Dear Friend and Gardener
Monthly Archives: February 2010
February has been a record setting month in terms of snow fall – which I have found to be a good thing. To my mind, winter is only good with snow and the usual gray skies we have in Ohio have, at least, been releaved by snow fall and excitement. But, I was very happy to turn the page on my calendar this evening and see a lovely drawing of Borage plants. The seedlings on my windowsill have done very little so it will soon be time to get serious about starting seeds with a more sophisticated method than Ghia pots… Details to follow.
The first two years of Big Garden, I planted in rows and ran black plastic down the paths between. Because I live on reclaimed farmland, although that was some time ago, I was lucky to not suffer from the horrid clay here that is around the house where the soil has been more disturbed. Soon enough, I saw my plants thriving in ways I had never seen in my childhood garden. But, it was not pretty to look at and was soon an overgrown mess. Winters spent reading all I could find taught me many theories on garden design, from practical organization to functional simplicity and maximum production. Still and all, I finally struck on the French description of a Potager and have never looked back. The tradition dates back to the monasterial apothocary walled gardens and offers much in beauty as well as produce. The book, "The Art of French Vegetable Gardening" was instrumental in my education, which is never quite complete as I learn more every year.
There is this wonderful place I have visited since a child: the Cincinnati Nature Center. Story goes that this was once a personal residence and that the owner started planting and naturalizing daffodils many, many years ago. The number of bulbs is amazing – sometime after WW1, they held a festival and sold 15,000 cut daffodils in one day. The plantings, started in 1899, have been multiplying ever since. Come spring, this is a Must Visit place for all in the vicinity.
I am a totally self-educated gardener (started at about 11 but didn’t really discover the passion until I moved onto 2 acres at 32), although I aspire to become a Master Gardener (time permitting, seems the local classes are only offered when I have to be at work). So, I know there is a LOT that can be learned from books, catalogs, fellow gardeners, favorite nursuries/garden shops, and just plain, old trial and error. I have made many mistakes and hope I have learned from them. BUT, I think you should try to grow what you want, learn if or not it works, and be unafraid to move your mistakes to another area or the compost. DO learn how to compost though – you will need it!
The average last frost date for my zone 6 garden is May 19th and I have usually been safe to plant out by Mother’s Day – IF I am ready… Counting back the 6, 8, even 10 weeks, needed to get seedlings up and ready, I need to start my seeds by March 13th – 27th depending on the plant. I really need to finish my "shopping" with the catalogs and then get my seedling area cleaned up. Somehow, my work bench becomes a dumping ground in the off season. Tomorrow – how I start seeds.
Got a new Burpee’s and Gardener’s Supply Co today – time to get serious about choosing what I will grow this year. Need to order seeds in time to start them mid-March. Seems I am never organized in time – then I can’t grow some flowers that take longer to germinate and grow large enough to actually flower sometime this season. Not only does starting the seeds cost less, many of these plants are just not available at local nursuries.
Learned how to make a template in Excel to record my garden rotations – the one type of record I have been keeping since I designed Big Garden many years ago. Now, to make the records digital – trying to get away from the smudged papers I have stuffed in with the seeds.
After 2 weeks, there are patches of grass visible through the snow in my yard and signs of plants that need a lot of sunshine to outgrow this winter. I have never been good at keeping a Gardening Journal as all my favorite gardening writers have advised – time for a change.
Working on inventorying my seeds so I can get started with the garden plan – after 2 weeks of snow, I am ready for the next season!