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Archive for the ‘Gardening Calendar’ Category

As many of you, my faithful readers, know-I wrote a book, entitled “A Year in My New England Garden”, a few years ago.  This is the story of how that came to happen.

Gardening has been an important part of my life since I was a kid living on Staten Island, one of the 5 boroughs of NYC.  It began when my mother decided she was going to become a “gardener”!

Her first venture was to plant some daffodils.  daffodils-1399483She knew they should be planted pretty deep in the ground, but she overextended that a bit, and when the flowers came up, the blooms were resting with their “chins” on the ground!  They had stretched about as far as they could and it didn’t allow them to get their blossoms farther than the soil surface.  It was pretty funny.  My mother NEVER made that mistake again (and neither did I!).

Her zeal to learn about how to do it right, brought her to membership into three different garden clubs.  She loved them…and boy!  Did she learn about gardening!

We had a very small plot of land around our house on Staten Island, but she filled it with beautiful, aromatic, and even tasty plants, although her passion was really for flowers.  There were climbing June roses, whose odor still bring me right back to my youth when I smell them today.  There were prize winning chrysanthemums, as well as proper daffodils, and other blooming bulbs, and perennials, etc.

She had my Dad build a pergola for her, that was a groaning board for honey-suckle vines.  We ate out there all summer long, right by the birdbath, surrounded by lovely plants of all sorts (and a TON of bees, I might add!).

Her garden clubs titilated her artistic bent and she soon began to make floral arrangements.  Those arrangements were so good that they were not only entered into the NY Flower Show, but she actually won prizes there for her endeavors.  We were very proud, but didn’t fully recognize the awesomeness of her talent until we were much older and realized just what she had accomplished!

She generated in me a life-long romance with flowering plants and anything having to do with them.  I, however, was never a “garden clubber”.  I have always found them to be more social than practical.  Perhaps that was just because where I lived tended to attract gardeners who cared more for the condition of their fingernails, than the soil those nails encountered!-7

At any rate, when I learned about the Master Gardener Programs available all over this country, I felt I  had found my calling!  I became a Master Gardener in Connecticut, where we lived at this point, and found my niche in helping new, or struggling gardeners be able to plant their daffodils right, the first time!

When my husband and I  retired to New Hampshire, I looked for a gardening “hot line” in vain.  At the time I arrived, they didn’t have one of those in my area (the boonies!)  So, I began a BLOG!

I worked on that blog for years, until we made the move to the Pacific Northwest, where we are closer to our daughter and her family, after years of living close to our sons.  (Don’t even ask why our kids all live a continent apart!)  I enjoyed the blog, and started a new one more appropriate for our new area.  I struggled with how I should approach it’s direction.

While struggling with that, I thought perhaps I should put some of my accumulated knowledge into a book, which is what I did.-1

It is essentially a collection of gardening vignettes followed by a gardening calendar.  It does tell about my New England garden, but a daffodil has the same needs in Seattle as it does in North Haverhill, NH and Wethersfield, CT.  Pruning is the same and the birds select their seed and backyards the same way.  Judging when to water depends on the plant, not the location in which you live!  So, although the book talks about a New England Garden…(I wish I had given it a different name.)  It really applies to ANY garden, and the stories are there for your enjoyment.  I’m hoping perhaps you give it a “look see”.  Perhaps you, or a gardener you know, might enjoy an inexpensive, yet information packed, gardening tome.

“A YEAR IN MY NEW ENGLAND GARDEN”

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Here are the hellebores in all their February glory!  As you saw in my last post, the garden is not sleeping any longer.  The natural alarm clock has gone off, and the plants are busy preparing for their appearance!

Here are some things you can deal with this month in your garden.  At Horizon House, not all of them are appropriate, but there are other gardeners (not living at Horizon House) who read this blog as well, so I’ve added a few things for them.  If something doesn’t apply to you, well just ignore it!

