The garden in winter: a pandemic metaphor that, @ruliejubin reports, can point the way to comfort and hope. https://t.co/dCS8nmPMBT
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 10, 2021
“In an anxious winter, the garden still offers consolation“:
Deep into this pandemic winter, it can be hard to remember what a refuge gardens were last spring and summer.
In those frightening early days of COVID-19, victory gardens and household vegetable plots sprang up all over. Seed companies reported shortages. Hardware stores saw a run on garden tools. Millions found comfort, release and a sense of safety outdoors with their hands in the dirt…
“From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens — the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house, and the garden of the mind’s eye,” Katherine S. White, an editor and writer at The New Yorker and an avid gardener, wrote several decades ago.
As we round the bend into February, and with the hope that vaccines will bring real change, all three of those gardens offer a promise of light.
To the eye, there’s little in a winter garden that can compare to spring and summer’s binge-worthy drama of growing, blooming and buzzing. Only the most serious gardeners (or those in warmer climates) can keep the growing going outside, using cold frames, fabric or plastic tunnels, and other techniques.
But there are smaller joys to be had. The trees’ bare branches make for beautiful silhouettes, and better views of birds and sunsets. Landscape photographer Larry Lederman, author of the recent book “Garden Portraits,” recommends getting to know your garden better in the winter, when “everything is bare and you can see the bones of the landscape.”…
Houseplants are hot now, and Instagram is full of plant influencers posting photos.
New technologies make it easier to grow plants anywhere indoors, with or without soil. The plants offer not only beauty, but the rewards of caring for living things and seeing them grow.
Indoor vegetable gardening, too, has become especially popular both as a food source and as a family activity. For instance, you can buy organic mini-farms in Mason jars, cans and boxes — all intended for the windowsill. You can grow mushrooms in their cardboard box with just a spritzer, or set up a large jar of tomatoes adding nothing but water…
Which brings us to the third garden: the one we imagine and plan.
“I shall never have the garden I have in my mind, but that for me is the joy of it; certain things can never be realized and so all the more reason to attempt them,” the author/gardener Jamaica Kincaid once said…
I have to dig out my copy of Kincaid’s My Garden Book… which, as a number of outraged Amazon reviewers will inform you, is *not* a book about gardening, but a memoir / meditation by an excellent writer in a sort of internal dialogue with the idea(s) of gardening. Excellent February reading!
What’s going on in your garden planning, this week?
Too damned cold to work outside (blech, high of 7 and snow today) so it’s a good day to start seeds.
Good Morning, Everyone???
How are the grandbabies??
@rikyrah: Good morning.
Read yesterday that of the Lower 48 states, only 5 do not have a Winter weather watch.
In Iowa, it is predicted to be Minus 21 tomorrow.
@rikyrah: I assume still breathing because somebody would have told me if it was otherwise. ;-) Didn’t get to see either of them last week, tomorrow looking unlikely due to the weather. So we’re suffering withdrawals.
The NOLA grandbaby is coming along fine and due in 1 1/2 months. They’ve changed their minds on her name and I’ve already forgotten the new name. shrug They may change their minds yet again.
Got a due date for my 3rd STL grandchild: early September, just a few weeks before his/her big sister’s b-day.
@OzarkHillbilly: @rikyrah: @Baud: (and AnneLaurie) Good morning!
High today here will be 14°, with more snow flurries, which looks like it will continue until Wednesday or Thursday, when it will climb into the scorching 20s. So maybe seed starting here too.
@MazeDancer: yeah, big weather system! I wish I could stay home during it. The urge to hibernate is strong ?
edit: checking the forecast, next Sunday will be the first day in more than two weeks it will get above freezing.
Those little people can bring such???
Today is a definite
Stay your azz in the house day
Single digits for the high
Wind chill well below zero the entire day???
@rikyrah: They almost make having children worth it.
Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I have to hurry up and leave Valentina a happy birthday message, though I think I should have done it yesterday. The date line always messes me up on birthday greetings.
