Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bed shore up and digging

My lowest raised bed (below the house) has been collapsing a bit (on the lower side) for awhile.  But it gets plenty of morning sun, along with oblique afternoon sun, and now that I have woodchuck-protectant cloches,  I'm thinking I can grow some veggies (aside from garlic and leeks) down there again.  (Although Tim reported a new woodchuck burrow in the ravine.  Rats. Hmm.)

So I rebuilt the rock wall on the lower side (a LOT of work), so am ready to go.  I didn't take a new photo (I was pooped), so here's the view.

This image doesn't show how it was collapsing on the far side, but demonstrates how fertile it was last summer!  This was a tromboncino squash vine on steroids (AKA nitrogen).  It never produced any fruits, but its foliage was amazing....
I also refreshed and amended the beds on the side of the house (between the house and the apartment next door).   They're good as summer beds since they get full sun then;  they're no shows as winter growing areas as they're shaded by the house.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Kale, komatsuna, and cilantro

Hmm, the surface of my raised beds was frozen this morning, but by late afternoon, the air temperature was in the mid 50's, so I thought, what the heck? I sowed a couple of different kales (a red bor type from a local seed company and baby Tuscan from Renee's), red Komatsuna from Kitisawa, and cilantro, as well as three types of sugar snap peas, sugar daddy and super sugar from Renee's and a hybrid from Sygenta (a freebie from somewhere). There's more seeding to come, but I AM trying to be patient.

The outlook for the next couple of weeks is moderate, with low temps above freezing (aside from a low of 31 F one day next week) with moderate "seasonable" highs.

Woo-hoo, spring is definitely on the way.

Tomorrow, I'll round up some decent potting mix for my flats (the "organic potting mix" that I'd bought somewhere locally last fall, and tipped into the flats this morning was laughingly awful - full of twigs, etc. It was certainly organic, but potting mix, it wasn't!)

 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Spinach, beets, carrots, and arugula

I planted all of these (spinach, beets, carrots, and arugula) early in the week, just before the temperatures dipped again.  But it'll be warming up over the weekend, and it's time to sow seeds, even if it's a bit colder than "normal" -- whatever that passes for now.

I'm going to soak some sugar snap peas overnight, and sow them tomorrow, along with a variety of lettuce seeds, kales, and collards.

It's time.  It's late February.  Even with the extremes of a changing climate, gardeners will keep planting.  And even though it's a bit harder to predict which of the cool-season veggies might do the best this spring, I'll just plant a variety of things, and see.

This has been the third winter that I haven't had greens like kale, mustard, or arugula overwinter (the extreme lows took them out).  I wasn't using any season extension, which would have made a difference, I'm sure.
incredibly tasty and succulent carrots, although not impressive-looking!
In a program today, I was talking about how well a specific sort of carrot (Pusa Rudhira Red Carrot)
had done in my fall vegetable garden.  These were bred for the hotter, drier conditions of India, and absolutely flourished last fall.  I sowed them in August and harvested them in in November not expecting anything. Amazing.

A search of previous blog posts about carrots was interesting, too.  I've had reasonable success with shorter, small varieties like Thumbelina - and enjoyed them as well, apparently!


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Witch hazels

Our Ozark witch hazel in the front is beautiful right now.  I was reminded by a gardening friend's FB post about how wonderful witch hazels are.  Ours has gradually been dropping old brown leaves so becoming much more attractive.

Here are some images from last year.  I tried to get a couple of new ones this evening but the light wasn't quite right, and it was luminous last February.




Monday, February 22, 2016

Gardening and creativity

I've thought a lot about this in recent years.  

Gardening has been my end road and lifeline back to creativity in other venues, but remains a foundation of how I think and appreciate our surrounding landscape (my gardening companion, although he doesn't think about himself as a gardener, shapes our surroundings with an eye to native plants and natural design, of course.) 

