Friday, December 12, 2014

Time in the Winter Garden

I spent a couple of hours in the yard this morning. That ended when the lawn mower choked on a vine. Deal with that later. It was cool enough that I needed to bundle up to do some work, but warm enough that the layers came off as I worked. Other than the start of winter- temps in the 20s and an early, but brief snow, the rest has been what I would call mild. Still plenty of green, maybe not enough sun. Perks of winter gardening include:

  • getting some fresh air
  • vitamin D
  • exercise that isn't routine
  • you can see some weeds that would normally be camouflaged like this one:
I find about a half-dozen of these every winter-spring. It's the best time to find them as they are evergreen. This is Euonymous or Winter Creeper and it sucks. This is the nicest way I can say it. Birds eat the seeds, poop from perched in my hedge and next I find these about the beds. If left alone it will quickly smother the ground and climb the trees and kill everything in its path. This is also the time to find young honeysuckle shrubs, which are also still green and suck too. Both are relatively easy to pull when young and the ground isn't frozen. 

I also found several Wild Cherry saplings. Still having their leaves or
finding upright sticks are easy to see in the winter bed. Pull or snip at the base. 

 Winter is also a great time to find nests. I'm not
sure what this belongs to, but I'm watching. It's on
the Wafer Ash.

And for finding fungi

And for digging
The ground is soft from the rain a couple of weeks ago. 
I've been wanting to build a short wall here to keep
the bed from eroding into the ditch.  

And I'm still raking. Raked and mowed this area 
this morning. Still working on this bed. I want to raise it more,
add a few more daffodils and more diversity of
native plants. 

In my bed cleaning I accidentally pulled some of these 
Jerusalem Artichokes. No biggie. Looks like we'll be having
artichoke pancakes. 

Winter Food
 celery and fennel
from the Dome garden
 Rainbow Chard (slug munched)
from the Dome garden

 Parsnips and a fat carrot
(both from last spring plantings) 

All put into some minestrone. 
It was colorful AND tasty.
All but three ingredients were from my garden (noodles, garbonzo beans and capers). Plus salt. Does that count? From the garden: garlic, onion, the aforementioned and a quart of tomatoes with herbs. 

Winter Foods
Even though they aren't as good as fresh from the garden, stored green tomatoes are really special to still be eating in December. It's sad that they are still better than store bought. 

Geodesic Dome Garden update
The concept is working better than planned. It hasn't been below freezing a single night in the Dome so far. Because of this the soil has not frozen and because of that I have munchers I didn't anticipate. Slugs and a shocker- caterpillars! I really thought the caterpillars would die. I had no idea they had the capacity to withstand winter. They seem to just slow down a bit. Does this result in larger spring butterflies? Do I sacrifice my kale all winter to find out? I just might. My curiosity just might win over my desire to eat kale. I almost fed one to the chickens the other day. Nope- just going to wait it out. 

Not quite a Garden project, but kinda
I've always wanted a pantry. Maybe because I'm a food hoarder or maybe because I like closets of food more than closets of clothes. So, this is one of my winter break projects. I'm almost done with the inner shelves. I have a salvaged door. And then I need to figure out the covering. Maybe pallet wood. Maybe a mix of salvaged materials. We'll see. But it's tied to the garden because it's where the garden is preserved in jars. 
 Pantry in progress.

Winter Break
I'm hoping to divide my winter break between inside and outside projects. I have lots of soil and bed prepping to do, some snipping and sawing and imagining plans for next year's gardens and maybe a new chicken coop for spring chicks. My original 6, now 5, are going on 6yrs and only occasionally laying. I think I need to have a 3-year rotation plan, where every 3 years I get 3 chicks to keep production going. I also considered quail, but not sure I like the idea of keeping them caged and 5 quail eggs = 1 chicken egg. But, they do have a lovely call. Ah well, it gives me something to dream about. 

On the bad days we stare outside and dream.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

First Frost- November 1

We had a very nice, long fall. We had a good week of rain, mellow temps without much swing and spectacular fall colors. I never felt rushed to get all of the last minute winterizing done in one fell swoop. We finally had our first frost on November 1 and then a little more the following evening. We've gone frost free until this week. The Polar Vortex that hit Alaska with hurricane-force winds is reaching us today. The next 4 days has highs in the mid-30's and lows between 19-25F. Come winter. 

