It’s Still Winter

pexels-photo-371574.jpegAll month there has been a decidedly spring-like feeling in the air.

Above-average temperatures.  Growth.  Glorious sunshine!

I pruned the raspberries and the marionberries; I started getting some of the garden out from under cover and ready for planting next month.  I started my seeds indoors; I even planted a grapevine in the greenhouse!

Today it’s snowing.

I think I won’t be planting my peas until March this year.  Just to be on the safe side.

Fickle, fickle February.


Seed Savers Exchange Order

IMG_E2464.JPGFor someone who really didn’t need any more seeds, I sure got a lot more seeds!

I actually went to SSE just to peruse their flower and herb offerings, but then of course I had to check out their tomatoes and by that point all my self-control was out the window.

  • Flower, ‘Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate’  It was the name alone that drew me to this flower; it conjures up beautiful pastoral images of young love.  I’ve never seen this flower in person, but the pictures of it’s graceful drooping habit on the internet took my breath away.  I’m going to plant this around the house and on the north end of the vegetable garden fence, so I can see it from the kitchen windows.
  • Flower, ‘Night Scented Tobacco’  I grew this flower when I lived in Roseburg, and loved it!  The smell is absolutely intoxicating!  Also, hummingbirds love this flower!
  • Flower, ‘Zebrina (Cottage Mallow)’  My mom grows this gorgeous flower.  It’s a little reminiscent of hollyhock, but much less orderly.  Very cottage-garden.  I collected some seeds from her plants last year, but I wanted more, more, more!  So I got more.
  • Flower, ‘Moonflower’  Another fragrant night bloomer.  I want to grow this on our porch, so that I can sit there on a summer evening and just be enveloped by the perfume smell.  There’s also a bush version of this plant that I’d like to find.
  • Carrot, ‘Scarlet Nantes’  My favorite carrot.  I decided to buy it from SSE instead of Ed Hume because there were more seeds per packet for the same price.  Scarlet Nantes always does well for me, and the taste is perfectly carroty.
  • Cucumber, ‘Snow’s Fancy Pickling’  I’m still looking for a good pickling cucumber.  I’ve tried a few different kinds, but haven’t been 100% pleased with any of them.  So Snow’s Fancy Pickling gets a go this year, and I’m going to try growing them in the greenhouse as well as outside, to see if that makes a difference.
  • Tomato, ‘Wapsipinicon Peach’  This is a fuzzy tomato.  When I asked Jasper if he wanted to try a fuzzy tomato, he said no.  But I think he didn’t mean it.  Who doesn’t want to try a fuzzy tomato?!  Plus, it won a taste award.  So there.
  • Tomato, ‘Paul Robeson’  This is said to be one of the best tasting tomatoes out there.  A lot of the new bi-colored tomatoes being developed are measured against this heirloom for taste.  So of course I had to try it.
  • Tomato, ‘Amish Paste’  Last year, I had high hopes for my San Marzano tomatoes.  Those hopes were dashed.  The San Marzano tomatoes were the worst performers of the bunch.  If I had been depending on just those to make my year’s worth of tomato sauce, I would have been out of luck.  So I’m trying these this year.  The Amish know what they’re doing.  I hope their tomato does, too.

And completely unexpectedly, SSE sent me a free seed packet, too!  They didn’t the last time I ordered from them, but that was a couple years ago.  I imagine I’m not the only person who likes getting free seeds.  It’s a good practice, seed companies!  The packet I got was Dester tomatoes, which I’m excited to try.  This variety has also won lots of taste tests and has lots of good reviews online.  The only thing I’m worried about is that it is a rather large tomato.  Hopefully it will do well in the greenhouse, but typically our growing season isn’t hot or long enough for big tomato fruits to mature.  We shall see.

I have one more order to share with you that will round out my seeds for this year.  And then it’s time to get growing!

Territorial Seed Order

IMG_2437I didn’t get much from Territorial this year, but then I really didn’t need much to begin with.  Just a few packets to round everything out.