I really just do the vegetable gardens and pollinator-friendly pocket meadows, truth be told, although I'm always consulted for the other additions to the landscape, now here in the mountains.

But doing a program tomorrow about the "The Creative Side of Gardening" has had me thinking for a number of days now. 

So much of our American gardening writing is still about the mechanics, not about the art and love that gardeners really spend on their landscapes, whatever their garden styles or inclinations might be.

Gardening is an art, plain and simple, it seems to me. 

The language of horticulture, at least in American writing, makes it way too clinical: gardening maintenance, plant materials, etc.    It's about love for the medium, I think; gardeners love plants, and appreciate them, however we interpret that.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Another full moon

It may not be actually full, yet, but it looks close. (A follow up: the full moon was still two days ahead).

I've written about lots of full moons over the years, and don't even want to attempt yet another photo, whether with my old big camera or my late-model iPhone.

The view this evening is of a moon rising above the ravine forest, with city lights twinkling below.

The new hotel on the other side of I-240, added to the Hotel Indigo's lights, plus something going on this evening at the Asheville Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Center/Lenoir-Rhyne University building (so the parking lot lights are all on) - makes for a sparkling cityscape.

It will be a changing landscape in the future, I'm sure. 

We hope our ravine forest remains intact (there's a bit of watershed protection for the empheral stream at the base of the ravine), but certainly the farther viewscapes will develop into something else, as the highway plans solidify and make clear what the eventual traffic and noise patterns might be in the spaces that have been vacant (post urban-renewal many years ago). Various plans have been put forward, but none that succeeded. Duke Energy owns most of the land now, scooped up for a good price for a new downtown transmission site, widely opposed, and now presumably shelved.

In the meantime, the moon is beautiful.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tulips in our window box

Our Valentine's Day tulips are divided now.  One pot is illuminating our front window box, where I've been enjoying it in the late afternoon light.

From outside, it makes a lovely contrast to the variegated tropical plant next to it, with a diminutive re-blooming orchid further right.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Where do our vegetables come from?

That was a question passed on (in the context of "do we care?") by Carolina Farm Stewardship Association in today's e-newsletter.

Their answer was yes (of course), citing various folks.  Do we care about organic? Is it GMO free? Are the farmworkers safe? Etc.  They didn't ask the question about how far the food had traveled, or how it was grown.  And certainly, there are a lot of us (who receive their e-newsletter) who DO like to know that (at least some of) our food is grown or raised nearby, whether veggies, meat, or eggs.

But the response was prompted by a piece in the Washington Post, which essentially said it depends on how you ask the question. 

We have a lot of folks living in our county who are doing well to put food on their tables, really, and this was an eye-opening piece for me (not having been a mom), about how picky children are as eaters.

I'm getting ready to plant late winter/early spring vegetables, and reviewing a program I'll be doing for the NC Arboretum next week on Sustainable Kitchen Gardening. 

I'm now growing a lot of vegetables in basically 4 raised beds, with additional beds on the side of the house and below, but nothing like the space I used to have down in our Piedmont garden.  But we still have more than enough--even in cold winters, although I don't have any overwintering greens, again! 

I still have tomatoes and green beans from last summer's harvest, as well as fruits from the farmer's markets, and sweet potatoes and butternut squash from my generous friend.

So fresh greens will be welcome from sowings this weekend.  (In the meantime, they're coming from far away, perhaps from places like we visited in Guatemala, but probably largely from California and Mexico.)

vegetable fields in the Western Highlands of Guatemala





Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day

A lovely Valentine's Day, with tulips, orchids and cyclamens.  The rose-colored cyclamen was from last year's celebration!


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Talks, gardening, and looking forward to spring

Returning yesterday from a great two-day symposium (CVLNA winter symposium) at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA, I've felt inspired by the talks, heartened by the fellowship, and am looking forward to both my own gardening and again, sharing encouragement with others.

pocket meadow in August
So much of my life as a gardener has also been about being a teacher, and I'm mindful that it's that aspect of my former work life that I've brought forward now, as I continue to teach classes and give talks, and do non-profit consultations, etc.

