I love gardening and the meals that the kitchen garden offers, but I love traveling too. As I plan each year’s gardening calendar, decisions about when to plant are influenced by when I want to be away. Over the years, I’ve learned that with the help of gardening friends to water and to raise lights as indoor seeded plants grow I can arrange planting timetables that open spaces for travel throughout the year.
February and March are the months when I start seeds indoors for summer’s plants, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers; storage plants like shallots and onions; late spring plants like peas, broccoli and cauliflower; and long season plants like celery root.
Sometime in April, early or later depending on weather and when I’m home, I begin planting seeds in the ground, salad greens, spring turnips, carrots, beets, fennel and potatoes. In May I continue with seeds that need a little more warmth to germinate, corn and beans directly in the ground and squash in pots to germinate before setting them out as soon as they’ve formed true leaves. Late May is also the time to start leeks in pots or in a nursery bed so I can transplant pencil-size stalks in early July.
June to late July I’m thinking ahead to fall and winter vegetables, direct seeding parsnips in early June, starting Brussels sprouts indoors a week later, then cabbage, more broccoli and cauliflower indoors. In July I start kale, chard and more fennel, carrots and beets as well as winter turnips and rutabaga.
Early August and on into September I start seed of hardy greens like mache, arugula, mustards and radicchios. And from October to January I harvest fall and winter crops but have no more seeds to plant.
This planting summary suggests that October through January would be great months to travel and they are. Weeks of hiking and backpacking, more weeks of skiing, and longer trips farther away find room in the calendar. But spring is great for travel too. Attention to planting timetables and the help of a kind friend who’s happy to share my seed starting room to start her own plants make it possible.
Last year, I was away from the garden for most of April. Knowing that tomatoes take about six weeks from seeding to setting into the ground, I started tomato seeds on February 17th and set out sturdy plants in the greenhouse on March 27th a few days before leaving for a month.
The same day I started tomatoes I also started some broccoli and cauliflower and set these starts out in the garden just before we left. On March 1st I seeded a flat of onions and set robust plants out in the garden when I returned at the end of April. Also on March 1st I started a flat of sugar snap peas and set them out in the garden on March 18th. Finally, because I wanted to have eggplant and pepper starts ready to plant out when I returned, I started seeds in 1-inch cells on March 8th , moved these tiny seedlings to 4-inch pots three weeks later, just before leaving, and when I returned in a month sturdy plants were ready for the garden.
This year I’ll be traveling for most of March and into April. Encouraged by my success last year, I modified the timetable slightly. I’ll be back April 5th so I started tomatoes February 22nd and hope for plants to set out soon after I return. I’m starting eggplant and peppers in 2×2 inch pots March 6th, the day before I leave, and hope they’ll be ready to pot up into 4-inch pots when I return and then be ready for the garden a few weeks after that. I seeded onions on March 1st again this year but not peas. This spring has been so cold and wet that I’ll wait until I return to plant peas. And I’ll leave the broccoli and cauliflower I started February 22nd in 4-inch pots and hope they won’t be too overgrown to set out when I return.
Finding a balance between garden and travel, between being home and being away is a challenge for a year-round kitchen gardener but the adventure of travel makes it worth the effort.