  • Bring home some wonderful blooming flowers to enjoy around the house!
  • This is the time to get out and take a good look at your trees to see if they could stand some pruning. It is easy to see whether there are broken or diseased branches now that there are no leaves.  Always think “could a bird fly right through this tree without banging into a branch?”  That would indicate that air and sun could ALSO fly right through-and that would be a GOOD thing!
  • Are you ordering from those catalogs? This is the time to plan on making your dreams come true! At least in the garden.
  • As you look around the neighborhood, make note of plants that have “winter interest”. Find out what they are and plan to add them to your garden when the weather is better!
  • Trees are easy to identify in the winter because all the leaves are gone. However, you have no leaves to use to help you either…so go to the book store and buy a Winter Tree Identification Guide. (I identified one of MANY appropriate books.  See if there’s one that you can relate with!)  It’s kind of fun identifying trees by their shapes, and the kids love doing it as well.
  • If you haven’t done it already, sharpen those tools-and while you’re at it, organize them as well.
  • Before you know it, should you have a lawn, it will be time to roll out the lawn mower. Has it been serviced? Get it to the shop before everyone else beats you to it.
  • If you have grapes, prune the vines now. If you wait until it begins to warm up, they will “bleed”.
  • Get rid of weeds you see, and if the mulch is getting thin, replenish it.
  • Do you have winter vegetables?  Now’s the time to harvest!
  • If you haven’t done a soil test done lately, maybe now’s the time?
  • If you start seeds this month or next, try using clear topped take-home trays that you get leftovers in, from restaurants. They work really well!  (I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen too many of these around lately.  I guess we’re getting better about compostable containers!)
  • Force some of your spring blooming twigs for indoor color. Try fruit trees, forsythia, dogwood, pussy willow and quince. Just bring them inside and allow them to sit in a large vase with water.
  • Keep those bird feeders full, unless you live in a high rise, like Horizon House…then the feeders attract varmints.  Horizon House residents…NO BIRD FEEDERS, except for Humming bird feeders.
  • Be sure to keep the leaves of indoor plants “dusted”. It helps to wipe them with a damp cloth to keep the pores open.
  • Look around the garden (if it isn’t covered by snow) and be sure none of your perennials have been heaved out of the ground by frost. If they have, press them back down.
  • Plant any bare root trees or shrubs when you get them.  They are usually available now.  They will be cheaper and probably easier to start!
  • Remove any heavy snow (should you have it)  from the evergreens.
  • Be alert!  You may see some signs of spring.  A bulb peeking up where you least expect it?  A robin after that worm?  WHEEEEE!  Can’t WAIT!

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I’ve had a few folks ask about a calendar of “what to do when” in the garden.  I have to be a little picky here, as I’m really writing this blog for those who live at Horizon House (a Retirement facility) with raised garden beds…no big expanses, trees or large shrubs.  This means that some chores are adjusted in such a way as to fit our needs.  However, ALL of these are useful for ANY gardener in the Pacific Northwest.  I will try to post one of these for every month as we go forward.  If it appears that they are either too “simplistic” or too “all encompassing”, please bear with me, and fit them to YOUR own needs!   I hope you find them useful, no matter how large or small your piece of Eden!

