Country Living Series

Friday, February 20, 2015

Longing for the garden

Unlike the nasty and apocalyptic winter the poor folks back east are getting, we're having mild temps and (at this moment) no snow.

I took this photo of the garden on December 31 when we had a few inches of snow and some bitterly cold temps.

But for the last few weeks, temps have risen and hovered in the 40s. We're even getting sunshine sometimes. As such, the gardening bug is biting, long before we can rationally think about doing anything productive. This photo was taken February 16.

I walked around the garden the other day and began deciding what to plant where.

The beds with straw on them are where I planted the multiplier onions a reader sent last fall. I'm anxious to see how well they grow.

There are five other tires in this section. Last year all eight tires were planted in potatoes. You're not supposed to plant potatoes in the same spot two years in a row (for fungal reasons, I understand) so I'll have to come up with something else to plant here -- probably carrots.

Here are the herb tires. They did very well last year and I'd like to put in more, particularly for basil, of which we use a lot.

Last summer these tires held miscellaneous items -- tomatoes, beans, broccoli, Brussel's sprouts, etc. This year we'll be planting every tire in this section with potatoes.

We still have room for lots more tires. This particular spot is between the blueberries and raspberry bushes. We plan to put four to six more tractor tires in this area with blueberry bushes in them.

Here's the garlic boat. Last fall I planted it full of garlic and buttoned it up with hay mulch. No need to do anything with it (except water, as needed) until next summer.

I peeled back a bit of the mulch and confirmed yes, the garlic is growing. I anticipate a bumper crop.

The strawberry beds.

They may look dead, but there's growth.

By contrast, here's what they looked like last summer.

And yesterday (from the same angle).

I planted two beds of carrots very late in the season last summer, but they grew very well. However I decided to leave them unharvested and let them go to seed (carrots are biennials).

I didn't mulch them, but they wintered well and have a bit of green growth at the top.

The pear tree...

...has buds.

The pond is brim-full.

These are the corn tires. We had a nice corn harvest last summer and plan to at least double the number of tires of corn this year.

Wanting to do something garden-related, I decided to start clearing the corn beds. I figure if I work at a nice easy relaxing pace, I'll have the whole garden ready to go by the time spring rolls around.

It might be too early to plant anything, but it certainly isn't too early for weeds to take deep root. I made sure to dig out every possible weed as I went.

Dug up lots of worms too, an excellent sign.

While I worked, I was serenaded by robins, sparrows, and blackbirds...

...while overhead, flocks of swans headed toward the lake.

An ant's nest in the yard had these large specimens clustered around an opening, moving very slowly.

I can't claim spring is here because the weather could flip-flop at a moment's notice. But neither are we buried in snow like the poor folks back east. So I'll enjoy the mild weather while we have it, and dream of the garden to come.


  1. I don't care if it's too early...I cleaned up one of my beds and a few of my pots, folded in some new compost and dirt, and planted some early seeds this last week: Kale, Turnips, Radishes, and carrots. In a week or two, if the weather stays like this(flirting with freezing overnight, 55-60 in the afternoon), I'll probably get some snow peas going also. Worst case, I'm out an afternoons work and $5 worth of seeds...

  2. We are in the same boat, lovely weather and absolutely no faith that there won't be more winter! I am pruning and weeding and planning, even took a U of I extension course on seedlings and such. Egad this year the spring fever is bad!!!

  3. Hi Patrice - love those early garden pictures. Stuff is coming up all over my yard - the grass is green!
    Do you grow comfrey? If you aren't familiar with it - a wonderful medicinal plant (I use externally only - may cause liver problems internally for some people) - for amazing healing and also for use in the garden to help other plants grow. And fodder for the animals.....Plus easy peasy to grow - just plant, water and watch - (would be perfect in a tire to keep it somewhat tamed.....)

  4. Hi Patrice, I had some weather-related questions that I wanted to ask you in a private post. Could you let me know how to email you off the blog? Thanks! :)

  5. In Central Texas we are on a weather roller coaster--upper 60s today and 46 and dropping tomorrow. Our onions and potatoes were planted the last week in January. The onions are standing up straight and appear to be thriving. The potatoes are still dormant but should start showing up in early to mid-March. The garlic is 6 inches tall and appears healthy. The disadvantage of our early spring is that by late June it is too hot for anything except tomatoes (heat resistant varieties) and peppers with eggplant sometimes (if the bugs haven't destroyed it). Then we plant our fall garden in mid-August and hope that the hard freezes hold off until mid-November. The kale and chard last most of the winter--the chard sometimes until late spring. You could say that we have two crops, but some things just won't make it in this climate.

