Thirteen Harvests

If only I could grow coffee…

Seeds, Seeds and More Seeds

I start planting my garden in February, when the ground is frozen and covered in snow.  In the third and fourth week of February, you’ll find me dragging the plant shelves into the house, testing heating mats, cleaning and checking watering trays for holes and preparing seed starting potting soil mix.  But before I start any of this, I have to purchase my seeds.

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Do-it-yourself or Buy Preassembled: Seeds versus Plants

Let me start by making one thing clear:

It is absolutely, positively, 100% fine, acceptable, legitimate, honorable, worthwhile and supportive of real American values to purchase plants from a garden center, plant nursery, grocery store, department store, home goods store or whatever kind of store you may find with the types of plants you want for your garden.

That said, I don’t do it.


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Veggies or Flowers or Fruit Plants (Oh, My!)

Do you hate the way store-bought tomatoes taste?  Do you simply love the idea of harvesting string beans for an hour and coming into the house with only a small handful to show for it (because you ate most of them right off the vine)?  Do you wish you could just go outside whenever you need to and grab a handful of fresh parsley for a recipe?  Do you think sunflowers and gladiolus are the only types of flowers that need to exist?

The answer to all of the above questions, and many more that I haven’t asked here, is probably “Yes!”  Or maybe it’s “No, not exactly…” But the point is that you can define your own questions along these lines, questions that, for you, will be answered with a resounding “Yes!”  The beauty of a backyard garden is that you can put whatever you want or need in it and, given proper care and the right conditions, you will enjoy the results for many weeks or months of the year.

So, now that you have picked a location and started thinking about how much space you want to devote to your garden, the next thing I’d suggest you do is figure out what, exactly, you want to grow.

There are many ways to go about doing this.

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Space: The Gardener’s Frontier

So have you picked out the area of your yard you want to use for your garden, if you’re just starting out?  Or, if you’re not just starting out, have you decided if you are moving or expanding the garden from what it was last year?

Good!  The cats and I are pleased by this.

The next thing to think about is how big you want your garden to be, what shape you want it to be and how you might want to split up and use the space.  These decisions will impact the number and types of plants you can include in the garden as well as how easy it is for you to gather the harvest, remove weeds and handle the weather.

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It’s All About Location

So you want to start a garden in your yard?  Fantastic!  You’re joining millions of us gardeners in an activity that is fun, relaxing and rewarding. Like all things that are worthwhile, gardening takes a lot of work and dedication, but it can become a great source of joy and pride, not to mention the rewards of fresh vegetables and flowers. As an added benefit, you’ll now have an excuse to watch The Weather Channel at any and all times of the day and night (admit it, you’re addicted to it just like I am).  Now you need to watch– it’s not just because the tales depicted on “Storm Stories” are so emotional and compelling or because you’re curious about which on-air weather personality is pregnant this week, but because you are “researching” whether or not you will need to water the garden, or if you need to cover your young seedlings to protect them from frost.  Trust me, the “Local on the 8’s” are your friend and, at times, the most exciting thing on TV!

Weather aside, if you’re just starting out, you’re probably thinking what I thought while squinting in my backyard on that fateful summer’s day in 1995 when I decided to start my own little garden:

Ugh!  Where do I begin?

If you’re like me, you may have had that thought cross your mind while bits of random horror film soundtracks or perhaps “The Imperial March” from “Star Wars”, or maybe some eerily bad Bee Gees song played loudly in the background of your mind. 

But don’t despair! 

Over the next few posts here on Thirteen Harvests, I hope to give one possible set of beginning steps.  In reality, there are many different ways you can get started and I am presenting just one ordered set of options.  And while the details may be slightly different, for the most part, whether you’re starting your very first garden or simply preparing your existing garden for the next season, you have the same steps to take. 

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Welcome to Thirteen Harvests

Greetings and Happy New Year from my frozen garden in Hamilton, New Jersey!


Even though the ground is frozen, the compost pile is dormant and the flowers are all gone, there’s still a lot of work going on for the garden.

Here on Thirteen Harvests I hope to provide helpful information, interesting pictures and (hopefully) funny observations related to planning, planting, maintaining, harvesting and surviving the backyard gardening experience.  My advice and observations will be based solely on what I have seen and experienced.  Anything you read on this site which resembles scientific fact should be considered anecdotal evidence at best.  Anything you find useful should probably be considered the result of dumb luck, lucky guessing or a ghost writer.  Anything you find that is blatantly wrong…. well, that was probably written by the cats.

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