Well I guess we here in balmy Southern MD should consider ourselves lucky, where it’s 26 and drizzling, adding to the quarter inch or so of ice we got yesterday. Happy to not be going anywhere today, even if I were to chisel the ice off the truck.
Recrimination overheard at a Chicago bus stop: “You said the weather was like Tupelo!”
There’s puttering about in the garden and then there’s those with more pressing needs.
It’s just rainy and shitty here and will be for a couple of days. The collards, kale and turnips are thriving and the wetlands behind the house are WET! I presented some ceramics, a card as roses so now all I have to do is make my annual Valentine shaped polenta in red sauce!
The last few days have been too warm for sweaters. Expecting rain. I’d be gardening if I wasn’t still in pain from tooth extraction. I hope to make more seed orders today. I stopped off at one of the University gardens Thursday to look at camellias. My own few are doing nicely. Wondering if the local Botanic garden will be in crowded enough for me to check their out. Maybe since it looks rainy, enough other people will stay home.
Lettuce is doing fine and some broccoli could be harvested. Local farmers say to plant beans on Valentine’s Day. I did last year, but I am still achy from my dental issues so I think I will wait till next weekend. Roses are starting to bloom. I cut a bouquet for my mother yesterday as their old dog died. Winter is close to being over here. Pollen season will come soon. I will be on the lookout for neighbors that actually throw away bags of leaves. I have a new to me mulcher so I can shred the leaves into faster compost to improve my soil. Learning from last year to already have pest control on hand before the problems. Last year their were shortages of common supplies because of so many more gardeners than usual.
I have a coleus order coming soon. This year, I actually put in the order before they were out of things.Rosy dawn coleus
One can have a ‘garden’ in the winter – create a planted aquarium (with or without water depending on the plants one wants or if they also want colorful fish.)
Planted aquariums (esp. aquartic) are very beautiful and do require a good bit of periodic work useful in keeping one occupied. The aquartic ones also require weekly testing of water parameters adding a bit of scientific fun. Keeping such an enclosed eco-system stable is a great lesion in just how much our environment substains us.
When its snowing and/or icy out, watching the fish swim in a heavily planted tank is very relaxing.
@OzarkHillbilly: Little ones are so much fun.
43 degrees at the foot of Mt. Conejo, warms up to the low 70s in SoCal today. We’ve planted two new rose bushes, filled a huge pot with color-coordinated flowers, and redid the window boxes on the garage. I had the world’s tallest lawn guy help me move a 4-foot fern from the backyard to the front last Wednesday, we’ll see how it does in its new spot. Our tiny lawn is healthy. In about a month the tomatoes hit the dirt. BTW the lawn guy is 6 foot 6, his co-worker is around 5-6. Esteban has to fold himself in half to drive his old Toyota pickup.
@satby: -4/-20 right now. Definitely a hot chocolate day.
Gardening pretty much grinds to a halt in central Virginia November to February, but a good radio garden show continues through the winter. Horticulturalist Andre Viette does his radio show 8am-11am Saturdays on Harrisonberg station WSVA 550AM. The show is carried by Richmond area station WRVA 1140AM and several other stations in the mid-Atlantic area. It may be podcasted as well.
Viette grew up in Long Island. His grandfather came over from Switzerland and established a nursery operation that Viette’s father and uncle expanded. After horticulture school at Cornell, Viette started a nursery in Augusta County, Va. and has been doing this radio show since 1980. It’s good and informative; Viette answers a lot of questions from a broad base of experience and scientific knowledge. A nice resource, especially in the wintertime.
Hi, I just wanted to de-lurk and say how much I love reading these garden chats (and all Balloon Juice posts and comments)! My husband and I recently moved to Maine where we bought a plot of land and had a small house built for us. The yard around our house is completely bare, so I am dreaming right now of planting all native plants in our yard once the ground thaws this spring. Does anyone else have experience with landscaping with native shrubs, trees and ground covers?
@Geminid: My wife is from Appomattox.