JANUARY

  • Some folks cut off the spent christmas tree boughs and lay them on top of flower beds to add extra protection, from errant snow or even low temperatures.
  • Do you have anything that’s stored away…like tubers of any sort?  Bulbs, veggies (potatoes, etc.)  Check them and toss any mushy ones into the compost.
  • Don’t forget the birds.  images.duckduckgoEspecially here in the PNW where little hummingbirds spend the winter.  There aren’t many blossoms for them to tap…offer them some sugar water.  (4 part’s water to 1 part sugar.  Bring to a boil, and cool.  It will keep nicely in the refrigerator.)
  • This might be a good time to start a Gardening Journal.  You can use a notebook, a calendar, or even a published gardening journal you buy at the bookstore.
  • Had any early storms?  Pick up and dispose of debris.
  • Turn your indoor plants every week or so in order to keep their growth even, as they will grow toward the sun.
  • While you’re at it be sure to constantly check those indoor plants for insects and give them a soapy, bubble bath if you find any!
  • Check your fruit trees (and actually ANY trees) and cut out the “water sprouts”.  They are new growth that points STRAIGHT up.  They will only block air and sunshine, and are totally non-productive.  Remember when you prune to get as close to the trunk as you can without cutting into it.  The wound will heal by itself.  No need to paint it with anything, as that may actually impede the healing process.
  • It’s a good time to clean up your tools.  A good method is to have a small pail filled with sand to which you’ve added some old oil.  Then you can plunge your shovels, spades and trowels in to clean off the old dirt, and coat them with oil at the same time!
  • It’s a good time to take your shears, pruners (and lawn mowers if you have such a thing) in to be sharpened!  Then they’ll be ready in the spring.
  • For goodness sakes, enjoy your gardening catalogs and use them to plan next years garden!  Order stuff now, they will be sent at the proper planting time, and at least you know you’ll GET what you want!
  • Stay active!

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Someone was concerned because many plants appear to be dead or dying out in our garden terraces.  So, I put on my “woolies” and ventured out to check all three levels.

 

What I found there were three levels of gardens suffering from winter!  I found nothing unusual. I found that most gardeners had done with their gardens, what they needed to do.  They had cut back perennials that needed cutting back.  The hardy perennials that had been left, were in differing states of life.   Some of them looked fabulous!  Some looked a bit haggard (like me on a cold, windy day).  And some looked a little surprised that their moderate Seattle had dealt them a surprising hand with freezing temperatures over a few weeks.

Seattle doesn’t often suffer from such cold for so long.  BUT, right now that is what’s happening.  If our tender plants were not bundled up (like we have done with ourselves when we’ve ventured out) before this hard frost hit, they are suffering a bit.  But, worry not.  Nature has planned for this.  Notice, even the plants caught in their own little pond, are doing quite well!

The plants that are perennials are doing just fine.  It could be that their tops have died back…but that’s OK.  That’s what they do!  They will come back robustly in the spring.

The shrubs and trees (be they large or little) that are deciduous (losing their leaves in the winter) have lost their leaves, making them look a bit naked.  The other trees and shrubs look wonderful.  Their leaves and budding tips are just waiting to burst forth on the first warm day.

The annuals, or non-hardy plants, large and small, have succumbed to Father Winters cold blasts…as they are expected to do.  They do NOT look good.  They are the ones that should find their way into the compost!

The final word on all of this is not to worry.  It’s too late to do anything anyway.  Some of the gardeners have either put, or left, fallen leaves on their garden beds.  That is a wonderful technique of mulching (snugging up the plants).  Nature takes care of it’s own.  When a cover is needed…there are the fallen leaves!

img_5956Many gardeners also cover their plants with burlap when a hard frost is expected, but nature hasn’t planned anything like that, so it’s nice, but not necessary.  That is a more prevalent technique in areas with snow and wind, to protect a plant against losing too much moisture, and even protecting branches from heavy snow loads.

All in all, I think the gardens look great.  Don’t worry!  All will be well in the spring.  And if you’ve lost something, consider it an opportunity to plant something new and different!

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My book, “A Year in My New England Garden”, can be a wonderful way to share the fun of gardening with your friends and neighbors!Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 11.29.58 AM

The tiny stories will make you smile about the adventures of gardening in New England, while the calendar in every monthly chapter, will help ANY gardener-no matter WHERE they/you live!  It addresses gardening chores for the vast majority of the United States, except perhaps the deep south.

The book is primarily a gardening calendar with chores listed in a chronological manner so you’ll know exactly what to do, and WHEN!

It’s cost is less than $10.00, so it makes a great small gift, perfect for taking along for a hostess who loves gardening…or is still learning the “finer arts of a green thumb”!

I hope you’ll give it a try!

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