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Winter Activities for the Gardener

December 9th, 2015

I appreciate living in a climate where I have 3-4 months of winter in which gardening outdoors is pretty much impossible without a greenhouse. While I spend a lot of time reading about gardening during the winter months, I still want to get my hands in the soil and nurture plants. What is a gardener to do? Attempt to start interesting plants from seed.
Seeds
This year I have a few interesting things to try, most exciting is the Cedar of Lebanon seeds along with a large leafed magnolia. I also have seeds of various plums and sour cherries in the fridge getting their prescribed dose of cold weather before putting them up to see if I can nurture a few little trees for my orchard. I’ll keep you posted on my efforts, perhaps in 100 years there will be a Cedar of Lebanon to be enjoyed by those living here at the time.

What sorts of fun gardening things do you do in the winter?

Finally Here

November 25th, 2015

We woke up Monday morning to an inch and a half of snow. It was beautiful, though I had a few chores that were more difficult because of the snow. I’m already loving how nicely the boxwood looks in the winter, the structure it adds is just what I was hoping for.
first snow 1
With the snow came the cold weather, temperatures are starting to dip down into the teens at night. The duck pond needs a heater, as does the waterer in the chicken coop.
first snow 2
This time of year, the freezing of the ground makes me move on towards other winter chores, mostly cleaning out chicken/duck coops and getting them set up for the winter. I’m always thankful for the lovely nutrient rich mulch provided by this chore. Usually it’s used on a newer area in the garden. It makes a fantastic week free bed come spring. After these chores I’m finally finished up for the year with a few weeks to spare, now it’s time to plan next year!

What end of the year chores are you finishing up?

Growing Fall Broccoli

October 20th, 2015

When I posted about my fall broccoli last week, there were lots of of questions about it. The varieties I grew for fall were the same as the ones I grew for my summer crop. I got a packet of ‘All Season’ broccoli from Renee’s Garden, it has three different types in one packet, early, mid, and late season varieties.
Renees garden broccoli
Fall broccoli produces much nicer and tastier heads than spring sown plants. I’m completely amazed by the quality of my fall broccoli vs my spring broccoli. The key to good fall broccoli is seeding at the proper time. I seeded them in flat back in July. My first sowing was gobbled up by my turkeys, luckily I had seeded another planting 10 days later just in case something happened to my first crop. I transplanted them into the garden and mulched them heavily with compost.
broccoli
I watched patiently and wondered if they were actually going to produce heads, then all of a sudden they started and grew into the most beautiful broccoli I’ve ever grown. The broccoli is tasty and there is no hint of bitterness at all. Overall, it was a grand success. The key is starting them early enough to make sure they will reach maturing right around the first frost date. The heads hold for a long time in the garden, so there’s not a problem with having too many on hand. Next year I might try a shorter season ‘Arcadia’ broccoli from Johnny’s Seed, because it’s a cold tolerant variety bred for winter production.

Do you do any winter gardening? What’s your favorite crop to grow?

Planting fall Crops

August 3rd, 2015

A month or so ago, someone said they couldn’t believe that I didn’t can vegetables for winter eating. I used to can, but I no longer go. I grew up in a canning family, we canned everything under the sun and ate on it all winter long. I guess I’d just rather eat a little more seasonally and I’d rather spend my time in the garden rather than in the kitchen over a canning pot.
canning_tomato_soup 2
Over the past five or so years I’ve been working on growing a wider variety of vegetables  in smaller amounts and in different seasons. Trying to expand the season that I’m harvesting from the garden rather than using from the pantry. I also try to grow things that don’t need preserving, more root vegetables, cabbages, and the like.
cabbages 1
So far I’m doing well with my efforts, we’ve been eating only garden fresh vegetables for the past five months and will continue to do so until at least late November. Once I have a greenhouse we should be able to shorten the hunger gap a little more. I’d also successfully grow chicons, which we can harvest in the dark days of Dec-Feb. Yesterday I planted a lot of things that will feed us in Sept-November: broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes that you pull and hang in the basement, beets, carrots, herbs, and many other things.
planting fall crops 1

planting fall crops 2

planting fall crops 3
There are a few things I will always can, tomato soup, roasted tomato passata, tomatoes, and a few jars of jam for Mr Chiots. Other than that, you’ll find me in the garden.

Do you can your garden vegetables? Do you grow cold hardy or heat tolerant vegetables to harvest during your off season?

I Spy….

March 25th, 2015

I spy a spot of bare ground in my back yard! Of course this is a high spot in the yard and the snow blows off of it, there are still 20 or more inches of snowpack in the other areas of the garden. This is a start, the spot gets a little bigger each day. Bring on the spring thaw!
bare ground
One thing that I love to do in the spring is to watch the areas that lose snow first. These are perfect places to plant hellebores, hyacinths, crocuses, snowdrops, tulips, daffodils, and other spring bulbs. They can take any cold weather that is still to come and will add beautiful early spring color to the garden. In a few years I’ll be adding these plants to this area, perhaps this spot will become hellebore garden. If you’ve ever read The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage, you will want to start a collection of snowdrops and hellebores.

Any snow left in your garden?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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