I picked up some new seeds, one of those seed starter plastic contraptions, some biodegradable starter containers, and some "kits" that were nearby.
We got a little (7cm) terra cotta pot with soil and seeds to grow cactus. I just gave away all our cactus seeds in a recent swap, but this was $1 and it came with everything you needed. Why not give it a try. Yesterday #3 opened it up and got it set up. It's sitting on a shelf in the kitchen now. The instructions say to keep it moist and that it may sprout in 1-3 months. Yikes! Once it sprouts we are to poke toothpick holes in the plastic wrap over the top, then wait another 1-3 months until the seedlings have reached the size of a pencil eraser. Then we can remove the plastic and treat them as normal plants. Well, hopefully our patience will pay off and we will have some interesting cactus plants growing by the time our outside gardens start to take off.
Someday maybe I'll have a nice greenhouse where I can start playing with dirt and seeds in January without worrying about taking over the entire house with seedlings. I'm itching to start winter sowing already, but I know it's still early. The only things that should be going out right now are things that need cold treatment in order to sprout - like apple seeds. All of my apple seeds are in the refrigerator though,so they're already ready to grow - just add soil.
I've been thinking a lot about a space that I can grow in that isn't technically mine. The end of our driveway curves along the road, and technically that part (the far end) of the driveway is owned by the state as part of the road and ditch. They only mow a few feet in from the road to keep a clear view, the rest is left to us. The past two summers we've left it alone, letting it all grow tall and letting the milkweed and other wild flowers go to seed and spread. I refuse to cut it down knowing there's milkweed there (an important food for monarch butterflies). I want to use the space more efficiently, beautify our area, but still stay true to the wild space that it is. I won't spend any money on it and I have no intention of maintaining it (tilling, weeding, etc.). This means my options are fairly limited. It's also labeled as part of the road that is across the road from us, so on a map people often think our driveway is an extension of the other road. We get people coming down our driveway frequently - hence why we have a gate further up the driveway in the summer. There is the very real possibility of people stopping and taking anything I grow out there. Another reason why I won't go out of my way to spent money on planting it.
But I digress. I went through my seed list and I made a list of the varieties I have a lot of seeds for. Some are older, some have poor germination, some are just common types. I'm using this shorter list to come up with ideas for what I can plant out there. I'm thinking a scoop of the black oil sunflower seeds I feed our birds could create a nice sunflower patch. Birds and small mammals will probably enjoy the feast at the end of the year when the seeds mature. We also have black eyed susan seeds. More flowers always seem to attract more pollinators. I wonder if amaranth or poppies might be good options. I've considered perhaps putting out some mint. It's far from the house and not likely to spread given the geography of that particular space.
I'm fighting with myself on weather to use food seeds or not. I have plenty to spare of some varieties, and since I still have to go check the mail every day, it's not like checking and harvesting produce would be an inconvenience. Quite the opposite, it would make me look forward to the long walk, possibly encourage more activity, and possibly provide us with even more food that won't need fencing to protect it from the birds. Our chickens and geese destroyed most of my garden space the last two years. I'm still learning how to balance it all - free range birds and a productive garden. My concern, aside from the potential of having my produce stolen by people pulling in and turning around in our driveway, is that the space is near both a road and a railway. I don't know if either sprays anything to keep plants at bay. I don't want my food sprayed with chemicals, or exposed to chemicals that could be leaching in from other contaminants. Our property is kept all natural - no herbicides, no pesticides, no chemical fertilizers. Just bunny (and bird) poop, soil, water, and sunlight. The way Mother Nature intended it to be.
So - do I go ahead and plant some food out there? I mean, if someone steals it, they clearly needed it more than I did. But will I feel good eating that produce when I worry about what could be around it? Maybe I'm being too picky. I mean, if it grows it must be healthy enough to have grown, alone, in the weeds and tall grass. Perhaps I should just try and feel lucky if I get some bonus produce.
I also have to figure out where it's just too wet to grow. Since it's near the edge of the lake, some of the space remains wet, some only floods in the spring, and some is average land. I'm open to ideas on what might grow well in the more waterlogged areas.
Then I thought about planting a tree or two. It's not near enough to the road to cause an issue, but again isn't technically my property. I wish the weeping willow tree I'd ordered last year had actually grown. The company sent me a stick - no roots at all. Like a fool, I planted it and tended to it all summer. Same with the hazelnut bushes and the plum and pear and peach trees. There's a wetter spot off to one side that I think would be idea for a weeping willow, but I have none to take cuttings from and refuse to waste my money buying another twig from a mail order catalog. I do plan on winter sowing more apple seeds this year. I managed to forget to water the seedlings in the entryway last summer and almost all of them died. I have a few under grow lights now overwintering in the house. They will need to go outside this summer. What an idea it would be to line the driveway with apple trees. The one apple tree up by the house produces a bountiful harvest, so I imagine that in 10-15 years when these seedlings finally get big enough to start producing their own apples, my older orchard inside the property lines will already be giving us as much as we can use. If apples are taken from the end of the driveway beyond the gate, is it such a loss?
What about rhubarb? Rhubarb is so overlooked in gardens. People tend to put it back in a corner and forget about it. When given full sun, it really gets pretty big and can have enormous leaves on heavy stems. If I were to border the other side of the driveway in rhubarb, I'd have enough to freeze and make rhubarb coffee cake year round! Since I have an abundance of seeds (despite my birds thinking last years seedlings were quite delicious), I could make this work.
In addition to all these thoughts, my mind is still looking for more places to plant perennial food items. I recently got more seeds for asparagus. I have nowhere specific to put an asparagus bed, and honestly all the guides make my brain go fuzzy. It can't be that hard to grow asparagus. Making trenches and hills and constant maintenance. If that's the case, how in the world does wild asparagus exist? Or the patch that was here when we moved in - untended for years on end? I want to winter sow asparagus, but I'm not even sure where I'd plant it. I want to try my hand at horseradish too, despite the fact that we don't even eat it.
The big seed trade package arrived yesterday. It took me most of the day to sort through it all. There were a couple surprises, but mostly just the trades I'd worked out with people and had been excitedly awaiting. This year I want to try Achocha (Bolivian cucumber). I only have a few seeds, but I'm told they're prolific and grow exuberantly. It sounds like it would be an excellent option to grow up and over a trellis and along the north fence of the new garden space on the west side of the house.
You might remember that last year I made a bunch of crochet dish cloths. I didn't have any luck selling them (not that I tried very hard). I found a funner way to make use of them. I've started stitching them together to create a patchwork crochet "quilt" blanket. The kids are already asking which one will get it. I think I'll give it to #4, since she's expressed interest in it, even though the colors aren't all of her favorite shades. The other kids have asked me to make them blankets now too, but usually with "but I want mine in this color" stipulations. I guess I'll be heading back to the yarn store next month when we can afford a new project. It should keep me busy for a while while I long for dirt and seeds. Winter sowing is coming...