“Yup, unsuitable for human habitation.”
I’m not a gardener, but the mister is. He spent the last few weeks nurturing seedlings in the mancave (enclosed area under our stilt house) and has now taken a gamble and planted beans, tomatoes, peppers and assorted flowers in the garden boxes he built a couple of years back.
Last year, he constructed what I call the “bean harp” — a wooden framework with vertical strings — to encourage the vines upward. I helped him restring it this year, which was my only contribution to the gardening project until it’s time to cook the veggies. It works pretty well! We had beautiful rattlesnake beans, which are delish.
I’m hoping he is correct that we won’t have another freeze. He’s usually pretty good at this guesswork, though there have been incidents where we had to cover the plants to keep them from frost damage when he miscalculated.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@CarolM: Congrats on the move. Both my SILs are deep into native plants, one in NJ and one in FLA. I believe they both belong to their local Native Plant Societies, which offer helpful advice.
@raven: Does she miss Virginia? Your part of Georgia is nice, a little warmer I guess. A friend of mine grew up in Macon. It sounded like the land of a thousand beans. And peas.
The African violets and kalanchoe are blooming in the dining room, which is the only place in this north-facing house with decent light. Love the purple, pink, and bright red. Still haven’t unboxed the microgreen planter. I did order a second compost bin, which is supposed to arrive today. I’ll set it up when it warms a bit. Currently -6F in NE Illinois-by-the-Lake with a high of 5F expected.
Back in January, when we wondered if we were actually going to have a winter—ha ha—the hellebores, daffodils, and irises were all showing signs of life. Now they’re all buried under a foot or so of insulating snow.
Started Ox Heart tomato seeds the 15th of January in a bright south window with no heating pad in Philadelphia. I keep the house at 62. They sprouted about 10 days later. This morning I thinned them to one per cell. There are nine cells in the plastic market pack I found in a recycling bin. This morning dug out nine bamboo skewers to put one in each cell to tie the plants up to when they get taller. There about three inches tall and have their secondary leaves. This year is underway for me. By May they will be a good size to put into the ground.
So glad you all talk about gardens all day Sunday so I can concentrate on my crossword puzzles.
If we are talking garden books this morning, I have to plug one of my favorites. Celia Thaxter’s book An Island Garden is the story of the gardens she planted on Starr Island off the coast of Portsmouth New Hampshire. The gardens have been restored and the publisher re-released the 1894 version of the book with the illustrations by the American Impressionist painter Childe Hassam.
My kids and I all went to summer camp on the island and the gardens are an important part of the experience. If you are in New England or visiting New England, the ferry ride out to the Isles of Shoals is beautiful and Starr island welcomes day visitors.
There is also the infamous Boon Island where the survivors resorted to Cannibalism if your tastes run to a different kind of read.
I had to turn the news off this morning, because I didn’t have anything to throw at my tv that would break it. it’s all Democrats are worse than T****. They sold us out.
ETA when Thaxter was on the island it was called Appledore.
@Geminid: She moved to Richmond for about 10 years after graduating from Virginia Tech and then came here for grad school. Her sis teaches at Tech and is very liberal but her brother stayed home and he’s pretty right wing. We like it here in Athens and aren’t going anywhere.
It’s not gardening but “The Dig” is a beautiful film and there is a lot of dirt!
@Betty Cracker: How bout Brady throwing the trophy from one boat to another!!! I wonder if he will apologize?
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Thank you very much! I just found the Wild Seed Project, dedicated to returning native plants to the Maine landscape.
Welcome to Maine! The Maine Seed Project (checkout the Pledge to Rewild) and the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers MOFGA are two fantastic resources. When this pandemic is managed we can have a meet up at The Commin Ground Fair! I’ll be the jackal with the hay in her hair. I volunteer at the fair and the volunteer tent floor, where we all sleep,is covered in hay.
Oh cool you already found the rewild pledge!
