Ah, we've been busy this winter. One would think February an ideal time to rest the body and catch up on reading. While we have been reading (me, mostly garden books/FM likes his non-fiction and trekking stories), garden chores still await. With fairly mild weather, we were able to kick it into high gear and cross off some things from the To-Do list. Here's a breakdown of what we've been up to this month at Chickadee Gardens.
The gardens are beginning to fill in and some of my evergreen-ing efforts are paying off. Not bad for the middle of winter. I'm pretty happy with it so far.
First up, seed-starting yet again. In the garage are happy seedlings of celery root, cauliflower, onions, leeks, celery, cabbage and broccoli. Since I love leeks and celery root, I just started a third flat with extras of those.
Oscar the Agave was planted into the landscape. He's south facing on a slope with about two wheelbarrows full of gravel around and under him, creating a mini-hill. So far so good. The hope is that he'll settle in and become established by next winter.
Next up, a bit of fruit tree pruning. I am still trying to wrap my head around how much to prune when they are this small (in the ground under a year). It's confusing as each kind of fruit has different requirements. I hope we're doing it correctly.
A warm dry spell allowed time to do a little mowing (to help me visualize where the path through the veggie garden will go in this photo). I also cleared weeds from the crowns of gooseberries, blueberries and raspberries.
The artichoke and asparagus beds were finished, tilled and amended. Asparagus was planted, now I'm looking for several more artichokes to get into the ground soon.
The orchard was mowed, this is mostly Dutch white clover we will happily let grow to its heart's content for the rest of the year. I think I'd like to plant daffodils between trees this fall to let them naturalize.
Then we had snow. A solid week of snow. I just shut my eyes and looked away.
FM made me a snow kitty. OK, the snow wasn't that bad, I suppose.
Next, we got our first delivery from Chip Drop. Yay! It's a great service partnering arborist wood chips with crazed gardeners. Nearly free, I plan on calling on their services many times this spring. I did a lot of research about mulches for the berries, this one came up as the top choice, you can read a summary of why I chose wood chips here in an article by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott.
First the area was mowed as close to the ground as I could reasonably do.
With about a 600-foot round-trip length for each wheelbarrow full, FM and I managed to move about 50 loads in here in a day. The chips are super lightweight and smell divine. Great spring exercise!
About halfway through layering a good 8" base.
All finished for this area, the gooseberries and blueberries. With a good depth, weeds will be unlikely to spring up. They will decompose over time adding nutrients to the soil while allowing rain to pass through. Wood mulch helps to keep moisture in the soil and regulate its temperature, too. If you're concerned about wood chips tying up nitrogen, Dr. Chalker-Scott's research concludes that it is a myth. The very top layer of soil has a slight decrease in nitrogen that inhibits seedling growth, but below a few millimeters there is no change whatsoever. I like science-based gardening, it saves me time and energy so I'm going with Dr. Chalker-Scott.
Next up on the chores list, we received our order of fruit trees! We lost four fruit trees out of the 19 we had planted last spring, so we went shopping. We ordered a Warren pear, an Ooharabeni Asian pear and a Spicezze Nectaplum. We went a little outside the box with the nectaplum but the description in the catalogue promised wonderful things to come.
From their website: This is a new and unique introduction that truly tastes like a delicious cross of a plum and a nectarine. The first NectaplumT from Zaiger Hybrids. SpiceZee is a great choice for the home gardener. It is slightly acidic and loaded with sugar giving it a spicy sweet flavor. Along with great flavor, Spice Zee is a beautiful ornamental tree with a tremendous spring bloom followed by dark red leaves in the spring that mature to a rich green-red in late summer. This variety is self-fruitful and very productive. (Patent Pending)
I can't say exactly what happened to the four fruit trees that died - other than they were not heeled in very well and they waited in the wings for several months before we were able to properly put them in the ground. On the left is the pear formerly known as Warren, on the right is what it's supposed to look like, a healthy Warren pear. No roots on the dead one, it never grew at all, actually.
Planting planting planting . . . they are all safe and tucked in now to their new homes. They were barely out of the box when we planted them in the orchard, so let's hope for success this time around. No waiting in the wings for these additions.
FM says it looks more like shoveling shoveling shoveling?
FM says it looks more like shoveling shoveling shoveling?
In other news, the chives are coming up. Spring is nearly here.
We did not pull up the old cabbage plants from last year, they have produced tiny cabbage heads all winter long. I think they are very pretty.
A parting shot of a Japanese maple surrounded by grasses. This photo represents the 2,482 hours spent pulling bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) seedlings. I joke but hey...it was mild enough to weed, might as well try to get ahead of them. Little victory piles of dead weeds dot the garden. Very satisfying. I think you can see a couple piles somewhere in there.
All in all, February was very productive at Chickadee Gardens. We were able to work on the food-producing portion of our property and gain a jump start on spring planting. We have more plans for this area but we shall wait for warmer weather to till and amend the soil with the many pounds of amendments purchased earlier this month. Path-building and seed-starting will continue, and hopefully a little bit of harvesting. We have been getting a little bit of spinach and lettuce here and there, but surely there are larger harvests in the near future. More on that in spring.
That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. We like to think of this as a garden to share with the world so are thrilled when it feels like a gardening community. Until next time, happy gardening!