Outside snow is blowing across my hill.
For more Wordlessness this Wednesday morning click here.
Outside snow is blowing across my hill.
For more Wordlessness this Wednesday morning click here.
My Planning a Vegetable Garden to Extend the Season Workshop at Winterfare on February 2 will give attendees some things to think about when they are planning their vegetables gardens and some tips. Hope to see you Saturday at 11 am at Greenfield Hight School.
For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.
The leafless landscape seems dead, but dormancy is only a false death. In the 1/24 issue of the New York Times Michael Tortorello takes us on a wintry horticultural tour of gardens in New York City and learns that death is not what winter brings. I grant you, the activity he sees in Central Park and other places is rather different from the dormancy I can see in my frozen snowy landscape, but still, his guides make a point.
An important lesson is that it is not really the cold that makes trees and shrubs lose their leaves, it is drought. Plant respire through their foliage and lose a great percentage of their moisture through their leaves. If the ground is frozen there is no more water being taken in, so the leaves have to go.
Rhododendrons, broad leaved evergreens, do not lose their foliage, but you can see how the leaves curl to minimize moisture loss. These leaves are still performing some photosynthesis. It is the look of these droopy cigar-like leaves that made me dislike rhodies for a very long time. I don’t know why the wonderful spring flowers did not make as big an impression on me when I was a young non-gardener as the winter foliage.
While there is no chickweed or knotweed or mugwort sprouting in my neighborhood as there is in Central Park, a close look will show tiny green buds on the lilacs, and the buds on the rhododendrons are not hard to see at all.
Dormancy is not death. We are all just waiting. I am more impatient than the plants.
This opossum has been a regular evening visit to our compost pile. I don’t think it is heating up at this time of the year but at least s/he is loading up on nutrituous peels.
ADDENDUM – I had forgotten that oppossums are Marsupials – just like kangaroos. Only smaller, of course. Lots of fascinating information about oppossums here from the National Oppossum Society.
A Full Moon Getaway will be held at Stump Sprouts Guest Lodge and Cross Country Ski Center in Hawley to benefit the Franklin Land Trust on Sunday, January 27 from 1 pm on. Snowshoeing, skiing and hiking. Bring the kids! Soup and snacks for sale. Come for a full day, overnight or just for a Moonlight Frolic. Ski, Snowshoe, Hike and enjoy the beauty of rural western Massachusetts, For full information about cost and events, which include a dinner click here. Rain or Shine Register here
Trekking over the snow under the winter moon is something no one will ever forget. Of course, froliking during the day on the beautiful Stump Spout hills is pretty terrific, too.
The Franklin Land Trust is a 501(c)(3) devoted to the preservation of farm and forest land, and the rural character of western Massachusetts. FLT helps farmers and other landowners protect their land from unwanted development. To date, FLT has helped to preserve over 25,000 acres of open space. The hills and valleys of the region—with their farms, sugar bush, rambling old New England roads, and small towns steeped in history—are a unique and precious resource. Your support enables us to continue our efforts to protect this invaluable resource. Please visit the website www.franklinlandtrust.org
I am counting this as the first snowfall of the year, although there was a couple of inches of snow on the ground on Christmas so we could all have a white Christmas and get an extra helping of Christmas spirit. Now we can enjoy the post-Christmas tranquillity, sitting by the fire, watching the snow snowing and the wind blowing. This photo was taken at 7 a.m.
More Christmas is coming with further gatherings with family and friends. Gourmet Club! and then we will enjoy more post-holiday tranquillity.
UPDATE – 3 p.m.
Over a foot of snow has fallen, with only a bit of snow still flurrying.
FURTHER UPDATE December 28 11 a.m.
On Saturday my husband and I walked up what we call The Lane, the remnants of the old road that once led all the way to the next town of Rowe. We walked up the hill between two fields and into the woods. We have done some logging in the woods, but when we walk there these days the extensive number of trees and limbs that have been toppled and broken are due to the big ice storm in December of 2008, then Hurricane Irene that did devasting damage throughout the county in 2011 and the recent Sandy storm this past October. It is amazing to think that we have had these three severe storms in less than five years, when we had nothing like them in the previous 25 years.
We picked our way through the fallen branches to a large plantation of princess pine. We carefully clipped off a few dozen plants without disturbing the roots so this planting could continue to grow. We also collected branches from the white pine trees that have begun encroaching on our northern field, and a single very large red pine in the same field. We were collecting these branches to make Christmas wreaths. I was all inspired to make more Christmas wreaths after my lesson at Chapleys with the Greenfield Garden Club.
