While I'll let the garden stay as is, this year I'm on a roll to start my seeds indoors - on time, for once. I hope the ever-fickle Mother Nature doesn't come around with a late cold snap to bite me in the butt...the one time I am proactive in my planning.
I have never tested the soil where I plant my vegetable garden, but I know it's an important part of the process. Just like for us, the right nutrients are essential to the growth and development of your vegetable garden. For under $4, I bought an at-home kit to test the nitrogen, phosphorus, pH and potassium of the soil. It contains 4 test tubes for the soil, and a capsule to break into each tube. Then add distilled water and wait for the color to adjust. The kit comes with a color coded chart so that you can match your results and know the levels of your soil. Pretty cool. There are certainly more thorough tests that can be done if you are worried about lead and other heavy metals - in Pennsylvania we are able to send them off to a local university, something I learned through the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Garden Tenders workshop I participated in a couple of years ago.
I also purchased a self-watering seed tray for 36 plants. I've decided to go for quality over quantity this year. I always purchase heirloom seeds, so there's no issue with quality there, but I have been known to let my garden get a tad...unruly. There. I said it. In fact, last year it was complete chaos. My dinosaur kale was enormous and there was way too much of it. My lettuce was in a perfect spot to be constantly pooped on my the lovely resident mourning doves. My tomatoes were akin to Goliath and were coming up not only where I planted them, but where tomatoes fell into the garden last year and were never pulled out for composting. Oh and I can't forget the forgotten squash, which I didn't check on until they were the size of a caveman's club, at which time they became dog toys. What a mess.
This year, I will keep things simple. Only the varieties of tomatoes I know I will eat in abundance - which means mostly cherry and pear tomatoes. Move the lettuce away from the favorite bird perch, go easy on the kale seeding and cut back the number of squash plants, which will allow a little more room to plant more beans. This will make a more manageable garden, and won't allow for as much waste. Despite the constant picking and sharing of garden bounty, it seemed as if there were always vegetables being missed, and then rotting.
I'm always daydreaming about the day I can have my own yard, complete with an abundant seasonal vegetable garden, chickens and the like, but for now I must remind myself to take advantage of and appreciate what is available. There aren't many renters out there who are fortunate enough to have as cool of a backyard and I do, and especially not in a city.
So with that, my friends, I leave you with thoughts of gratitude and a little hop in your step as we get another day closer to Spring.