It's in community that we learn, teach, and are inspired, in whatever venue that might be.

I'm increasingly keen on making a difference in my neighborhood and community (by getting real plants in the ground), as well as providing a voice for planting plants for pollinators (supported by my talk in Richmond).

We start with our own gardens, but can also spread our voices and encouragement through the community of master gardeners, landscapers, home gardeners, garden club members, friends, family, or really, whomever whose lives and activities that we touch.

pocket meadow in August 2015

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Snowdrops in full bloom

The "lawn" of the old homestead nearby is carpeted with snowdrops (Galanthus) in full flower. I wasn't able to take a new photo- a young woman was sitting on the front porch and didn't look like she'd welcome gardening chats, although I'm probably wrong.

http://naturalgardening.blogspot.com/2014/02/spring-is-definitely-on-way.html

The link above is a post from two years ago, with photos.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Four-season vegetable gardening

I've been a huge fan of Elliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch's approach in their Four-Season Farm and in their books, too -- especially Coleman's Four-Season Harvest and the Winter Harvest Handbook.  Damrosch's Garden Primer has been a favorite, for years, as well.

It struck me as a "no-brainer"-- uh, they live in Maine and are growing and harvesting vegetables in their unheated hoop-houses through the winter, so why not in the Carolinas?

At the time I discovered Coleman's Winter Harvest book, I was living in the Piedmont of South Carolina, and we had an empty hoop-house at the botanical garden where I worked then.  I'd already successfully overwintered lots of winter crops at home in my own vegetable gardens, with small protective hoops, etc.  Hmm, a blog search on my post on "winter vegetables" came up with a lot.

But a search on hoop-houses came up with this interesting post,  from 6 years ago.  I was looking forward to fresh vegetables.

But the real focus of my thoughts this evening is how delighted I was to come across a new local farm that is growing four-seasons, under hoops, using Coleman's approach.

a primitive version of covering winter veggies
Second Spring Farm had the most beautiful turnips, beets, and greens in the Asheville City Market today.  I saw them, and thought, hey, they're growing these in unheated hoops, and sure enough, that was the case.

I just wish I needed to buy more veggies! 

We have enough, normally from what I grow myself in our raised beds, and freeze, not to need to sign up for a CSA.  We'd be inundated with vegetables.

But, these folks are doing it right.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ready to plant

I'm waiting.  I'm trying to be patient. These mild February days are trying.

beds ready to plant.....
Surely spinach, sugar snap peas, kale, or lettuce seeds (my itching to garden voice says?)  Uh, global climate change is good for something, she whispers....

But.  Even in the Piedmont, peas sown before late February were problematic.  And of course in mild winter years, here in the mountains and in the Piedmont, lots of greens overwintered and would be flourishing now.

But.  Here was a post from a few years back:  wise, I thought, in retrospect.

This winter, as has happened in the last two before, there have been hard freezes that took out all of the greens, aside from leeks and garlic.  I have a nice rosemary plant which I think has survived so far (the last two winters sapped them, after decades of being OK).

I'm still ready to plant.  I've ordered some wire cloches that may serve as small protective coverings with some row cover or plastic, so we'll see.  I was eyeing some space next to the studio this morning as potential cold frame space.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Another mild winter day

The second of February isn't usually warm, although as "Groundhog Day" here in the U.S., we mark the day around whether it's cloudy or not.  It was cloudy here, but, of course, this doesn't really have relevance to whether it will be cold or not for the coming month.

My vegetable beds are prepared, with fresh compost, mycorrhizae for vegetables, etc.

Only leeks, garlic, and cress have overwintered, along with chives, of course, now starting to emerge.

I'm itching to plant, but it's still too early, even for sugar snap peas, snow peas, and spinach.  I'm sitting on my hands until later in the month....
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