  • Beans, ‘Soleil’  I picked the Soleil French beans to grow this year instead of my usual plain golden wax beans (although I do have an extra pack of those, too, in case these don’t turn out).  French beans are typically straight and narrow, and this particular variety is supposed to have a very buttery flavor.  I’m hoping these will be easier to can because of their straightness, and I can’t wait to try them pickled and sauteed fresh from the garden
  • Carrots, ‘Sugarsnax’  I’ve had huge success with the heirloom Scarlet Nantes carrots and will keep on growing that and the Danvers Half Long, but I did want to try this Sugarsnax hybrid, too.  I thought the girls would especially like to eat these fresh
  • Peas, ‘Lincoln (Homesteader)’  I grew these two years ago and found them to be the tastiest shelling peas by far.  They’re very sweet for a garden pea and were fabulous shelled and frozen to use throughout the year
  • Peas, ‘Super Sugar Snap’  Sugar snap peas could arguably be my favorite crop to grow and I’ve had the best luck with Super Sugar Snap.  I can’t wait to start eating these, warmed by the summer sun!
  • Watermelon, ‘Mini Love’  OK, being a maritime gardener on the Oregon coast is wonderful in so many ways, but it does have it’s limitations.  Watermelons, for one thing.  I’ve never grown a real watermelon in my life, not even when I lived down in Roseburg.  Then it was a matter of space, now it’s a matter of temperature.  It just doesn’t get hot enough for long enough here to grow those big juicy heirloom watermelons that look so tempting in the seed catalogs.  So when I saw Mini Love, a compact plant that is supposed to taste great, I had to go for it.  I’m going to grow it in the greenhouse, and if all goes well we’ll be having seed-spitting contests this Fourth of July!

And there you have it!  The end of my 2018 seed purchases!

JUST KIDDING!  What gardener can resist the siren song of seeds this time of year?!  There will be more, don’t you worry.  Even if I didn’t need them!

February Chores

pexels-photo-296230.jpegAt first glance, February doesn’t seem like a busy garden month.  It’s cold and rainy, and still very much the dead of winter.

But!  It’s also just a mere matter of weeks before the first seeds get planted into the ground, and so it’s high time to get everything ready.  Cleaning up and preparing the garden for the plants that will go in later in the spring can be a dirty full-time job, but it’s absolutely essential to get it done if you want to have a successful growing season.

Here’s what I’ll be doing this month!

In the Garden

Lift the remaining rutabagas:  The rutabagas, those hardy Swedish root crops which I let overwinter in the garden, are probably extremely woody and tough by this point.  It’s time to take them out of the ground and gift them to the chickens.

Uncover the garden:  We’ve had the garden covered with plastic sheeting since practically last year.  It has looked incredibly ugly and I have hated it.  But, hopefully, most of the weeds and thatch will have been killed and reabsorbed into the soil, giving us a clean slate to work with.

Define and build permanent beds:  My ultimate goal for the garden is to implement no-till permanent raised beds.  I know the terms “permaculture,” “back to Eden,” or “lasagna gardening” can sometimes be thought of as hippy-ish, but honestly it just makes sense to me.  Rather than tilling and weeding and amending the entire garden area, slowly depleting the nutrients and eroding the soil despite what we amend it with, we’ll layer defined planting areas with newspaper, manure, leaves and compost and then cover it all with wood chips.  These will slowly break down, feeding the ground beneath them, and we’ll just keep adding more good stuff on top.  The soil will be healthier, it won’t be compacted, we’ll weed and water less and we’ll be using free, sustainable and natural materials.

Dig in lots of well-rotted organic matter:  February is the month of love, and gardens love manure!  They love compost!  And I love gardens!

Cover with tarps again:  Just in case.  To kill any weed seeds.  But it won’t stay on all summer this year, I promise!

Sow early seeds indoors:  Despite the cold weather outside, now is the time for me and other maritime gardeners (zone 8, right on the cusp of a and b) to start sowing seeds inside.  I’ll be starting all my tomatoes, eggplants and sweet peppers this week, as well as my first sowing of brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and cabbage.  I’m also going to start some green onions and lettuce, and hopefully get them into the greenhouse by early next month!

IMG_2518.JPGIn the orchard

Prune the fruit trees:  This chore honestly scares me little, because you’re basically cutting off parts of your tree and what if you do it wrong?  The trees could die!  But really though, pruning actually helps reinvigorate trees, reduces problems with pests, and boosts fruit production.  Jasper and I are going to start with the easy stuff, like getting rid of suckers, dead  or injured branches and water spouts, then we’re just going to give them a haircut!

Prune the marionberries and blueberries:  As with the fruit trees, so with the fruit bushes.

Feed all the fruit trees and bushes:  Now is the perfect time to feed all your fruiting things, too.  I  spread a very little bit of wood ashes from the fireplace around the base of our apple and plum trees, and I will be adding well-rotted compost to all these, then a layer of mulch of some kind.

In the greenhouse

Clean up, clean out:  The greenhouse is so, so messy.  And dirty.  And filled with stuff that we didn’t put there but never bothered to take out, either.  So first and foremost, we need to clear it out completely, and then give it a really good deep clean.  Scrub the walls and sweep out the cobwebs.  And weirdly, I can’t wait.

Dig in lots of well-rotted organic material:  The greenhouse has a dirt floor, so we plant directly into the ground.  That means we need to pile on more manure and compost each year, to keep the good stuff coming.

