tree buds was beginning.

Baby it’s BLUSTERY out!
Cue this past week.  Winter has “returned” and we are having a snow, thunder, sleet storm with temperatures back in the 30s, slightly below average.  I have another post brewing about my spinach that I sowed last fall which has already come up and since been covered, uncovered and covered yet again today with snow.  How will it do?  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, enjoy this video that Sir T took of me showing off my Plant Lair.   If you have a suggestion for a better name for my plant cave, area…etc, let me know!

Plant Lair Tour... March-2017

Next up is a video of the process of starting my babies from seed to grow light.  I am so excited about how well my space works and the fact that I am not crouching on the floor transplanting anymore.  Blessed and grateful!

Plant Starting 101... March-2017

The video quality is poor because there isn’t enough light in that area of the basement.  We may invest in a better video camera if the response to the garden videos is good.  Usually I do my dance videos outside so the light factor isn’t as critical.

We have just ordered LED lights that will replace all the tube fluorescents in our home and will put out a great deal more light.  They function without a ballast and are wired into the existing fixture.  We are waiting for them to be shipped as they are on back order.  When we replace them, I’ll do a blog on that too.

Have a wonderful day everyone and happy seed starting!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Food Garden Plans

Oh, the joy of lists and planning and making maps.  Planning out the 2017 food garden has been completed.  Last year was our Shemitah year in which we did not intentionally plant or grow any food plants.  It was the seventh year rest and I have to say that I missed my kale, Swiss chard and cherry tomatoes the most.  I did plant my flower bulbs and tubers and enjoyed them but the garden beds were left to their own devices, which meant that they grew whatever seeds were in the soil.  We had volunteer dill, fennel, rue, lamb’s ear, stinging nettle, lettuce, kale, morning glories and sunflowers grow in and around the beds.

Now we are done with resting and on to growing!  This year I have made some changes to how I put together our typical plan.

Rare sunshine… in the middle of a snowfall of course

Usually I start my plan with a list of all the varieties of plants I want to grow that has caught my fancy.  Logistics may or may not factor into some of the choices.  Of course I pick the obvious ones like tomatoes, peas and marigolds, but I have also chosen watermelon or several varieties of winter squash which take up large amounts of space that I do not have.  This “wanting ALL the plants” leads to a ginormous amount of seeds that I start in my seed tray.  25 seeds planted in my slotted seed tray does not look like a lot.  However when these babies get planted out into paper pots, it takes up a lot of space.  Even worse, I then can’t figure out where to plant these babies in the garden and many of them languish in the trays until Sir T dumps them because they are ugly… and it is July.  This makes planning and planting slightly stressful as I’m always behind, trying to pack too much in, while unhappy plants “yell” at me to give them a home.

Enough madness, this year T and I started our 2017 Garden Plan with our goals of what we wanted to harvest from the garden.  When I do garden coaching, that is the first priority we discuss.  Knowing what you want guides you down an easier path to where you want to go.  We made the following list:

More herbs and edible flowers in our diet
Why?  More varied diet and nutrition spectrum
How?  Salad, drying herbs, freezing herbs, intentionally including them in a meal
Where?  Beds 11 and 12 and the herb garden
What?  Nasturtium, basil, chives, parsley, dill,

Salsa to can
Why?  Want a good organic salsa
How? Can 100 jars of salsa – we eat approximately 2 jars a week
Where? 5 beds of nightshade plants – odd numbered ones
What?  Tomato, onions, peppers, hot peppers

Freeze cherry tomatoes
Why?  Use all winter, easy to process
How?  Pick, wash, dry and pack in a single layer in a ziplock bag and freeze
Where? In nightshade beds
What?  Pick the best tasting and producing varieties and grow those

Eat at least 2 salads a week from our garden
Why?  Save money on buying greens, higher quality fresher greens
How?  Planned succession planting, cut and come again, intentional planned harvest
Where?  Beds 11 and 12
What?  Use every variety of greens and lettuce seed that we have, start seed indoors on a schedule and plant out in the garden

