Monday, March 31, 2014

A beautiful spring day

Finally, a day worthy of real spring.  Clear blue sky. Temps in the mid-70°s. Redbuds in flower and dogwoods well along.

I planted sprouted fingerling potatoes this afternoon -- the woodchuck shouldn't like the above-ground parts, I hope, even though s/he seems to have snagged my collards already.

I weeded some of the abundant winter annuals (they are not tasty on the plate, regardless of what wild foraging folks write about, in my opinion).  Even with plenty of garlic and olive oil.

Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit)
Can I have just have mustard, spinach, or kale, please?

Hooray for spring and the end of winter, finally.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Early flowering bulbs

In spite of a early spring dusting of snow this morning, and a howling wind, it was lovely to see hyacinths and grape hyacinths on my walk in the mountains this morning. 
a Wikipedia image of grape hyacinths:  they're everywhere in our historic neighborhood
It felt wintry, but the visible signs of spring were there. Tulip foliage is well up, too, and the flowers won't be far behind.  We enjoyed a lovely dish of fresh creasy greens from the raised beds, too, rebounding from winter's deep freezes.

In the Piedmont, the white bracts of dogwoods have expanded, and the warm weather predicted for the next few days will accelerate their progress.  They'll be close to "full flower" by the end of the week, I hope.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Native woodland gardens

It was nice this morning to share thoughts about creating native woodland gardens  with an OLLI class (check out OLLI programs if you're in the US -- a great lifelong learning initiative).

It's been a lovely journey to transform lawn to woodland habitat over the last two decades, and we now finally have Christmas ferns, bloodroot, wild ginger, crested iris, green-and-gold, and pussytoes flourishing along our front pathway.
a giant bloodroot
It was all about creating a decent "forest" soil -- more full of humus, a bit deeper, etc. from the shallow, shade-stressed grass that grew there before.

And the water oak that anchors the driveway produces slow-to-break-down leaves -- not the best situation, but eventually they DO turn into humus-rich leaf mulch.

That's what supported the bloodroot expansion!

P.S. See the sidebar for a link to a pdf version of the creating a woodland garden presentation.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring is here

In spite of a nasty cold northerly wind today, bringing yet more freezing temperatures, spring is definitely here in the Carolinas. 

It's welcome, for sure.  It's been a long cold winter for us; we're not familiar with the deep freeze (and snowy weather) that we've experienced this year.

But spring is still evident everywhere -- flowering redbuds and oaks, fruiting maples, flowering blueberries, and flowering winter annuals, too (not to mention all the Asian plants -- camellias, forsythias, and Japanese cherries).  The cherry trees are having a good year so far -- they're lovely -- we'll see after the mid-20's temperatures tonight.  Hopefully, they'll be fine.

I've just heard a few spring peepers, but lots of bird calls signalling that it's certainly breeding season!


Monday, March 24, 2014

The magic of gardens

I have a friend who lost her house in a fire almost two months ago.  Everything was lost, and the house is currently being "gutted" and rebuilt.  She thought she'd never return, as she lost so much, including dear animal companions.

What has endured, though, is her garden.  The daffodils are flowering, the self-sowing poppies will be back, and spring is there.

How renewing a story is that? 

Her garden is pulling her back to new beginnings, and thinking that she can live there again.

That's garden magic.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The last gasp of winter?

We have a chilly week ahead in the Piedmont (of South Carolina).  On Tuesday, the low is predicted to be 28°F --variable depending on the weather site consulted.

Traditionally, our last frost date here is April 15th, so we shouldn't be surprised.

But, it's been so darn wintry this year, I've been celebrating signs of spring big-time, from the daffodils, snowdrops, leucojum, forsythia, flowering cherry, and quince in flower (all Asian or Mediterranean early flowering species), along with our natives - redbuds and sassafras (and bloodroot, trillium, trout lily, hepatica, rue anemone, etc.)

The buds of flowering dogwood are expanding rapidly, and the rabbit-eye blueberry flowers are almost fully open, too.

Spring is here on the calendar, and is definitely "around the corner,"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bloodroot is in flower!

It's such a joy to see the bright white flowers of bloodroot after a long winter.  It's one of our early spring flowering natives, along with hepatica and trout lily.

It's done well in our emerging woodland garden, too.
clumps of bloodroot along the front path
After slowly amending the soil with mulch and leaves, our patch in front of the house is doing well, with companions of Christmas fern, green-and-gold, and pussytoes.

Happily, the large plant (transplanted from a shadier site in back) has been a prolific seed producer, and ants have "planted" new clumps around.  Even the small seedlings (with the abundant rain over the last year) have flourished.
parent with offspring
We now have over 9+ plants in front, including the biggest bloodroot we've ever seen -- testament to how natives in a more benign (garden)
environment can really flourish.
the original parent (transplanted from a shadier spot in the garden)

Bloodroot has been a favorite spring wildflower.

Here are some previous musings over the past 5+ seasons.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

U.S. Virgin Islands and local food production

view towards St. Thomas from St. John
A second trip to the Caribbean has me pondering (again) about local food, food self-sufficiency,  and vegetable-growing (hmm, where are they).  Not to mention supplies of anything else.

Apparently, between 95-99% of food is imported in the U.S. Virgin Islands (with dairy supplies coming from St. Croix, and an emerging farmer's market/organic farming culture there). We haven't been there, but it's flatter, with better farmland.

On St. John, it's incredibly hilly, rocky, and relatively arid (hard to imagine that sugar cane was profitably grown here for 150 years, but that was a different era, with enslaved humans, and in a time that sugar was truly a "cash" crop.)

But, surely, a few folks would be growing vegetables intensively?  In raised beds? On rooftops? Hydroponically?  But it's a culture driven by affluent tourism.  Water is in short supply, however, even if power (if solar) would be abundant.

Last year, in Dominica, a much, much less affluent place, I was amazed at how few vegetable gardens that I saw -- even when space and water is available.

But most of St. John is national park, too, so "off-limits" to non-park uses -- it's what makes it such a great destination, for sure.  Snorkeling, hiking, peacefulness, and enjoying the views of the ever-changing blues of the ocean waters of the Caribbean.


Leinster Bay

Enjoying Caneel Bay

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Supporting pollinators

With the increase in use of neonicotinoid pesticides in "routine" propagation of garden perennials, there's definitely been a recognition that it CAN be an issue in some plants producing nectar, pollen, and/or leaf tissue harmful to pollinators. 

The Xerces Society has brought this forward -- how comprehensive a problem it might be remains to be seen.

The bottom line is that neonicotinoids have been banned in Europe and really DON'T need to be used routinely in production of garden perennials.

Thanks, Gail, for pointing me on your facebook feed to this nice piece from Prairie Moon Nursery.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Finally, time to sow!

It's taken forever this winter to finally be time to sow.  It could have been last weekend, but I was busy doing other things, and I knew soil temperatures were still low.
"blank" raised beds --now sown with peas, beets, lettuce, and greens
But a beautiful weekend and signs of spring popping out (from the piedmont to the mountains)  -- it was wonderful to get seeds of sugar snap peas, spinach, lettuce, beets, chard, mustards, kale, arugula, etc. into raised beds and flats.

I put out some spinach transplants in the mountains, and radicchio and kale in the piedmont (woodchuck issues).... we'll see.


flats and pots sown with lettuce mix, arugula, spinach, and kales

kale and radicchio transplants (I KNOW the woodchuck won't like radicchio!)

Lovely to clean out all the dead perennial herbs from pots for a clean slate!

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