Despite wishing it were not so, winter persists.  Overnights have been in the single digits (negatives with wind chill) and the days in the teens.  We’ve had a week of snow, sleet and freezing rain with 6-10 inches of snow expected to arrive tomorrow into Monday.  The usual February weather.  So, to keep my spirits up, I continue my garden-related reading and video watching.

Since March is my month for pruning the fruit trees and any non-spring blooming shrubs, I decided to brush up on my pruning techniques.  It’s not a task at which I’ve ever felt completely adept, despite have several excellent organic orchard books.  I’ve been on the look out for a book that simplified – or dumbed down, if you will – the process for me; a process which, unfortunately, varies depending on what it is you are pruning.

Last weekend I was re-reading one of my favorite Tasha Tudor books for the umpteenth time, when I picked up on a pruning book she highly recommended by Lewis Hill.  Searching on Amazon, I found The Pruning Answer Book (2011) by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan.

No exaggeration, this book is a god-send!  It is clearly and concisely written, answers the most basic of questions, and is illustrated in an extremely helpful manner.  The book contains chapters on right and wrong pruning practices; and pruning everything from deciduous shade trees, ornamental trees, flowering shrubs, hedges, evergreens, woody vines, fruit trees, bush fruit/brambles, nut trees and even topiary, if you’re into it (I’m not).  It’s even printed in a compact size to make carrying it around with you outside feasible.  I’m so excited to head out into the orchard and garden this March, book in hand, to tackle this season’s pruning with a greater degree of confidence!


Getting Organized


In general, I’d say I’m a fairly organized person, and I’ve always used lists as a means of keeping myself organized.  As I get older, lists have become essential. I forget what I’m doing in the time in takes me to move from one room to another, let alone one week or one month to another.

With all of the various things I need to keep track of as my gardening obsession grows, I find I’ve become increasingly dependent on my lists: list of plants (when I planted, where I planted, what died, etc.); list of monthly garden chores; list of desired additions to the garden; list of vegetable rotations…you get the idea.  Is my memory worsening because I’m so reliant on lists, or am I so reliant on lists because my memory is worsening?  That’s a philosophical discussion for another day.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on consolidating the data in my various gardening notebooks (3 active ones right now) into a plant inventory using Excel. I’m tracking the name of the plant, source, size, date planted, location, color, bloom time, soil type and other necessary notes (i.e., relocated, died, common name, etc.).  I’m finding it so much more helpful to have all the information in one, easily searchable location.  It’s also rather illuminating to go back and see which plants were acquired when, which have not fared well, how many of one type I may have.  I’m still working on inputting last year’s data, but as of the end of 2015, I had planted 1,601 plants (perennials, biannuals, trees and shrubs).  I haven’t included those that didn’t make it through our various winters, although that number is remarkably small (probably less than 20), given the number planted.   To be honest, I was a little astounded by the amount I’ve planted since 2012! That doesn’t even include the veggies and annuals I grow from seed each year.  Going forward, I think this inventory will be quite useful.

Since it is so imperative that certain activities happen at the right time (i.e., pruning, fertilizing, sowing seeds), the other list I really couldn’t live without is my monthly “chores” list for the garden.  Although I do occasionally fall behind on some tasks (usually weeding), the list keeps me on track for the crucial ones.  Up here, in our zone 3-4 winters, there’s not much happening in February.  This is usually the month that the gardening tools are cleaned and sharpened, organic potting soil is acquired in preparation for indoor sowing, and the seed starting cells are washed and readied.  Depending on how antsy I get, I may start the first of the 10-12 week seeds by the last weekend of the month.

March becomes a little busier with outside pruning jobs in the orchard and pruning of the non-spring flowering shrubs, and continuing the indoor seed sowing.  The real fun begins in April, but I’ll save that for another post.

Right now, I’m trying to enjoy the down time of the last real month of winter.  It’s a blustery, snowy day and I’ll dream of the many colors and scents of spring while finishing my plant inventory.