We are told that the next day or two will bring temperatures way below freezing, which, in Houston, is a disaster. Pipes will freeze and burst, plants will die, and people will wreck themselves on icy streets. I’m planning to stay home, make soup and care for my tiny seedlings. I have started eggplant, tomato, pepper, and basil seedlings under grow lights in my dining room. They will go into pots in my tiny patio, since I don’t have a yard anymore. You can take the girl out of the garden, but you can’t take the garden out of the girl.
TS (the original)
Grandchildren are the reward for raising children. A delight for the ages.
@MomSense: Thank you! I can’t wait until we can finally get out and back to normal, and the Fair looks awesome!
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Josie: I see that Texas is asking people to conserve electricity because the very cold weather is sucking up power
Redacted because I should have read farther down the thread ?
Update in case anyone is interested in my AeroGarden progress:
Day 21 (today):
You can start harvesting lettuce on day 21, which is today!
I didn’t want to be the first to post from an unfrozen location and risk the wrath of the more temperaturely challenged. Fortunately, Betty broke the ice on that one.
72 on my back porch this morning after a night of some heavy rain. Night time rains are not all that common here in the mildew state and I actually enjoyed lying in bed around 3 AM listening to it.
I don’t really garden in any true sense the word but I tend to two pots of seranno peppers on the wall of our front walkway. I’ve already harvested a dozen or so and they’re busy making more. I use them to make homemade giardiniera. When they get more prolific, I can whip up some bottles of hot sauce.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Yes, we are being warned that we could have service interruptions tonight. Since we are not used to this type of weather, it is a disaster akin to a hurricane. There have already been serious auto accidents in Dallas and Austin.
ETA: Your blog on POV was so helpful to me in figuring out something in my writing. Thanks for that.
@TS (the original): I like to say, “Grandchildren are a parents revenge.” We get to spoil them rotten and teach them all the bad things, then send them home.
That looks fun, and easy, and satisfying. Your lettuces are cute :-)
@OzarkHillbilly: Also you can entirely avoid diaper duty, at least when the parents are around.
Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson!)
@CarolM: I’m in PA and native plants are one on my specialties. I think the Maine Costal Botanic Garden does a lot with natives, at least one of the recent directors there was a native plant guy. Also Garden in the Woods near Boston.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Good lord, almost all of Texas is shaded “Winter Storm Warning” on http://www.weather.gov. And Arkansas, and Louisiana, and Mississippi, …
Tain’t natural. I blame the failed Biden administration.
I’m avoiding going out to look at my garden. This year has been a disaster for rain locally, even though there have been some big storms. Everything petered out or went around us. A friend with a rain gauge measured 3/4 of an inch for the whole season. My poor succulents are shriveled up to wait until mext year
ETA: since Betty and cope broke the ice, I woke up early because my blankets were too hot. It’s 46 degrees now going to a high of 62.
@SiubhanDuinne: My AeroGarden box (Christmas gift) sat there unopened for a month until the AeroGarden flower post 3 weeks ago. Just trying to share some inspiration with the peeps who were thinking of getting one or who were planning to set theirs up.
@Mary G: Can you water your succulents outside? I know the idea is not to need to, but they surely wouldn’t take much water, right?
@Mary G: I can’t have succulents because I appear to be constitutionally unable to ignore them as much as I need to.
@WaterGirl: That is amazing. Enjoy your bounty.
Ted!Ken! This is clearly today’s answer to “How has Obama failed you today?”
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Josie: Holy cow. Thank you!
At least you have degrees. It’s 0 in Chicago right now. Someone stole all of our degrees! :)
@CarolM: Wintergreen is a very pretty native groundcover that grows in shady spots in upland Virginia. It looks like a small periwinkle, with red berries. Don’t know if it is native to Maine.
@WaterGirl: How’re the bacon, tomato, toast and mayo gardens coming along?
Did I mix up the rota again? I’m certain yesterday was “How have the Senate Democrats failed you today”, and I thought Biden came after the Senate.
