The Permaculture Garden – mid-January

January is a time for gardeners (in the Northern Hemisphere) to dream. It’s a time to think about what you want to do with your garden this coming year – and maybe to also think about what community projects and initiatives you want to create or join.

It is a great idea to keep a garden journal in which you write – or draw – out your garden plans, your activities, and your dreams. I sometimes sketch out my gardens – especially if I am proposing to create a new garden bed. I always make a list of what I hope to grow in my garden in the coming months and plan out what I am going to grow from seed (and start indoors or sow directly in the ground) or purchase as seedlings.

January is a perfect time to research heirloom, organic seed companies and nurseries in your  region. If you live near Guelph, Ontario I highly recommend you attend the Guelph Organic Conference. The trade show – which is free – always features at least three amazing seed companies. The Saturday and Sunday workshops are interesting, informative, and appealing to a wide variety of organic growers. If you don’t live near Guelph, keep an eye out for Seedy Saturday events that happen throughout North America in March and April. They are fantastic opportunities to buy seeds from small, organic seed companies and to meet other gardeners. Before going to these events, take inventory of the seeds you already have and think about how you can share the excess (I share my seeds with the Seed Library located at my local library). I find it hard to source a wide variety of native plants and edible perennials so the winter months are a good time for me to do some research.

It is crucially important for permaculturalists to be engaged in community initiatives in public spaces and you can start planning your involvement in the winter. Is there a community food forest you can volunteer with or a seed library initiative? How about a local guerrilla gardening or Food not Bombs group? Even if you can’t find an initiative and don’t feel ready to create your own, you can do some gardening in your front yard or a community garden plot. Public permaculture projects allow us to have important conversations with people about living differently within nature; the importance of people using public spaces in participatory and democratic ways; and the need for grassroots changes within the food system. Public permaculture projects are also fantastic ways to get to know the people who live in your neighbourhood.

This year, I hope to install a Little Free Seed Library beside my Little Free Library and to do further work on my front yard Carolinian Forest Garden. These projects involve sharing – something that seems simple and unremarkable but that confronts the values of a society based on mass consumerism.

And don’t forget to spend some time in your outdoor spaces! Walk around and see what is happening even in the dead of winter.

Here are pictures from my stroll around my backyard today. You will notice that I leave most perennial stems standing although I cut some to expose the pith.  I do a garden “clean-up” (kind of) in the spring instead of the fall. I leave pithy stems for nesting bees and other insects. We have pet rabbits and I dump their used bedding right on my garden beds. It breaks down quickly and does not need to composted like the wastes of other animals. I try to create lots of spaces for wild animals in my backyard as evidenced by the pile of brush in the back corner. Hopefully there are some hibernating snakes living there! The last picture is my box of seeds – my stroll has inspired me to figure out what to seeds to share and what seeds I need to acquire for the growing season.

Happy garden dreaming!

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