January is here. This is the time of year I vacillate between wanting to grow EVERYTHING next year, and wanting to grow nothing. In that, I mean I have so many plants, and wouldn't it be nice to have a break. But then I love the warm sun, soil on my hands, and walking the garden on a warm summer night. I don't like ticks, which come with country living, or having to change clothing when I come inside from the garden to ensure I am not a host to one. Do you watch YouTube? Do you see all of the channels that have women in long, flowing skirts, with hair to their waist, walking through tall waist-high grasses, laying down on the ground, and picking herbs with bare arms and shoulders? Does that seem as unrealistic to you as it does to me? What I mean is that the dream of the idyllic garden and the reality of the hard work that goes into growing thousands of plants is at odds in January, when it is cold and there is much time to idle and read, hangout with my (adult) kids, and work on home projects. Of course in the end, I crave and dream of the garden, even if I am wearing ankle and wrist guards and have my clothing all tucked into my socks and have my hair under a hat. I enjoy weeding and picking and harvesting, even if wearing rose gloves to the shoulder. And, I know that though there were some failures last year, there are new plants to grow, new things to try, more space to fill, and more challenges to learn and grow as an herbalist, aromatherapist, and grower. There is always more to do, more to grow, and new plants to experience.
Every January I sit with my boxes of seeds that I put away last fall, and I sort them. I filter out the things we didn't really like or that didn't work well, and I box and organize the things I know I want to grow again. We do grow a lot of perennials, and some are short-lived perennials, so they must be replanted every year or two. Some are root perennials, so I dig them up and they need to be replanted every year or two. And, every single year we continue to plant more fruit and perennial food, so that eventually we have a significant amount of plants that need minimal care and produce a LOT of food. Trees can take years, so I continue to plant new trees from seed, bare root, and transplants, every year.
I also dig through all of the veggie and fruit seeds to see what I have still, and filter out any old seeds or seeds that performed poorly, or what we didn't really like. I remove what didn't do well in our soil. I always want to buy all the new veggie seeds, but make myself go through and see what I have still, first. It is hard to resist buying all the seeds, but I try.
I do buy annual flower seeds every year as well, so I love going through all of my seeds and then picking a thematic color for the bouquets and flowers I'm growing. Two years ago I had all the colors - but last year I picked all warm pinks and creams, and this year I am going with all peach, brown, cream, and warm gold. I love having a cutting garden, where I can walk and cut fresh flowers for the house every day. I do also grow some flowers that don't come into the house as they are not safe for my animals (lily, etc.) but I do grow them to deter deer and for their beauty and fragrance.
Other considerations for seeds includes at-risk plants, woodland medicinals, and natives that I want to grow and expand. There are many native plants that I grow a few of every year, and plant out annually to expand the stands we are developing in the shade and wooded areas. I also do purchase bare roots, rhizomes, and transplants to go in ground each fall and spring. One of my projects is to also expand the sweetgrass that is already growing here. I think it is my most favorite aroma on the planet. It is the smell of the upper midwest prairies in the summer. I love that we have enough so that even walking out in the prairie areas of our land I can smell it in waves. Every time anything is mowed the smell wafts and drifts down the road from all of the roadsides and neighbors. I want to plant more sweetgrass in other grassy areas we have, so that I have more to harvest. And so that the world smells of Sweetgrass in July.
I so love aromatic plants in general (I'm also an aromatherapist) and want to continue to grow aromatic plants that I can distill into hydrosols and infuse into oils and other carriers to create my own aromatic apothecary of plants in addition to those that I carefully select from ethical producers to use. So, with that, perennial and annual aromatic plants and plants that have amazing properties as hydrosols are wonderful, including those natives that I love so much such as yarrow, violet, and sweetgrass. We also have pine, spruce, juniper, and cedar on our land, as well as cottonwood, rose, sweet woodruff, goldenrod, plantain, chickweed, cleavers, and other cultivated plants such as other rose varieties, lilac, thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, tulsi, lemon balm, mountain mint, hairy mountain mint, catnip, peppermint, spearmint, hyssop, chamomile, yauhtli, pepicha, and others that have amazing aroma and flavor.
This year I have gone through my main list of seeds, and have a growing list of what we will be starting from seed and growing this year. This first list ONLY has new herbs and flowers, and does not yet contain vegetables except for fruit bare root trees I have purchased and potato starts I have coming in spring. This list is on a separate tab from our existing natives, and from the perennials we are planting in succession in past years. I also have dye garden herbs in this round, and will probably add a few more, but need to decide what to purchase!
It feels like a good start. Next, to hone the list and fix up the names, and then start adding the final vegetables/greens/fruit seeds we will be planting. I bought a lot of seeds last year, but we had a lot of poor germination, so I might try purchasing my food seeds from another company, to see if we can get better results.
Anything special you are starting this year, or excited to try growing?
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, permaculture designer, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two young adults in south central Wisconsin.
©2007-23 Denise Cusack, all photos and text. Feel free to share my posts on FB or Twitter or online media or pin on Pinterest (thank you!), but please keep the links back to my website intact (meaning please do not take or copy my images off of this website and share them unattributed or without linking back here or use them without permission). Thank you! :)
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