Category Archives: Gardening

Now that my garden is put to bed I can concentrate on other ‘gardening’ activities inside. Forcing bulbs inside is a good way to have blooming flowers mid winter. They also make a great present, who wouldn’t appreciate a gift of bulbs when the world is white outside! Tulips, narcissus, hyacinths, crocus and lily of the valley can be forced into flower in late winter or early spring.  A pot of tulips on your windowsill in February can brighten your spirits!

It is a good idea to keep the same variety in one pot as the blooming times often vary. Bulbs are also planted much closer together than you plant them outside. With the exception of narcissus bulbs, bulbs must be given a cold temperature of 35-48 degrees F for a minimum of 12-14 weeks. You can either keep them in a cold frame, an unheated attic or cellar or even a refrigerator!  In the refrigerator the pots should be covered with plastic bags that have a few holes punched in them.

Since I didn’t want to have to put my bulbs in a cold spot for weeks, I am gong to force paper white narcissus bulbs. I found some very healthy looking bulbs at the local nursery.

First I rinsed the gravel to get rid of the dust. I filled each of my bowls with gravel about 2/3rds full. I then nestled the bulbs in the gravel ½ to 1 inch apart, placing the pointed side up.  Then fill in gravel around the bulbs, leaving the top halves exposed. Place them in good light and add water up to the base of the bulbs. Keep the water level at this height.  I then placed the pots in a cool area. Within a few days roots will appear. When green shoots appear, move the pot to a cool, sunny spot. Sit back and watch them grow and bloom. It’s nice to enjoy a little bit of spring color for your home when everything outside is covered with snow!

 

fall, garden

Fall garden all cut back.

“Fall is not the end of the gardening year; it is the start of next year’s growing season.”
Thalassa Cruso

Some years I never get around to doing a full fall clean up of the gardens. This year almost everything is cleaned up. I really have to thank my mom for giving me a weekend of help! She came for a visit several weeks ago and we spent a good portion of the weekend cutting back the flower beds. I have one small flower bed to still cut back but the rest is cut back and cleaned up! What a wonderful feeling.

All the decaying plant material has been moved to our compost heap, which will help to keep the garden free of insects and diseases. I have weeded the strawberry beds and covered them with straw to protect them over the long cold winter. I have also added some composted manure to the rhubarb bed and covered it with straw. As I mentioned in a previous blog my garlic is planted and mulched. I even dug up my two rosemary plants and brought them inside for the winter. Nothing like a little fresh rosemary in the middle of winter!!

strawberry bed, fall garden, weeding

Fall strawberry bed.

strawberry bed, mulch, fall garden

Strawberry bed all mulched.

The last thing we did was to empty our compost bin that is close to our kitchen, into the garden. It was amazing to see the beautiful black compost! Once all these chores were complete we let the chickens have free range of the vegetable garden! They love it and in just a few weeks will have scratched every bit of garden soil. The surface of the garden will look like we’ve had a miniature rototiller busy at work! They eat up any weeds that have sprouted and pick up any lose bits of plant material. Plus it’s just fun to watch them busy at work.

compost, fall garden, chickens

Chickens enjoying the compost pile!

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Compost pile a day later.

 

Now the snows can come, my garden is wonderfully cleaned up and ready to face the winter. Before I know it those seed catalogs will begin arriving in the mail. I can sit by our woodstove and plan next years garden!

winter, garden, snow

The winter garden.

I haven’t grown garlic in years but this year I got my act together and managed to get some planted in the garden before the real snow! I purchased some locally grown garlic so it should do very well in my garden. There are two main types of garlic. Stiffneck and soft neck.  Stiffneck garlic plants send up a false flower stalk in the spring called a scape. Stiffneck garlic bulbs usually contain 5-7 large cloves. Softneck garlic plants do not produce a scape, and generally contain a dozen or more relatively small cloves. I planted the stiff neck variety. Garlic is multiplied by vegetative reproductions rather than by seeds. Individual garlic cloves are planted and they each produce a bulb. The nice thing about planting garlic is that it is planted in the fall, it’s out of sync with other crops. Garlic requires a cold treatment for about two months to induce bulbing. You want to give the garlic enough time to form roots but not enough time to form leaves! Our fairly mild fall gave me the opportunity to plant my garlic.