@mrmoshpotato: Actually, I am thinking my first lettuce will be part of a BLT, except I don’t have the T. :-(
Pro tip: Hide the succulents. If you have a bay window, that’s a good spot – put them in there, then close the drapes. In extreme cases, drywall over the window.
O. Felix Culpa
@WaterGirl: That thread inspired me to get an AeroGarden too. Right now I have little herb sprouts coming up–basil, Thai basil, dill, and parsley. The thyme is taking its time though. I’ll see myself out.
@WaterGirl: Wow. I love those small heads of artisan lettuce.
I am strongly considering a small herb garden, just a largish pot that I can keep in the dining room with a few favorites jammed in. Lemon thyme. Tarragon. Parsley. Maybe sage.
Forgot to mention above that my gerbera daisy, which will be entering its third summer here at Chez Smith, is still blooming when it should be dormant. Two blooms on the way out, with two more on the way in. The funny thing is that the pot is on a shelf without a lot of clearance but with light exposure, and the flower stems are only a few inches long when they normally reach 7-8″. It’s as though it’s adjusting flower height for the light.
My garden, West of Eden, is a frozen hellscape.
How cold is it?
Richard Simmons was spotted wearing pants.
I had to chop the piano for fire wood – but only got 2 chords.
Elsa is migrating south.
I had to chisel my dog off the fire hydrant.
My tomcat was seen cuddling with a porcupine.
hahaha – that may be what it would take! My usual green thumb works against me with succulents.
@O. Felix Culpa: Ha!
I assume you know you will need to harvest the heck out lf the basil so it doesn’t hog all the light and the space at the expense of the other herbs?
We will want pictures! They say 3 weeks to start harvesting lettuce, what’s the timeframe for first harvest on herbs?
@Kristine: Rosemary can be grown indoors in a pot. There are low growing varieties, and larger ones can be treated like bonsai plants.
@Kristine: That is interesting! it’s almost like they are adapting to their environment. :-)
Long ago advice given for cacti:
1) Open the newspaper to the weather page.
2) If it reports rain in Phoenix, give the soil a light sprinkle.
I think my rhododendrons froze to death this last week. Their leaves went from rolled into tight little tubes, like they do in the cold, to rolled into tight little brownish-black tubes. Sigh.
@Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson!): Thank you!
@Geminid: I should try that, too. I don’t use it often, but it does have a lovely scent.
@Geminid: Wintergreen looks like it would work well in the shady parts of our yard, thank you!
Ceci n est pas mon nym
While walking the dog, I’ve been noticing small things around the garden that I wanted to get to before things really started popping in spring. So I did a virtual yard tour one day so my wife could make a list of winter chores with me while sitting inside with her feet up and a hot beverage in hand. I was guessing it might be a half dozen items.
We filled up a page, single spaced.
@WaterGirl: I am going to show my daughter your photos. I am hoping she can find a way to cat proof the garden so she will feel safe planting.
That’s what I’m thinking.
It really should be going dormant–the greenery is yellowing and thinning, but I counted 4 buds at various stages. Thing is, it bloomed indoors last winter, too, and then exploded outdoors during the summer. I don’t know how long I can keep this little guy going, but I love him (despite the fact that gerberas aren’t native and the hummers and insects don’t seem to care for them).
Bright magenta daisies in February in Illinois.
I laughed out loud!
@waratah: At or around day 14, one of my cats was looking at it with great interest. I got out the spray bottle and sprayed him. (Not in the face.) He ran away. I caught him thinking about approaching it one more time, picked up the bottle and he ran away. No interest since.
@Kristine: I love gerbera daisies, too! They are cheery anytime, but indoors in February, wow! Enjoy it while it lasts. :-)
@CarolM: I have done lots of native plantings, but in a very different climate than yours. My advice is to look around this spring at what’s growing in areas similar to your land and get the plants you like identified by a local. Check the web to see if there’s a nursery that says they carry natives, and go have a look when the weather gets better.