I made a final small harvest of greens from the Lawn Bed. The fountain juniper, Goldthread chamaecyparis, and even the holly bush gave up a few of their branches for wreaths. I spent esterday afternoon on the piazza enjoying the mild weather while I wired the greens onto forms. I’m not done yet, but I think I’ve made a good start on my Christmas wreaths. Ornaments and ribbon to come.
Yesterday my earliest daffodils began to bloom – just in time for temperatures to plunge from their unseasonable summer highs. Nothing is certain in a garden. How many times do we have to relearn this lesson? The following takes me back a couple of weeks - before we were all boldly planting seeds.
Beginning tomorrow days will be brighter longer. The sun will not set until 6:46 pm. It will seem like spring has arrived – even though we have another ten days before the official announcement. For me this seems like the beginning of a new year and my brain is buzzing with new plans and new projects all of which have a more than a passing resemblance to New Year’s Resolutions.
Spurring me on to these resolutions are two new books. The first, High-Impact Low-Carbon Gardening, 1001 Ways to Garden Sustainably by Alice Bowe (Timber Press $24.95) has about the longest subtitle I have ever seen Garden Strategies for the preservation of the planet; The most fuel efficient garden practices; Plants for the changing climate; Design for disassembly; New ways to compost; The safest pest control. The book hardly needs an index, but in fact, an excellent index makes it easy to look up specific plants, techniques and best practices. A full glossary with information and many resources is included.
Bowe’s book is packed with information, but it is all readable and most of it seems eminently doable although not many of us will launch ourselves into the Jean Pain method of turning compost into a methane energy supply. The ideas and techniques in High-Impact, Low-Carbon Gardening will capture carbon emissions, moderate the urban climate, promote health and reduce energy consumption. That all ‘translates into less work and expense for us,” Bowe writes.
There is no way to summarize the 1001 ideas so I will tell you a couple of the new things I learned. I had never heard of the Japanese method of Bokashi composting, which is a fermentation process that requires a small bin and bokashi bran which is available online, if not locally. In two to four weeks the bin of bokashi is ready to use.
I also learned about bimodal plants. These are plants that can take flood or drought – although they might prefer one or the other. Storm and drought tolerant plants include sugar maples, amelanchier, oakleaf hydrangeas, rugosa roses, primroses, baptisia, and columbine, but there are many others. It seems that these days we barely know what season we are in, or whether it is flood or drought that we need to be preparing for.
There are engaging chapters about landscape design, for beauty in every season, and for function, gardens that will attract pollinators and other wildlife to the garden. Bowe adds that the sustainable garden includes food for the gardener. Even a tiny garden can include a few food plants that offer pleasure and nutrition in equal measure.
My second inspirer of resolution is Nikki Jabbour’s book The Year Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year No Matter Where You Live (Storey Publishing $19.95). Jabbour lives in Nova Scotia and the cover photo shows her collecting a generous harvest of lettuces, scallions and carrots from a cold frame in the snow.
Gardening year round means beginning very early in the spring by using low hoop tunnels and coldframes. Early and late gardening also means becoming familiar with cold hardy vegetables, most of which I have heard of, but some I have never tried. This year I resolve to plant some mache. About half the book is given over to an A (arugula) to W (winter squash) listing of hardy vegetables, how to plant and handle them.
Mache, also known as corn salad, can be planted as soon as you can work the soil. It needs cool soil and moisture to germinate which it will do in about 2 weeks. Spring planting will give you early salad. It can also be planted again in August through October for delicious winter salads.
Mache is familiar and popular in Europe. If I want to choose a North American early salad green I can plant claytonia, otherwise known as miner’s lettuce – even though the flavor is not lettucy. California gold rush miners found it very nutritious because it is a good source of vitamin C.
Claytonia rosettes can be picked whole when the plants are young, or as they mature, you can just pick off the leaves you want and the plant will continue to grow. It also produces edible flowers.
Both of these greens need consistent watering. While we all want to conserve water there is no way around the fact that vegetable gardens need regular watering, especially when they are just beginning to grow. Having a water source near a vegetable garden is vital.
Jabbour gives vital information about siting and building the cold frames, low hoop tunnels and high hoop tunnels as well as using floating row covers that will extend your garden season in spring and fall. I like this new angle on intensive gardening getting more produce out of limited space and for a longer season.
There seems to be more and more interest in growing at least a few vegetables. Possibly because of the economy, or because of concerns about good health, or concern about the cost of food miles, or because freshly picked produce just tastes so good. No matter. Both of these books will get you resolving to eat more of your own vegetables over a long season in efficient ways that require less work and less money.
I will let you know how well I keep my resolutions.
Between the Rows March 10, 2012
All material on this blog is Copyright 2012 Pat Leuchtman