Cover walkways with something:  Last year, not knowing any better, we laid straw over the walkway in the greenhouse.  The plan was just to keep the dust at bay.  Then we turned on the automatic waters, and the walkways grew!  We had a nice crop of grass all along the walkway, from seeds that managed to survive in the straw.  So, this year we’ll either be putting down cardboard and wood chips, or plastic.  Something.  Anything but plain straw.

Direct sow the carrots and radishes:  I don’t know if these will start growing in an unheated greenhouse in February, but the weather has been rather warm and I’m up for an experiment.  So I’m going to sow some and see!

IMG_1942February is the shortest month of the year, and it certainly feels that way as we scramble to get everything done on time.  But it’s a good scramble, knowing that at the end it will be spring.  Spring!

And then we will be in thick of it, happy with dirt under our fingernails once again.

Glad Tidings

IMG_E2453In the early light of morning, after letting the chickens out of the hen house and into their run for the day, I like to take a slow turn around the garden.

Until just a few months ago we only got out to the farm every few days during the growing season, and hardly at all in the winter, and so being able to walk through the garden daily is still a thrill and dream.  I check to see if there’s been any damage from errant critters, and note things that need to be done.  And, most especially, I like to observe the changing signs of the seasons.

The swelling of tiny buds on the blueberry bushes.  The deafening chorus of frogs.

The sudden thrusting forth of the garlic.

IMG_E2476.JPGThis is it, for me.  The definitive sign that spring is coming!

I don’t know what the weather will be like between now and summer.  I would love an early (and sustained) spate of warm weather, but if I can’t have that then I just hope things stay seasonable.  I also hope hope hope and say a little prayer daily that it won’t be like last year, and rain torrentially up until almost July.  Anything but that.

No matter what happens with the weather though, at least I know that there will be garlic.

They made it through the coldest times, these valiant little foot soldiers.  They bravely lead the way, and all the rest will follow.

More Seeds From Baker Creek

FullSizeRender (8)After getting my first order in the mail from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds a couple of weeks ago, it seemed to me like it was missing a few varieties.  And sure enough, I’d completely forgotten to order some of the herbs I was planning on!  So, into the proverbial cart went:

  • White Horehound
  • Basil, ‘Blue Spice’
  • Basil, ‘Lettuce Leaf’
  • Hyssop, ‘Korean’
  • Flower, ‘Monarda’ (Bee Balm)

Baker Creek also always sends a free packet of seeds, and with both of my orders I got Black Vernissage tomatoes.  I’m happy to try them, but I’ve already allocated all the room in the greenhouse to other tomato varieties I’m more excited about.  So, I’ll plant these outside and cross my fingers that it’s a warm summer.  Also, I’ve read a lot of reviews on this tomato, and the majority of them don’t have great things to say about the taste.  I’ll give them a fair shake though, and if I like them then they’ll get a chance in the greenhouse next year.


I don’t think I shared it at the time, but last year during the tail end of summer I decided (on a whim) to start my perennial herb garden.  I bought two English lavender plants, some garlic chives, a lemon thyme, and a start of sweet marjoram.  I also planted out a root-bound chive plant that I’d had with me for a few years (and which has since done phenomenally!), and some transplanted echinacea.  There’s also true comfrey growing pretty much everywhere.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a huge space to work with if I stay within the confines of the existing brick raised beds, but I’m planning on clearing out space behind the beds as well.  It currently houses nothing but broken plastic pots, an old sink (of course), and a really very overgrown honeysuckle plant.  That will give me a good amount of space to work with, I think, for a nice beginner’s mix of edible and medicinal herbs.  Then in time, if I need to, I can figure out how and where to expand.

Gah!  I’m so excited for spring!

Rainy Days, Again

IMG_2426.JPGWriting about the unseasonably warm weather we enjoyed for a few days last week certainly seems to have jinxed it.  The rains came back with a vengeance.  They always do though, this time of year.

And I think I’m going to be OK with it (as long as it stops, to some degree, by spring).  Rains, of course, mean rainbows and feeling snug and secure in our new home, which is neither damp nor cold.  After last year’s temporary quarters in a house that was constantly both of those things, in a year that broke records for being rainy and awful, our state of accommodation this year leaves so much to be grateful for.

IMG_2421There’s still so much to do out in the yard, but in the face of all that rain I’m staying inside.  I’ve got bread to bake and laundry to do.

In all honestly, I’ll probably spend a good amount of time right here at the kitchen table, gazing outside.  Trying to figure out where I want to plant the vegetables in the garden come spring.  Appreciating the form of that graceful old apple tree.  Hoping that sooner or later we can find a spot to store the ladders and all the wood that Jasper wanted to save, and to get rid of the two piles of heaped up metal.  Wondering how much work it’s going to be to remove that old gravel driveway.

It’s not supposed to stop raining anytime soon, so I think I’ll be here for awhile.  That’s okay.  My feet are by the heater, and my thoughts are full of spring.