In a completely new yard, you’ve probably got lots of preparation and hardscaping to do, which is 90% of the work needed before you can start planting anything; I know that’s disappointing but planning well and preparing well saves a lot of money (in dead plants) and frustration (why did I plant this here?!?). I’m in the same boat, almost. There’s an irrigation system, half of it is drip and I’ll be converting the rest since I don’t believe in lawns in desert environments. The landscaping is tired and suffered years of neglect, so I’ve been collecting local rock for hardscaping and making plans, knowing that I’ve got so much to do that there won’t be much new planting this year. It’s a process, not a destination.
Another oddball checking in. I cheered and am vastly enjoying getting actual snow on the ground here. Actually had spent extra time scuffling up some weedy beds beforehand. Take THAT shotweed! Some solid cold should help the apple tree too for next year. Snowdrops and hellebore will cope.
LOL, I don’t approach mine unless my hands are firmly clasped behind me!
Cowgirl in the Sandi
Thanks WaterGirl. I was hoping you would post pics. I got my daughter one for Valentine’s Day and am looking forward to seeing her herbs grow.
Just started Black Cherry tomato seeds which I saw on an earlier Garden Chat. It’s cool (47) and windy here in the East Bay.
@StringOnAStick: Great advice, it makes perfect sense to plant what grows in our area naturally! And although not as fun, I definitely need to make sure the ground is well prepared for planting. We have a lot of rock on our land so I hope to repurpose it into low retaining walls to help control erosion. I don’t want a lawn either but would love to have a small area of wildflowers.
I’m looking forward to hearing more about your landscaping journey!
I may not plant veggies this year because of the other serious and hard yard work I’ve got planned, but this house did come with a 4′ by 8′ raised bed on the west side and room for 2 more. It’s close to the house and we have to paint and do a roof too so things are likely to get trampled. The season is short here so all the raised beds I see have hoops and fabric against the cold and deer. Maybe I’ll pass on the veggies until we spend a year here and see what it’s like. Eh, who am I kidding, I’ll be planting veggies.
@CarolM: Sounds like you’ve got a plan! We are in the high desert of Oregon, moved here last fall from the Denver area. Using your local stone is a great idea and fits your natives plan. We used Facebook (spit!) Marketplace and found several people offering free rock if you come and get it, so we got 4 Subaru Outback loads before winter returned. The last 3 loads were surface blocks with lots of nice lichen, perfect for the rock garden I’m planning. I can’t wait to see what’s available in the local native friendly nurseries. This neighbourhood is from the early 2000’s and I swear the builder used the same palate of 10 plants. I collected seeds from my favourites in CO, and plan to try to get some sprouted and care for them through next winter in a cold frame before putting them out in 2022. Plants are expensive, but many natives are easy to start from seed!
@O. Felix Culpa: Can you get all of the seed packets from AeroGarden too, because a little herb garden sounds great? Definitely would beat having to go to the store to just pick up one thing.
A dozen plants were blooming in our garden last week. I took pics. Today there is a white cover of 11 inches of snow with more falling. Snowbound* on Valentines.
*Seattle has some snowplows but not enough for our street until it’s been on the ground for five days.
@mrmoshpotato: I am not O. Felix, but yes. You buy the AeroGarden you want – some have 4 spaces for plants, some 6, some 9, I believe. The various models come with different kinds of plants – mine was for lettuce, some are for herbs, etc.
It comes with everything you need to get started, including the plant food and the seed pods and everything.
When you want to plant again, you can buy new pods through AeroGarden – on Amazon and maybe elsewhere.
It’s not great, apparently, to mix and match stuff that will end up being different sizes. For instance, if I planted some lettuce and some herbs together, my lettuce would probably hog all the space and therefore a bunch of the light.
You should go for it – I’m planning to get another one for herbs.
@mrmoshpotato: I hate paying for a huge amount of parsley at the grocery store when all you ever need for a recipe is a little bit.
@Dan B: If you’re snowbound with your valentine, that doesn’t sound like a bad deal. :-)