It is always interesting to get off the ground for a bird’s eye view. Although it feels like spring is coming on fast, it would be nice to see a little more green in these pictures. In the coming months, I’ll post some more of these. It will be quite a contrast. At least, I hope it will be!
Although only two or three days shorter than other months, February always seems to fly by. Of course I was busy and even though I wanted to to grab some pictures and post a few, no posting happened. I did manage to snap a couple of pictures, but not as many as I should have. Spring has really taken hold and I love finding all her surprises while wandering around the garden. There was also work to do. I had a crew come and cut down a couple of trees and trim a few others. They left me with these nice piles of firewood and wood chips. I’ll have to wait a while to put the firewood to use, but the chips are spread around the front yard and things are looking tidy.
Although I admire the joyfulness of daffodils announcing spring, the elegant Lenten rose is the first flower in my garden to shake off its winter slumber. I am always glad to see it bloom.
Another flower that surprised me in February was this peach. This tree is a volunteer from the compost pile and seems to like the spot it has made home. I am not sure when I first noticed it, maybe it is 5 years old now. I’d love to get a peach (or two!) off of it, but it is in a shady spot, so I am not getting my hopes up. The flowers are a beautiful and welcome surprise, nonetheless.
February flew by and March seems to be on the same pace. I have been busy in the garden, both planting and building. This time of year is always so hopeful. I know the garden I am going to get in a few months time is nothing like the garden I have been planning all winter. Spring is here, though, and it is time to see what happens when my plans and Mother Nature collide!
I sketched out my planting plans a couple of months ago so I could go ahead and order any seeds I needed. Of course I was well aware that things could change, but I was feeling pretty good that I had made thoughtful, well reasoned choices. I am focusing a lot on the Spring season this year. Previously I had limited the Spring plants because I wanted to get the warm season plants in and then out for the Fall plants. But Fall is terrible in this garden, too much shade and too many bugs, and sometimes that doesn’t matter because it is just too hot to get the seeds started anyway. So the plan is to let Spring ride for a while and get the Summer crops in later than in the past and try to keep them producing for longer. Basically I am abandoning the Fall season, though I’ll probably put out some kind of cover crop if there is open space due to whatever complication (insects, weather, rabbit, deer, etc.) arises. So I filled the Spring plan with a couple of my recent winners and a couple of new items, like kohlrabi and shelling peas, ordered the seeds and was ready to go.
I started planting this weekend. Of course, this being the second year of this ‘full’ garden, I had no idea how many seeds I needed. Usually a pack of seeds might last 2 or 3 seasons. Unfortunately, the peas I got only filled about a quarter to a third of the space allotted. I wasn’t going to purchase more seeds. I was looking through my bin of old seed for alternatives, when I had my genius idea of the week. I’d planted a few strawberries in a shady front bed where not much grew as a ground cover. Of course they took the place over in a couple of years. They flower and send runners everywhere and I see some fruit which of course always disappears before I can get to it. But what if I dug some of those plants and moved them the garden on plastic the way the pros do? Spread them out, protect them? Worth it? I guess I’ll find out. A harmless experiment. Around here the PYO strawberry places run for about the month of May, so I’m hoping I can get a few strawberries around that time and then be able to move them out. Sweet Potatoes go in these beds for the Summer so they’ll have to share the space for a month or two, but it should work out OK.
I love being able to make changes in the garden and try new things. Although things don’t always work out, I learn and move on. Maybe my experiments are more successful than they used to be, maybe not. It is nice to think I might be getting better at this gardening thing, but it doesn’t take long to be brought back to reality when the season really gets going!
Although the month between Thanksgiving is pretty quiet, there is isn’t much time to rest in the garden. Things have already started happening and if I don’t get items done on the winter to do list, then they never get done. It is always interesting to me the emptiness of the big box garden stores when I go pick up some random supplies. It is a big contrast to the hordes of people there in the spring. I can’t be alone in loving the peaceful quiet of winter work, but maybe I am. The climate of North Carolina is perfect for it and certainly some of the more intense jobs are much better done in the cold of winter than the heat and humidity of the summer. I love getting started in the cold morning, my body heating up and then the warmth of the sun making it impossible to be cold at all even though everyone else walking by is dressed like an Eskimo.
This past weekend, I took advantage of a cold sunny day to do some hard pruning and wood pile maintenance. I only get the chainsaw out once or twice a year, but, or because of that, I am always surprised at the physical intensity of cutting wood. I was thinking about my dad, at my age now, keeping the shed full of wood that provided the majority of heat for our house when I was a kid. Of course, he had me and my brother to do a lot of the grunt work, but running a chainsaw is serious business. At the end of the day I was beat. As I stretched out and rested, though, it was a good feeling, a feeling of physical accomplishment, of getting real work done in the real world.
