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Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

Bring. On. Warmth.

Our first snow … Big snow of the year,and here I am, writing about gardening. But that’s how it works, doesn’t it? With us gardeners. Just at the time everyone else has given out, gardeners know there is spring under that snow. Just waiting. Just waiting for the warm. Bring on the warm. Please. Oh please. Quite ready for it, thank you!

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I took the “winter” off. In gardening lingo, that means I took part of November through December off from gardening, to focus on holiday celebrations and such. Actually I still “gardened” if you count finding gardening related gifts for friends and family.

Recently, the first 2010 gardening catalogs arrived. Fedco Seeds. Prairie Moon Nursery. Gardens Alive! Jung Seeds & Plants. All familiar friends. All have the same format, style (same plants) year after year.

Gardening catalogs are about continuity and discovery. Dreaming and reality. The yearning to be better, more productive, more elegant or fun or vibrant, all expressed through the plants I dream about, purchase and plant.

And then, in the sweaty, mosquito afternoons of August, pulling weeds and harvesting crisp veggies, the reality of gardening, the hard work, the back aches and finger cuts. Sun burned necks and dirty toe nails.

I love it all. Many have said this, that we gardeners are an optimistic bunch. It’s true. This life balance of reality and dreaming of the future. Nuture and nature.

I’m blessed with a passion for gardening.

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Sebastian, the garden cat, also enjoys rides in the car. Really. He is one crazy dude.

I’ve been seriously remiss in not posting updates from the garden. Can I excuse it on the great harvest? It’s true that I’ve been focused on bringing in the sheaves, with making tomato sauce using borrowed pots and pans. It’s also true that I’ve fallen victim to the fall doldrums, an easing of responsibility in the garden now that cool nights and mornings are upon us.

Last night we had our first frost of the season. I’ve been talking, talking, talking about winter harvesting, and darn it, I’m going to do it. Not sure where the materials will come from, but I’m motivated to try. Elliot Coleman has two books I pore over to inspire me – “Four Season Harvest” and “The Winter Harvest Handbook“. Although he’s in Zone 5, I know much of his wisdom can work for a Zone 3 gardener (and he formerly farmed in a Zone 3 Vermont garden.) What I especially love are his thoughts on getting started. Simple. Easy. Low impact. While I may not be harvesting tomatoes in January (yikes!), I will have sweet tasting carrots, greens and snappy scallions. Plus, an early start to appease my spring gardening yearnings.

So, I’m off to plan my plan. Those of you who know me will roll your eyes and sigh, “here we go.” That’s okay. I like planning. I like piling on the information, then sorting through it and finding the one gem, the answer that creates that “yaahooo” moment. I do that at work, and I do that at home.

And yes, part of the plan is to expand my indoor growing area. I used to have new seedlings in the basement. Now, I start them in the living room, overlooking my gardens. I’ve been teased – “what you growing there, honey?” but pay no attention anymore. My neighbors know the score. It’s tomatoes, peppers, greens, flowers, and more.

I tip my hat to Fall and the start of the Winter Harvest!

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My favorite books

My Favorites Shop!Like many gardeners, I have an extensive library of books that I refer too throughout the season, or when I’m feeling like gardening BUT am too lazy. Great for winter reflection or planning too!

A couple of my readers have asked for my favorite book list. Truly hard one to answer. So here’s a better solution: I created an Amazon store just featuring my favorite gardening books and tools.  You can browse it, shop it, and enjoy ’em!  My Favorites

Top Ten List:

1. Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman

2. Gardening When It Counts by Steve Solomon

3. The New Northern Gardener

4. Gardening in the Heartland by Rachel Snyder

5. Flowers for Northern Gardens by Leon C. Snyder

6. Trees and Shrubs for Northern Gardens: New and Revised Edition by Leon C. Snyder

7. Minnesota Gardener’s Guide: Revised Edition by Melinda Myers

8. Landscaping with Native Plants of Minnesota by Lynn M. Steiner

9. Best Garden Plants for Minnesota and Wisconsin (Best Garden Plants For…) by Don Engebretson

10. Growing Fruit in the Upper Midwest by Don Gordon

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The local boy scouts dropped off the Wreaths and Swags we ordered to gussy up the house. Tis the season when they stop by! Each year we try something new for Holiday decorating outdoors. Nothing expensive or tricky. Just a few touches here and there.

Last year I borrowed an idea from my friend Jan B., and used old ice skates as a wreath decoration. It was fine until heavy, wet snows dragged down the actual wreath. (Note to self: start with a heavy duty wreath framework!)

This year we had painted most of the house before the snow flew (“we” meaning my husband Greg). So I have a new background palette to work with – a nice olivey green. And surprise, the wreaths don’t “pop” as much as they used to!

So, off to the side yard to cut red twig dogwood branches. Trim them up + add them to the wreaths. Not too bad.

Redtwig Dogwood in Fall

Redtwig Dogwood in Fall

Tasks this week:

  • Ground is frozen, so cover hostas with ground leaves (these have been mounded up and waiting for a lazy gardener to move them!)
  • Water indoor plants, and check for bugs (found some red “bugs” – commence wiping down with slight soapy, wet dishrag)
  • Dram about an outdoor greenhouse; experiment with straw bales + window is not working! Drat!!!

Practice Gratitude. Be happy with the gifts you have today!

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First Snow

As a former Master Gardener, I always love the first snow. First, all of my gardening mis-steps (I refuse to call them mistakes!) are covered over. I can start clean. I can feel like I know what I’m doing! The reality of gardening is this simple fact: we are all beginners. So, yeah, I may have a few more tricks up my sleeve about when to plant something, how to protect it, implementing good soil techniques, and such. BUT. I struggle as much as anyone.

I have a full-time plus job that I love, keeps me busy and productive and learn something new everyday. (Another reason I love gardening.) Getting into the garden is a challenge. And when I get out there, I don’t want to come back in.

So, the garden in winter is great for me. I don’t feel guilty for not being outside. And the time I do spend needs to be short – Minnesota winters are not known for being kind.

My short list of things to do now:

  • Trim my indoor plants and give them one (and only one) light dose of organic fertilizer. Water them well.
  • Go over my spring and summer ” what worked” notes. I keep them on our main home calendar on the fridge – easier for me plus I also note things like “first tomatoes” or “first frost” on there too. From my notes I can start a plant and supplies “wish list” in prep for the gardening catalogs.
  • Make a visit to the Como Conservatory. I need my green fix – perfect without the work.

Enjoy the first snow in your own unique ways!

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