Juicing twice a week
Why?  Get more greens in
How?   Intentional harvesting and freezing for winter use
Where?  Even numbered beds
What? Grow swiss chard, kale, greens

This list was my guideline on how to plan the garden.  Very quickly it is apparent that we desire a great number of the nightshade plants.  Typically in the past, I have reserved 4 beds total for all nightshade plants and rotated them as a group around the garden beds.  This year, I increased that number to 5 beds which is half of my 10 4’x8’ beds.  I decided that I would try switching them back and forth each year from odd to even for my crop rotation.  When the tomato beds were all next to each other, it was hard to get between them as the cherry tomatoes would often grow very vigorously and if I did not keep them pruned or in bounds, they became a huge mass that was hard to harvest.  By putting a non – nightshade bed in-between them, I am hoping that the crowding will be less as well.

Next I listed all the types of food we wanted to grow, focusing on the list of goals above.  Several food plants were rejected right off like carrots and watermelon.  Carrots do not like me. Or rather perhaps I just cannot get them to like my conditions.  I have not learned how to be successful with consistent germination and growing of the few carrots that do germinate. Several years of poor germination, bitter woody carrots and all around too much fuss for the amount of production, I am buying my carrots from a friend at the Farmer’s market.  Despite the fact I have oh… seven??? varieties of seed, we will not be growing them this year.

Watermelon is off the list for the simple reason that it does not ripen in time to be harvested before frost.  We did have a volunteer watermelon plant grow in our goji bed several years ago and that was the year of our miracle watermelons.  We have never replicated that event and since we really do not have the space for the monstrous beast that is a watermelon plant, it was nixed.

This list was then broken down into families.  All the nightshade was grouped together, greens, brassicas, beans, summer squash and so on.  This helped me to focus which groups of plants could go in beds together and how to plan a rotation for next year.  Some calculating, plant spacing, arranging and strategizing all produced a rough garden plan organized by beds with the number of plants that would fit in that space.

We grow using a combination of French intensive planting and square foot gardening.  Typical vegetable garden plantings have rows of plants with specific spacing with an aisle in-between each row.  In French intensive gardening, the beds are generally as wide as can be reached into from either side (3 to 4 feet wide).  The soil is carefully prepared with manure and compost while the plants are carefully spaced quite close to each other so the leaves touch as adults.  Plants are arranged in multiple rows and columns within the space without an aisle.  This creates a sort of living mulch, shading out the soil to prevent weeds and conserve moisture, while increasing production of the space.

Square foot gardening is the idea of French intensive gardening, divided into squares and specifically created for raised bed gardening in urban settings.  Each square is planted with a specific variety of plant at a certain density.  The spacing is all figured out for you so you can plant your raised bed like a paint by numbers craft.  We use a combination of the two practices in our planning of our raised beds.   The spacing of plants is determined by data from these practices, the seed packet and our recorded data from past years.

Rooper’s orchid is blooming again

Armed with this data, I finally started the selection of varieties, the place where I usually start the whole process.  I chose the exact number of varieties that I had room for.  I had room for 4 cabbages.  I have 3 different varieties of cabbage, but Sir T and I like the purple kind better than the green so I chose the 2 purple varieties to start.  Since I want 2 plants from each variety, I planned to plant 3 seeds of each.  All my numbers were written down and entered into Garden Time, the garden minder program that tells me when to plant, transplant and start the harvest.

While I enter the data into my kindle, I also diagram my garden bed maps out both in list form and on graph paper.  I have to admit that I am a paper and pencil kind of girl.  Sir T prefers electronic recording methods.  We use both mediums.  I have a 3 ring notebook in which I keep all the paper garden plans and data collection.   Garden Time lives on the kindle and my seed list is on a google doc for easy access from all the computers.  We have found this works best for right now.  It may change as new technology comes out or crashes.

Plan is engaged and seeds are planted!