Winter is a time when it feels like something is actually getting done in the garden. I can stand back and see the work that I have done and feel good about it. In a few months, nature will take over and run riot over all my plans. As I look around the garden I already see Spring is well on the way. It is an exciting time in the garden!
I set up my first Belgian fence this weekend. Now I just need the apples to cooperate and grow this spring. I feel pretty good about that. They are really nice looking trees. I got them from Century Farm Orchards, a small family run outfit that specializes in old Southern apple varieties. I’ve ordered fruit trees from a few other places and these are probably the best I’ve seen come through the mail.
As usual I ignored the conventional wisdom and went with six different varieties rather than just one or two. If you can’t read the tags in the picture, they are:
- Esopus Spitzenberg
- Newtown Pippen
- Kidds Orange Red
- Summer Pearmain
- Magnum Bonum
It is an eight foot fence with the trees 16 inches apart. The geometry isn’t perfect, but not so bad for a first try. I’m working with nature here!
This trellis takes the place of what was the original vegetable garden bed that I built maybe 12 or 13 years ago. The non-treated wood was falling to pieces and I wanted to do something different. This past summer I had some beans and peppers planted here. They did very poorly. In large part I think this was due to my neglect, I just don’t go around to this side of the garden that often now that I have the larger area in full swing in the back. This narrow side yard is now all fruit! In the picture below, there are eight apple trees, five or so blueberry bushes, a grape vine, a service berry and two figs! One fig is really coming into production and the two columnar apples and blueberries are settling in. If I can beat the squirrels and birds, I should be really getting some good fruit production in the coming years!
Winter To Do
Great gardens start in the winter. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. I enjoy working in the garden in the winter. It doesn’t take long to get warmed up and there is always lots to do. This winter’s list has some usual winter chores and other things that might end up on the spring to do list. I don’t feel bad when I roll over my garden to do list items. That’s just the way it is around here.
- Rain Barrels – SW corner of porch
- Build swing and hardscape (remove grass, path along back of house)
- Cut and organize wood pile
- Plant trees for espalier by porch trellis – Oranges?
- Front west corner, more plants. Azaleas?
- Gum trees down, shitakes
- Big rhododenderons, SE corner
- Irises to back
- Cut Pines
- Trim oak
- Trim crepe myrtle
- Prune hollys in SW corner
- Finish front stone path
- Asparagus bed south side?
- Belgian Fence with Apples
2023 Starts Now!
Here in the Piedmont of NC it is hard to say when one gardening season ends and the next begins. We just had our first hard frost, so the peppers, tomatoes and beans were knocked out. Mustard, turnips, kale, lettuce, celery and carrots continue on. With the peppers gone it was time to plant next year’s garlic. Soon those new green shoots will be poking through. Peas will get planted out in just over two months.
The garden looks nice with summer’s plants out of the way, though. There is just a little time to enjoy it and get some rest right now around the holidays. A long list of projects awaits to get everything ready for spring.
Seems there is always a battle going on against something in the garden. It is good to see that I have friends in the fight.
This time of year I am full of optimism about the garden. It is full of life and energy, and I love walking around seeing all the plants waking up!
Already going strong:
Plenty of lettuce
Carrots and Radishes just starting to come up
I harvest herbs – green onions, parsley, thyme, oregano and mint all through the winter, but it is now time to start harvesting some lettuce. I have tried to keep track of my harvest in the past and have failed to do it consistently so that is really going to be a focus this year.
Still early but things are growing!
I am starting this year with a plan. I won’t say I never start the garden without a plan, but I usually don’t start with a well thought out, good plan. The garden is usually just an idea in my mind. Of course my vision is lush, beautiful and productive, though I am well aware of what the vision usually turns into. Regardless, I kind of know what I want to accomplish and then I see what happens as the season develops. I decided this year would be different. I decided to commit to something, by putting it down in writing and then spending the money.
I am prompted to do this because I have a lot more area this year, and it deserves more than just a haphazard attempt at a garden. After the last couple of years of trying to get the backyard in shape, I finally have an area that could be really productive. So rather than just grabbing a few plants from the big box store and sprinkling seeds around wherever I could, I sat down with some seed catalogs and a garden map and made a plan. Then, I actually ordered the seeds. And today I went and got some new seed starting trays and cells.
I bought a lot of seeds. I have just about used up my stash of old seeds doing random cover crops, but there were still a few old seeds that I worked into the plan, as well. I am not sure how these older seeds will work out. I plan on going overboard with the seed starting, anyway, and adjust depending on how it goes. I also think my rotation plan might be overly optimistic with some of the turn around times. Overall, I reserve the right to make changes as the spring goes along.
This is the plan for now, though. It is a better plan than I have ever had before. I am not one to press on through when things don’t go right though, so the garden that I end up with may look very different from the one presented here. It is always an adventure and a surprise, and that is why I enjoy gardening so much.