Windhorse Way

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Winter Planning

As the garden wound down for the winter, so did I. It appears I’ve left this blog hanging for a few months! Truth be told, I haven’t been up to much. No big home projects, not much garden planning for next season. I’ve been working a lot, and Autumn sped by with a flurry of birthdays and holidays and anniversaries. I’m not sure how a full year in this house went by so quickly! I did take on one big new project: cooking a weekly meal for some of my neighbors. I make extra portions of my Sunday night dinner and package it up, to be picked up on Monday. All the meals are vegan and gluten free, and it’s been a real challenge to come up with something new and exciting each week that is as seasonal and local as possible. I’ll probably do some more blog posts about it in the future.

Now it’s the end of January and truly time to hunker down and sort out my plan for next year’s garden. My mother bought me a book on permaculture three years ago, when I started my first (failed) vegetable garden. The book was interesting, but as I was renting at the time and very (very!) new to gardening, it was a bit over my head. I re-read the book last year when we moved into our house, but as permaculture is very big on tailoring your projects to the specific site, and I knew nothing about the land yet, the book was again a bit too much for me. Now we’ve lived here a full year and I read the book for the third time and things have started to click into place.

Last year, I focused on establishing large ornamental shrubs that would give some additional structure to the garden. I added hydrangea, lilac, butterfly bush, azalea, dogwood trees, and rhododendron. I also planted a lot of perennial flowers donated by my neighbors. Hopefully this year they will have all stayed happy, and I’ll have bursts of color and fragrance in all corners of the yard. This year, I want to focus on edibles. Specifically, perennial edibles. Last year I did plant two blueberry bushes (one died) and an elderberry. This year I’ll be adding asparagus, artichoke, and rhubarb. I’ll be planting a lot of herbs, as I am still inspired by our Longwood visit in September. I’ll also be adding lots more fruit– currants, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, elderberries, and apple and pear trees. Finally, I will plant some vegetables- mostly ones that are either impossible to get in the stores/ at the CSA, or that I already have seeds for.

I’m not sure if I posted about my disastrous first vegetable garden, but now seems like an appropriate time to mention it.

We were renting a house on a 5 acre property. This garden was walled on two sides with the barn on the third, and the driveway on the fourth. We were surrounded by woods, so there were a lot of deer, but I thought because this area was walled and close to the house, they wouldn’t come in. There was an old bed (on the left there) that had been used by our landlord’s father for propagating new plants. We built two more raised beds. I was very enthusiastic and said I’d grow all our vegetables for the summer! Unfortunately, groundhogs discovered the plot, and ate everything down to the ground. Additionally, I had put in raised beds in a giant weed patch and did nothing to suppress those weeds. I was weeding constantly and couldn’t stay on top of anything. The only plants that did okay were the tomatoes. At the end of the season, I was discouraged. What’s the point, if everything is either eaten by animals or insects, or strangled by weeds? It was too much for me. I couldn’t keep up and I was over my head.

When we moved to our current house, I decided that I didn’t want to do vegetables ever again. I joined a local CSA and got amazing produce all throughout the spring and summer last year. It was wonderful! I planted nothing but shrubs and flowers. Weeds weren’t so much of an issue. I loved gardening much more than in my weedy vegetable plot two years prior, and started to feel more confident. Now that I’ve been here a year, and have also had success with gardening, I think I am ready to tackle vegetables again.

My first plan is to layer mulch all along the Southern side of our house. I’ll layer mushroom compost (I found a place to get it for free if I can haul it out!), cardboard, straw, and wood chips on top of the grass. I won’t be able to plant much this first year until the mulch breaks down and kills the grass, but I can plant annual vegetables in bags of topsoil sitting on top of the mulch and then work in that soil at the end of the season. I can also cut through the cardboard and dig in plenty of compost for the berry bushes and trees, and can extend my herb bed as well. I will also plant herbs in the flower beds, and grow snow peas along the fence line. I’ll mulch as much of the garden as I possibly can. Jeff hates mowing, and I hate seeing huge expanses of grass, so it’s win-win. I think hauling in all the soil and hay will be a lot of work, but hopefully I can get it done early in the season when I’m feeling enthusiastic.

I haven’t done my seed order yet, but I did order my berry bushes for Nourse:

- 25 Millenium Asparagus
- 1 Ben Sarek currant
- 1 Jonkheer van Tets currant
- 1 Samyl and 1 Samdal elderberry
- 1 bluecrop blueberry
- 1 Jersey blueberry
- 5 Prime Ark blackberries
- 5 Caroline raspberries