Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lessons learned from Snowmageddon

The first weekend of spring was spent cleaning up all of the damage from the winter. In Maryland, we are not used to so much snow, and obviously, neither are our plants. We had a lot of damage on our white pines, and I am still waiting to see if our hollies will come back. The picture below shows what used to be 4 foot tall hollies, smashed by tons of snow that was piled on them.

Surprisingly, they are starting to bounce back. They might just pull through.

On the other hand, a beautiful smoke tree in the front of our house sustained significant damage. The tree was dreadfully overgrown, but we had never gotten around to pruning it. I am convinced that if we had kept it pruned, it would not have sustained as much damage. If the tree had been properly thinned, it would not have been so weighted down by the snow, and fewer limbs would have broken. Now, with the broken limbs removed, and some additional pruning to correct the shape, the tree is about a third of the size it was before. It is a bit sparse looking, but I hope it will fill in a little (but not too much!).

I am not very good at pruning because I always hate to cut off a limb that is growing - it just seems so cruel. Hopefully this experience will convince me that careful pruning is in the best interest not only of the garden, but also of the plant.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My garlic is up!

This weekend was my first chance to get out and look at the vegetable garden. Finally, it wasn't snow-covered, raining, or too dark to see what was happening in my little plot.

Over the winter, I wondered about the garlic that I planted in the Fall. Would it really survive this terrible winter? I was happily surprised - the garlic is up and seems to be thriving!

Of course, it will be a while before I can harvest any garlic, but I am taking this as a good omen for the 2010 vegetable garden.

Monday, March 15, 2010

This year's vegetable garden: the seeds and plants

So now that I have decided what to plant, I need to find the right seeds and/or seedlings.

To date, I have done this in a pretty haphazard manner. For seeds, I go to a large nursery where I live, armed with a list of vegetables I want to grow and a "Recommended Vegetable Cultivars for Maryland Home Gardens" printout. This works great if the recommended cultivars are in stock, but about half the time they aren't. And since I am buying my seeds at such a late date, I don't have time to order any, so I just end up randomly grabbing some seeds and hoping for the best. Actually, so far, this method has worked out pretty well for me.

But it does not work if you have heart set on something specific. And, as I learn more about gardening, I am starting to get more interested in specific varietals. So, if I want a specific seed, I will need to order it. But where from?

A friend of mine recommended Pinetree Garden Seeds. I have the catalog in front of me and although the organization is a little strange (it has separate sections for "Italian vegetables", "French vegetables" etc., there are good descriptions.

Another catalog that comes well recommended is Fedco. I like that they don't sell genetically modified seeds. But the catalog - at least online - is a bit intimating.

I think Fedco will need to wait until next year. I need to hurry up and get my seeds ordered!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This year's vegetable garden: the plan

On a recent snowy Sunday (we have had a few of them), I sat down with my garden journal and some seed catalogs and started to plan this year's vegetable garden.

This will be the third year of my formal (meaning not just in pots) vegetable garden. Before that, despite the size of my yard, I only did a few tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers in pots. Then, in 2008, I started my first 4x4 square foot garden. That first year, I grew spinach, chard, lettuce (leaf and head), tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and eggplant. I was amazed at how much food I was able to grow in 16 square feet and decided to double my garden.

In 2009, I grew all of the vegetables above (and more of some) and also tried green beans, radishes, carrots, jalepenos, bok choy, butternut squash and pumpkin (a volunteer that I allowed to stay). Again, a successful year, despite a late-arriving late blight.

So this year, I am sticking with my 32 square feet and trying to decide what to plant. Because I plant in such a small space, I try to get two crops out of a single space. This year, I would like to add to my garden:
  • Tomatillo
  • Cabbage
  • Turnips or rutabaga
  • Lemon grass

I might replace the butternut squash with delicata, plan to have less green beans and won't keep any volunteer pumpkins. It is still a lot of plants for a small space. But I think it will work.

What do you have planned for your vegetable garden?