Peanut - Arachis hypogaea
I am one of those “plant people”…everything I do goes back to growing plants; conversations with friends and family, making goals with co-workers, gifting neighbors with a bountiful harvest…if I could, I would be a plant. I always have some sort of excuse to talk about my plant children:
- During Spring, I am out in the yard watching the emerging plants; annual seeds cracking their shells, perennials pushing through the frosty earth, bulbs in full bloom, and trees putting on colorful new twig growth.
- During Summer, I am out in the yard tending to the gardens nearly every day; harvesting fresh produce and admiring the hard work from our plants.
- During Fall, I am preparing everything for Winter’s rest; digging up root crops and mulching for cold protection.
- During Winter, I am resting with internal reflection; maintaining potted tropical plants and planning the garden for Spring.
If you are like me, you have subscribed to all of the plant and seed catalogs, the promotional E-Mails, the newsletter from the local greenhouse, and even the industrial sized greenhouse materials provider (don’t judge me, I can have dreams). My wife and I have committed over half of our yard to growing space; in our minds, grass is almost a nuisance item. We appreciate the grass for retaining soil/water and being a place to play with our puppies, but if we could, we would utilize all of our land for growing space.
I will not say that I am a Master Gardener, however I am a master at my garden. I can name (almost) everything that is growing in our yard, where each plant is located, when to harvest it, growing conditions, life cycle, and more. Each year, I seem to be adding more growing space or changing up what we grow; trying my hands at a new plant and seeing how I can make it flourish.
One of the most difficult decisions my wife and I have to make is what plants we will grow each year. Since we live in the Midwest (Nebraska), we have such a short growing season. Now, I know that our friends to the north have an even shorter growing season, but the weather in the Midwest makes such an impact on what and when we plant.
On average, our growing season is from late April/early May to October-ish. Our Spring fluctuates between mild rainy days and freezing snow showers. Summer is quickly hot and humid, almost being too intense for many plant varieties. Fall can be long and drawn out or abrupt, with a sudden frost that freezes everything in a flash. Winter is typically uneventful with sudden bursts of snow, leaving all of our tender plants as dry as a bone.
Having such unpredictable weather leaves us with limited options, so we have learned to become crafty when selecting our crops. There are so many options, but we have narrowed it down to four categories for our gardens: Culinary, Floral, Pollinator, and Medicinal. We have selected these categories based off of our personal needs and desires…
- Culinary: We love walking through our vegetables and picking most of our meal from our garden. Our produce always seems to be extra tasty compared to what we find at the store. Whether we eat it raw or cook it for dinner, there is always something special about growing our own food. Supplementing meals with fresh greens and collecting bulk herbs for drying. It is so satisfying to sow seeds in the spring, see them break through the Earth’s crust, fill with leaves, and provide plump perfect produce. This bed is placed right outside our kitchen window; we will always know what we have in stock for dinner.
- Floral: I was a floral designer before I became the Sales Guy for Prairie Star; I love being able to transform the energy of a room with floral artistry. With horticulture as my background, I have become attached to certain plants where their main purpose is to be beautiful, more than anything else. Appealing to the eye, these plants cannot help but to put a smile on my face. This type of plant is perfect to put where we cannot control what goes into the surrounding soil (near exhaust pipes, pavement, etc.) and helps to create a buffer for our edible plants.
- Medicinal: Everything that we need to stay healthy already exists in nature, we just have to know what to use and how to use it. We have a plot dedicated specifically for growing our medicine for personal use for friends and family. Luckily, many of the native prairie plants have medicinal benefits and thrive with minimal care. Growing your own medicine is very empowering; taken regularly to prevent disease or taken in-the-moment to fight the onset of colds and flus. This plot has been placed right in the center of our lawn, on a hill, the best place to prevent fertilizer runoff from neighbors’ lawns, away from vehicle pollution, and away from heavy salt deposits over Winter.
- Pollinator: One of the most important additions to the backyard garden, pollinator-friendly plants. Pollinators have such an important role in our everyday lives; pollination of produce, hybridization for future plant species, food for other animals, population control for invasive species, and the list goes on and on. Pollinating insects are not just bees, they also include flies, moths, butterflies, beetles, and ants (just to name a few). It is very easy to include pollinator friendly plants into your garden, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes:
- Tube-shaped flowers are great for butterflies and hummingbirds
- Bell-shaped flowers are great for bees and beetles
- Flat or Open-faced flowers are great for flies and moths
- Resin or high-sap/nectar producing flowers are great for ants
Not only can you plant for nectar collection, but you can plant for feeding insect life cycles. With careful crop selection, you can have plants for larva to feed and grow on, house insects for metamorphosis, or provide protection for mature insects to lay eggs. One of the best ways to provide for your pollinating friends is to have a wide variety of plants in your garden; making sure that blooming occurs continually throughout the year and you have many flowers of different shapes.
The next step is to determine what plants are suitable for the growing conditions surrounding our home; shade or full sun, wet or dry, sandy or clay or loamy soil, etc. Luckily, each category has plants that are suitable for nearly every growing condition. Be sure to do research on your specific spot of land to see how much sun different locations receive, moisture levels in the soil, exposure over Winter, and neighboring trees and buildings creating shadows.
Now, the best part, deciding what to plant!! Every reliable plant/seed company will indicate the cold hardiness, light requirements, and water preferences of a plant. They may also indicate if it is an annual, biannual, perennial, bulb/rhizome/corm, or heavy seeder. Through my years of gardening and personal research, I have found several resources that I can whole-heartedly trust as my plant providers.
- Prairie Moon Nursery – Full of native plants for the prairie, wetlands, shaded/forested areas, native grasses, and medicinal varieties. Locally sourced and based out of the Midwest. Bulk options for prairie restoration or large at-home projects. Detailed information for seeds that need specific germination requirements.
- Strictly Medicinal – Excellent source for medicinally used plants. Varieties all the way from the Midwest to Asia. Seeds, established plants, and roots available. Growing information for specific conditions. Information on how to process your medicinal plants. Materials for making your own herbal extracts.
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds – Many varieties for produce and quality fresh cut flowers for floral arranging. They have organic and heirloom varieties available, along with medicinal and culinary herbs. Seeds, seedlings, bare root, bulbs, and even garden supplies are available.
- American Meadows – Wild flower seed provider with options specified to different growing regions. Carries annuals, perennials, bulbs, and gardening supplies. Great for the pollinator garden but also has fresh cut flowers for floral arranging, culinary, and ornamental plants. Carries unique varieties along with unique planting methods.
- Your own garden – So long as you don’t mind possible hybridization from your neighbors’ plants, you can save your own seeds at home. It is never too early to start a collection and you will collect more than you could ever use in one year. You know the source that they came from and they are free! The trick is to know when to collect them before they drop and seed for next year.
If you are like me, you have been paying attention to the weather forecasts to see just how early you can get back out into your garden. Sowing seeds outside that need cold stratification, planning your first round of cold-crop plants, and starting your seeds indoors for a higher yield this Summer. Both, plants and our bodies, have been showing signs that Spring is on its way. May you enjoy the fruits of your labor this year…happy planting!**
**These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is for educational purposes only and not intended as medical advice.