Getting ready for a Backyard Garden (in the thick of winter)

This article will helpfully point you in the right direction if you are looking for how to get started on gardening, even though we are smack dab in the thick of winter right now.

This is my sixth winter in New England. I’m originally from Florida, and this is only the second winter that I’ve been home full time. The first winter when we moved here I took six months off to acclimate to living in a new state with my kids. That first winter we spent in an apartment, and gardening was the last thing on my mind. This year I’d like to add gardening to our homeschooling curriculum so now is a good time to do some research and planning.

Here are a few books I’ve invested in to help me plan for an amazing harvest:

I set out to read as much as I can on gardening, in between knitting and shoveling snow. I wanted a few gems that will make our garden more magical and educational. The first book that really whet my appetite to start a garden was The Green Witch’s Garden by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. To be honest, green witchery always appealed to me. I was never really into rituals and calling corners, I am into getting back to nature. There is a cycle to gardening of birth, life, hibernating, and re-birth that is really inspiring.

The Green Witch’s Garden is really beneficial if you are looking for ways to make gardening a more spiritual act. There are helpful rituals spelled out for you to connect to your land and set about to honor the space. This book is more focused on magic and less on gardening itself. The author admits in the introduction that the book is not meant to be a step-by-step guide. This book is meant to inspire and offer spiritual insight from an experienced green witch. Setting intentions is so important for magic, so this is something new witches may want to add to their library. The author also takes time to explain the different types of gardens that witches may want to incorporate into their space.

Although I enjoyed this book for its nature-based perspective, it didn’t have enough information for me to actually start a garden. Also, it didn’t address the primal need I feel to make my backyard a homestead for my family. So I went to my local library to look through some books.

Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens by Barbara Pleasant was the first book I picked up on vegetable gardening and it actually blew my mind. One of the first things it explained was planting seeds directly into the potting soil. Like, while it is still in the bag. Just cut the top off and plant it in the soil while it is in the bag! This is a bit of genius. If you only knew the horror of dragging 40 lb bags of soil without a wheelbarrow and then dumping them. My back still aches thinking about it!

Starter Vegetable Gardens has basic plans for the beginner gardener and goes forward three years so you can see how to rotate crops and make the most of your garden. This book includes detailed lists for supplies, seeds, and plants for every project, a timeline, and how-to info. I loved that this book also has a full glossary of common plants. The glossary includes when to plant and things to know about each type of vegetable listed. For a started book this has everything you need.

Another book I came to buy is Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Healthy Garden by Deborah L. Martin. My library did also have Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indepensible Resource for Every Gardener, but it was $45 last I checked. That’s a bit more than I want to invest right now. The basic version (as pictured) of this book his almost as good.

While the ultimate version of this book has more topics in it’s encyclopedia, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has everything I am actually looking for. It has the basics for starting a garden and it covers all the plants that I plan to start with. This book can be read cover-to-cover or it can be used as an encyclopedic guide on what to plant, care and considerations, and when to plant. This book explains tools you’ll need, soil types and testing, compost, starting from seedlings vs baby plants, and a lot more. I’m sure I’ll be referring to this book a lot when it comes to my garden this year.

The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! (The BackYard Homestead) by Carleen Madigan really inspired me! Coincidentially, we have 1/4 acre right here in suburbia.

The Backyard Homestead is broken up into sections:

  • The Home Vegetable Garden
  • Backyard Fruits and Nuts
  • Easy, Fragrant Herbs
  • Home Grown Grains
  • Poultry for Eggs and Meat
  • Meat and Dairy
  • Food From the Wild

I read this book cover-to-cover. It was an inspiring read for me, although I don’t intend on adding everything in this book. I found myself explaining to my husband that we need chickens. A few days later, he asked if I was planning on keeping bees as well. Ummm, yea actually.

So I know this book is pretty popular in the homesteading community for good and bad reasons. For me it was all good. It also prompted me to buy a few more The Backyard Homestead books, like The Backyard Homestead 2022-2023: Step-By-Step Guide to Start Your Own Self Sufficient Mini Farm on Just a Quarter Acre With the Most Up-To-Date Information. That was another book I read cover to cover.

It goes without saying that I’m a big reader. I’m also kind of a dreamer. I have to be careful that I don’t invest too much in head knowledge without being willing to do the hands-on work. I think there comes a point where you just need to start doing and stop planning. That’s where I am at right now. I educated myself from books as much as dared to (I read a few other books on the subject but these are the ones I purchased). I made the commitment to the type of garden I want, purchased the equipment and seeds, educated myself on soils to use, and now I wait for seedling time. I’ll cover the type of garden I plant in future posts, and how I incorporate them into homeschooling. I hope you’ll check back to see our progress.

Have you ever thought of gardening or homesteading?

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