  6. You are making my mouth water. ;-) Just last night while driving home among the big white tunnels that no one can see past, I thought how lovely it would be to be out mowing my lawn. I don't dream of getting away to an exotic beach. I want to go out and mow my lawn. I want to go out and check my garlic. My needs and joys are simple - I just want to see some greenery again. We are battening down once again for heavy weather and this time it isn't nice fluffy snow. It is freezing rain along with snow that is causing everyone here to hold their breath for fear of roof collapse everywhere. We are thanking God for all of this (1 Thessalonians 5:18) because it is the only way to keep one's spirits up. We have gotten complacent over the past 10 years with milder winters, and now we are rethinking every angle for next winter. I'm keeping a list of things to do next year so I can do them before they become impossible (making all of my roofs easy to reach by removing overgrown trees, snow blowing around every structure and roof raking/shoveling after every storm no matter how insignificant). In case you didn't know, it's nearly impossible to clean a roof off while standing in 4 feet of snow. It is like wrestling with someone under water. You just have to laugh out loud and do the best you can. Please keep this part of the US in your prayers. 8-)

    God Bless,
    Janet in MA

    1. janet,
      go to 'the deliberate agrarian' blog by herrick kimball.
      he shows a sort of snow cutter with a long piece of plastic roll attached.
      the snow slides down the plastic as you would down a slicky-slide.
      so easy, relatively.
      deb h.

    2. Thanks for the tip! I just had a look at the blog and I would truly go out and buy one of these tools right NOW if they were available here. Better than a 24' roof rake.

      God Bless,
      Janet in MA

  7. Your pictures are giving me the itch! We just planned our spring garden and ordered seeds.
    Are the tires for the corn beds cut in half? They look different than the tires in the other beds. Thanks for sharing these pictures! (It is snowing 5-7" here in Indiana today)

  8. I'm jealous. Our yard is still 3ft deep with snow, and today, for the first time in a week we're going to see temps above 20, and tomorrow we might even see 30! We haven't seen 30 in I don't know how many weeks.....

  9. Would not follow tomato behind the spuds. They share a lot of diseases.

  10. If I was having that kind of weather I'd be doing the same thing.

    And I'd be throwing down a few pea and spinach seeds...just to see how much brutality they can really take. A lot, I hear.

    Cool about the carrots. They look like they came through just fine. Even if a cold snap comes along at this point and kills off the green, they'll come back.

    Tally Ho! I'll be starting some seeds this weekend.

    Just Me

  11. Oh, these pictures make me long for spring and getting out in the garden! Unfortunately, here in Michigan we are still buried in snow and dealing with incredibly cold temperatures most nights (down to -22 F this past Friday).

  12. With the snow this deep I'm pruning my fruit trees without a ladder. Just my snowshoes.

    The ladder is getting use clearing ice dams.

    North of Boston.

  13. We always followed this guideline for gardening:
    Crop rotation may seem complicated, but it has only a few basic rules. First, don't plant a similar plant two years in a row. This means not planting other root crops or other members of the Solanaceae family after potatoes. Second, remember this rhyme for alternating the crops in your garden beds: beans, roots, greens, fruits. It is a simplified version of crop rotation that works for most home gardens. Beans include peas and green beans that add nitrogen to soil. Roots include potatoes, turnips and beets. Greens can be any crop harvested for its leaves, ranging from cabbages to lettuce. Fruits include tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and corn. Keeping crops in this rotation helps to reduce nutrient depletion soil and reduces the chance of pests and diseases running rampant. So, after your potatoes, set that garden bed aside for something leafy.

  14. I want so badly to just get out there and see my garden. It's buried under snow. I want to start seeds but I know it's to early. Feb is the month gardeners get itchy I think!
    I would kill just to clean my beds up lol

  15. Ditto not planting nightshades twice in a row. We're in Latah County and planted peas today!

  16. Great photos. Feeling the same way - day time highs in the 60s but we had frost on the roof last night. Meeting a friend at the community garden this afternoon to plant peas. Just have to get my hands in the dirt. And like another post said, if the weather changes and I'm out a few dollars for seed, oh well. SJ in Vancouver BC

  17. Nothing here in Southern Connecticut but white stuff. Haven't seen my soil in months!

  18. Patrice,

    Like you, I have my onions planted with all kinds of straw around each to prevent the cold from freezing them. Last night, hubby and I covered the onion bulbs with plastic and some cattle panels because we are expecting snow. Hopefully they'll survive!!!

    My strawberries are showing signs of growth, I went in and pulled all the old leaves out, and just a few stems.

    Inside the house I've setup my little portable greenhouse,lights, and started tomato, pepper, and herb seeds. I see seedlings popping up every where.

    I can't wait to get outside and plant the rest of my garden!!!

  19. I was able to go outside with just a sweatshirt today. I think it may have been 30 out... that's like 30 degrees warmer than we've seen in over a month now, so we washed the salt off the car. Our poor chickens though...tomorrow drops back into the negatives. I had a feeling this was going to be a bad winter. Spot on.

  20. Long for spring in Wisconsin, this mornings temperature was 11 below zero with 30 below wind chills. We have started peppers and will soon start tomatoes soon in the house. Praise the Lord that the days are getting longer and the sun is getting warmer. I just need to be patient, (not one of my strong suits! lol)