Friday, January 11, 2013

"If good fences make good neighbors, should I assume you hate those people?"

I do this to myself every year. January comes around and I immediately start reading up on gardening. I have four more months before I can even start seeds (for the most part) so this is torture. I can only assume I'm some sort of masochist.
So here it is, January, snowing quite a bit today, and I'm reading a gardening book. When I need a break from that, I look at garden ideas on Pinterest. What is wrong with me? In the autumn I completely ignored everything garden related. Perhaps it was a natural defense, to not drive myself crazy when looking at about seven months of not gardening. But now, I feel a little bit obsessed. My brain is saying, GARDEN!
In some ways, I suppose, this is a good thing. After all, having a productive garden (or, er, a somewhat productive garden which gets neglected for half the summer like mine) requires lots of planning. I don't want to plant the same things in the same places year after year because that depletes the soil, so I need a bit of an idea about where to plant what (even if I never, ever, actually follow my garden plan). I'm always looking for cheap ways to make my garden more productive, or to build up the soil (which makes the garden more productive....), and good ideas for things to plant. This year, I don't think I'm going to buy, many seeds. I still have tons leftover from last year, some of which I didn't even get a chance to plant.
Building up the soil is something else which takes lots of time. I admit that I've become very, very neglectful of my compost. I don't add enough "brown" material, and I haven't even been putting in kitchen scraps. The bucket under the sink has had stuff in it for long enough that it's pretty much composted already. Well, it's too wet for that. Decomposed sludge? Yum. But, it's still very useful. One of my goals for the weekend is to remove the soil from one of my containers, fill the bottom half with compost, then spread the broken-up soil back over it. By the time I'm ready to plant in the spring the compost should be nicely broken down and both keeping the soil warm (to protect against cold spring temps) and adding nutrients to it for next year's crops. If I keep doing one bucket each weekend, all of them will be done by the end of February and then they'll have time to compost a bit for spring planting.
I have a few other outlets for my (sort of) green thumb. After two weeks of neglect, my plants at home and work need a little bit of TLC. My cyclamen (at home) died, which surprised me, and the violet (at work) which I expected to die looks perkier and better than when I left. ??? The rest of the plants just need some care to revive. I added some plant food to the water today for the work plants (I usually don't fertilize over the winter because they don't do much growing due to the lack of light), and I'll do the same for my plants at home this weekend.
Just before the break I spoke with another gardener at work (she's the one who grows the amazing plants on the fifth and sixth floors of the main campus library) about what could be wrong with my begonia. The tips of the leaves have been drying out and then they fall off. It's been getting plenty of water, but not too much, so it's been baffling me. It's also still a small plant (about a foot high, with 6 leaves) so I was worried I was going to kill it. Turns out, it's probably got fluoride poisoning. While Fairbanks doesn't put fluoride into the water, the University still does. So I've been slowly poisoning it each week when I water it. To fix the problem I'm first trying to see if just changing the water will help, but if the two newest leaves still get the blight (or whatever it is) then I'll have to replant it in completely new soil and then avoid ever watering it with University water.
My one cherry tomato plant I have left at work is still producing tomatoes (I got five today!) and looks healthy and vibrant. By the end of January we should be getting enough light that I'll feel comfortable starting new tomato plants for work. My indoor pea and bean plants died sad deaths, so that experiment will not be repeated. The tomatoes, however, do consistently well.
I've also trimmed off a few more spider plant starts, which are in water to grow roots, and I'll plant those either next week or the week after. I love seeing how green and vibrant my work space is all winter!
The only downside to looking at all this gardening stuff is that I want to do it now. Yes, I'm incredibly impatient. I have the time and the inclination to do these things right now, and I have to wait. And wait. And wait. When summer comes around, I'll have less time than I imagine I will, my energy will be pulled in so many directions that I'll want to garden less than I think I will, and the end result will be a winter of impatiently waiting for the chance to garden and then a garden which is half-assed and neglected.
At least I'm honest with myself, right?

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