Quite a few changes in the garden between the time I left on vacation the 3rd week in April and yesterday. We had torrential rains while I was away, leaving many of the borders and much of the lawn under inches of water. We had a fairly rainy weekend as well, but softer showers which were able to seep into the ground as quickly as it arrived leaving everything green and sparkling with rain drops.
Despite the rather wet weekend, I was able to get a little planting done in the vegetable garden. Another 50 or so walla walla sets went in, as did the first planting of carrots and beets, into the raised beds. The regular beds are still too soaked to plant. The week is looking dry and warm however, so hope to get the lettuces, kale, chard and a few other types of seeds planted. I’m feeling a couple of weeks behind due to the trip.
I was able to get a little spot weeding done in some of the flower borders. I also bought and planted 3 Japanese Willows (Salix integra ‘Hakaro Nishiki’), two in the front yard and one in the back next to the gazebo, and a Gold Thread Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’) in the rock garden. Picked the first rhubarb of the season on Saturday, and we’ve been cutting asparagus since we returned; looks like a banner crop this year.
The majority of yesterday, however, was spent planting out 20+ containers. I still have another 7 to fill, but ran out of annuals. I feel another trip to the nursery coming on! Sadly it will have to wait until after work today. Alas, Monday has arrived…
Here are a few other photos, taken yesterday, of what’s blooming in the garden.
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!
We walked in our woods yesterday morning. It was chilly, a bit cloudy, and the air had that wonderful earthy, autumn smell. There is something grounding — spiritual — about an early morning walk among the glorious trees, the multi-colored leaves pirouetting in their final, slow dance to the ground, the trees whispering shared secrets as old as time.
“I think probably one of the important things that happened to me was growing up in Idaho in the mountains, in the woods, and having a very strong presence of the wilderness around me. That never felt like emptiness. It always felt like presence.” – Marilynne Robinson
Avoid bare soil as much as possible. Bare soil will erode and lose water at a faster rate than mulched surfaces. Your plants and the wildlife will thank you for the covered soil.
Feed soils top-down through mulching. A covering of compost and/or well-rotted manure, topped by straw or natural (no dyes, no chemicals) wood mulch, on each of your beds/borders will feed the soil, encourage beneficial insect and worm development, and retain moisture for your plants.
Minimize tillage. If we observe a healthy forest, we notice that the forest floor is littered with dead leaves and decaying trees and branches — a wealth of organic matter left undisturbed to benefit the soil and life underneath. Every time we till we not only bring unwanted weed seeds to the surface, we destroy the delicate balance of life that has been created in the soil. Create a habitat for invertebrates.
Tread lightly on the land. Life on this planet is a complex, inter-connected web. We, as humans, are only one of the many and varied life forms walking this world. It is not ours to abuse.
Create habitat for songbirds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife. Plant trees, shrubs and insectary (flowering) plants to provide food and shelter.
Learn about and treasure “weeds.” Most “weeds” are only plants growing where we don’t want them to be. Many, such as dandelions, have multiple, beneficial purposes.
Practice polyculture at every opportunity. There’s a significant difference between organic monoculture and planting a community of interdependent plants in a manner the replicates the complex layering in nature.
Know your plants. The more you know about your plants’ soil, light and water requirements, the happier you will all be.