I pulled all the weeds from one of my raised beds and removed the various little stones that seem to pop up every year. First thing I did was to break each garlic set into its cloves, just like you do when you are going to cook them. Then I planted each clove, root side down every 5-6 inches apart. Each clove was pushed into the ground about 4 inches and then covered with dirt. I didn’t want the frost to pop them out of the ground. Once the garlic was all planted I mulched the bed with a nice layer of straw. Hopefully each of those cloves will grow into a nice, plumb garlic bulb! Now to be patient.

In the late spring the scapes should develop. These should be removed to retain the plant’s resources for bulb formation. The scapes are edible! Something new to try! I won’t be able to harvest my garlic until the lower leaves begin yellowing from the tips on down, usually in July. Ideally you want the bulbs to have attained their maximum size but the cloves have not started to separate, this way they will store better. I will let the bulbs air dry where they are protected from the sun. Then they will be ready to store.

 

 

Here in the northeast fall is the time to plant daffodil bulbs. Ideally, you should plant bulbs as soon as you purchase them. I received my daffodil bulbs in the mail and decided to follow the directions and plant them right away. The day was warm and sunny and most of the snow had melted from the weekend storm, a good day to mess in the garden! You want to plant the bulbs when the soil can still be worked, this gives them time to develop roots and establish themselves before winter arrives.

The rule of thumb for planting bulbs outdoors is to set them two and a half times deeper than their diameter. For my daffodil bulbs this meant 5-6″ deep. If you want a naturalizing look to your planting, take a few bulbs in your hand, toss them gently on the ground, then plant them where they have fallen. Dig a hole in the dirt with a trowel for each individual bulb. Special bulb-planting tools are available at garden centers, they make it easy to dig neat, circular holes. Place the bulb in the hole and cover with dirt. In the spring before growth or flowering begins spread a complete fertilizer over your flower beds. The spring rains will carry the fertilizer down into the soil.

Planting bulbs requires patience because you have to wait almost six months before you can enjoy the flowers! Patience is a good virtue to practice, it involves waiting. In our society we want things immediately which is why so many people have debt problems! If we would learn to wait and save for something we want rather than “buy now, pay later” we would be much better off financially! Even stocking your party requires patience. A pantry does not become a well stocked pantry overnight. It takes months of careful planning and preparation, which is a good rule to live our life by!

So I will be patient, the bulbs are planted and I will wait to enjoy their beauty. I will look forward to the daffodil blooms come spring.

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness;
it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.
Gertrude Jekyll

 

Our growing season in Vermont is a short one. The ground is really too cold to plant until the end of May and we’ve been known to have a frost as early as Labor Day weekend! My dream is to have a greenhouse to help extend the season. We have friends that have a beautiful greenhouse and they have the most wonderful peppers and tomatoes. Until my dream comes true I find ways to extend the season in other ways. In the spring I use a cold frame to serve as a halfway house for my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. When it’s time to move them out of the house but it’s still too cold to move them into the garden I use the cold frame. In the fall I use row covers. I planted lettuce in mid August and when the nights started getting colder I covered my lettuce crop with row covers. I’m not sure how long they will protect the lettuce but despite the fact that we have had several killing frosts we are still enjoying fresh lettuce from the garden! This winter I plan to read Eliott Coleman’s book: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long. Maybe I too can become a four-season gardener here in Vermont.

Mid summer.

The garden is well underway. This year I am trying to stay on top of the weeds, some years I do better than others. My goal is to keep the garden weed free and mulched. Usually I will rake up the grass clipping and use them as mulch. It’s amazing how even a slight layer of mulch will help the soil stay moist. As you can see from my pictures the tomatoes are weeded and lightly mulched. I also have a few carpet remnants, which I use in the pathways. They work somewhat but I actually have weeds growing on the carpet paths this year! As you can see I am still waiting for my first red tomato. One of these years I really want to try building a hoop house! What are the gardening conditions where you live?

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