Final Harvests:
 1/2 bucket of Kennebec potatoes

 Criolla De Cocina peppers
Probably my favorite.
Very productive. Love the colors & texture.
 Criollas, Tomatillos, Corbachi peppers

Awesome year for Sweet Potatoes
Large, no cracks, no pest damage, prolific
 The record sweet of the year
Winter Prep: Chilies
 Winter chili pepper prep
Shishitos & Peach Habs

The Chosen 8- chilies prepped for the basement
Includes: Mustard & Peach Habs, Lemon Drop & Shishitos

Winter prep: Ginger
 Looks like I have a nice Ginger rhizome here.
I plan to overwinter again (winter #2) and if it makes it
maybe I will transplant. It clearly needs more room.
A broad & shallow pot looks needed. 

Winter Prep: Houseplants Back In
 East: Living Room

 East: Kitchen
South: Kitchen (below)

Winter Prep: Outdoors
 Walking Stick Kale and Broccoli under wrap
Collards(back) & new broccoli (front)- not yet covered

 New raised beds- just concrete blocks
and simple covers from old 1x2's & reused plastic
housing- various greens & turnips
 Protecting young perennial seedlings
Coneflowers, Lobelia, Angelica
 6 young Broccoli (above)
Collards (below)
 Taller plants are less frost tolerant. 
Will these make it?
Parsnips from spring planting & collected seed- hope to eat this winter
Fall Critters
 Appears to be a lighter version of a common
spider we have around here. I saw a couple this color
in recent weeks. This one was on the Kaffir Lime.

It appears I will have even more slugs in the Geodome soon.
I caught these two mating. The white protruding objects are their genitalia. Read this interesting fact:
"Apophallation is a commonly seen practice among many slugs. In apophallating species, the penis curls like a corkscrew and during mating, it often becomes entangled in the mate's genitalia. Apophallation allows the slugs to separate themselves by one or both of the slugs chewing off the other's penis. Once its penis has been removed, the slug is still able to mate using only the female parts of its reproductive system" -Wikipedia

I found this while cleaning the garden. I wasn't sure what was going on here so
I placed the whole mess in a jar to watch.
About a week later I got my answer: Parasitic Wasps

Odds & Ends
 The Jewel Orchid cuttings are taking root in water.

The final bouquet

 1 Narcissus pulled from the fridge
 Drying chilies from Holly
Some of the overwintering plants in the basement under shop lights

Winter greens in the basement? 
Maybe. Planted 11-9-14

Fall Food:

The "Amazing" Quiche that I've already forgotten how to make.
Good thing kiddo made me write down the recipe. 
I put all of the ingredients in the blender & poured into a 
pre-made crust. It was very good. Even the former egg-hater liked it.

Reminders of A Garden Gone

I still prefer my ripening tomatoes over the 
taste of store tomatoes. Even in November.
I like to see how long these will last me.

Winter. Soon Come. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

You should...

You should plant paperwhites now. In the humdrum of winter you won't regret having fragrant flowers blooming in your home. You can get bulbs, like these Ziva Paperwhites, already pre-chilled at your local nursery and they will bloom in 6-10wks or you can pot them up, like I did. I put these or hyacinths in the fridge and take the pots out 1 week at a time to have a succession of blooms over winter. Pre-chill for 9-14 weeks. Occasionally check on them and give them a little water, but not too much so the bulbs don't rot.
Wrap in a plastic bag, close the box & tape shut.
Check on them every couple of weeks.
When the tops start breaking through you'll need to pull them out.

You should...notice Fall right now. It's been spectacular. Cool temps, no frost, good rains.The colors are outrageous.
Pond by Foggy Bottom Refuge
 Cups of spiderwebs in the Asparagus
Devil's Walking Stick- Aralia spinosa
 The sky and the leaves oh my!
 Nature watch with Smokey
 Panicled Aster
Symphyotrichum lanceolatum
Harebell in the wheelbarrel

Drummond's Aster
Blooms after Short's Aster
 Symphyotrichum drummondii

You from the end of the season deals now
Tent sale= Mr Poppins Winterberry bush $10
and 6 Blueberries, $2.75 each. 

You should go outside and see something that you've never seen before.