By North Carolina standards, it’s been a long cold winter, but I think Spring might finally be here. The first hints of it (a month later than usual) were the daffodils, in full bloom by March 10:

mid-March daffs

mid-March daffs

Since then, everything has started to green up. First leaf buds are on the trees now; redbud is in flower, and we have dogwood blossom, flowering quince. The grass is looking lush. It will never look better: give it a couple of weeks and all the invasives will have taken over.

The seedlings (follow them on Instagram!), all hatched and nurtured in my basement potting “shed”, are ready for the most part: three different kinds of tomato, basil, mustard, nasturtium, scarlet sage and ordinary sage, tomatillos, frying peppers and Thai peppers, wonderberries, wild strawberries, calendula, blanket flowers…. The peppers seem way too small as yet, and the wild strawberries are still tiny, but the tomatoes, nasturtium,  calendula and blanket flowers want out there. I’ve started to give some plants away to friends. Wrenching moment, but I know I have too many of some things, not enough garden bed for everything. (Where the hell am I going to put the wonderberries??!)

Because there have been a few developments in the last week or two. The forest garden is turning into a forest fruit garden! I bought some blueberry bushes and raspberry canes a week ago and got around to planting them over this past weekend. Here’s a view of the garden showing most of the beds. All those tall greens that look like grass are actually wild onions!

the state of the beds, early April 2014

the state of the beds, early April 2014

From front to back, you can see garlic, rows of perennial onions (going strong from the Turkeysong gift!) and on the other side of the cement blocks arugula/rocket hanging on in there by sheer force of will (I thought they were done weeks ago). In the next bed, small blueberry plants are on the left; catmint, peppermint and rhubarb on the right. Behind them, sticking up all green are the raspberry canes, and to their right strawberries (planted last November). Then at the back, in the hugelbeet, the two slightly more mature blueberry bushes I bought at Wholefoods. There is a new bed in preparation for tomatoes and basil, and an extension (also in preparation) to the bee garden flower bed for the tomatillos. Peppers are going to go where the rocket is now, and to the left of the garlic and onions is quite a large space which I think I’ll use for three sisters planting.

But where will I put the wonderberries? In the forest? I walked the trail yesterday (Sunday), hoping to spot morels. No luck. But on the trail itself were these wildflowers:

sweet wildflowers on the trail

sweet wildflowers on the trail

ID pending… Suggestions are starting to come in, but I think I’ve nailed the ID (as of 2:30 PM Tuesday April 8): Claytonia Virginica, Eastern Spring Beauty. I’m going for this rather than Claytonia Caroliniana (despite where I found them) because the latter have much more marked pink stripes on their petals, and are often pinker. I love the fact that another name for these is Fairy Spud!

And here to finish is a shot I took of one of the creeks towards the end of February, when I thought winter might have been ending. Any other year and I’d have been (nearly) right.

beautiful creek!

beautiful creek!



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late(?) winter

Delinquent blogger returns… The plan is to update the blog this year at least every season. Because stuff is happening! The garden is expanding slowly, both inside the deer-fenced area and out of it: two new beds will be ready to plant this year, and I’m expanding the flower/herb bed too. And outside the fence, I’m starting to prepare some ground for fruit trees!

What’s in the Ground?

Today I put in some onions,  the same stock that came from TurkeySong homestead about a year ago. They are in a bed near garlic, which is doing okay, and some experimental fingerling potatoes that are probably not okay. We’ll see. The plants still going strong, despite the long, bitter winter we’re experiencing, include: the mints (nothing can deter cat mint, it seems); the strawberries I planted in late autumn, and I think the lemon balm is coming through again. Something has been eating the little fig tree, though (something bigger than crickets), so I’ve given it one of the vegetable cages. Really hope it pulls through.

Otherwise everything looks very brown and drab. With the vegetation so low, this is the time of year when old bits of trash seem to surface. Old plastic bottles catch the eye, and glass bottles too in archaic shapes and shades. And bits of rusted metal. After I’d messed about in the garden for a bit, and despite the fact that I’m quite tired at the moment and wasn’t planning to do anything too strenuous, I glanced over the rest of the homestead site and realized it needed some help. There were (and still are, despite today’s efforts) so many fallen branches. I cleared as many of them as I could, imagining the many camp fires all that wood will fuel in months to come. Once I’d started clearing the natural debris, all the man-made stuff started to stick out as well. The old wooden buildings that are slowly (too slowly) decaying. But also plastic and glass bottles that are still turning up, despite the bags and bags of trash I hauled away in the first year of owning the land. Today I hauled away another big bag of trash, mostly plastic items, from the homestead area but also from beside the trail.

The photo below was taken after I’d cleared away most of the fallen branches from around the Old Man. For the moment I’m piling them up in a heap you can see in the middle ground of the picture. If they were a bit more substantial, I’d use them to make fences. But I suppose if they were a bit more substantial, I wouldn’t be able to drag them anywhere.


faded winter colours

And here’s one final shot that seems to promise spring is on the way. After the derecho last summer had blown down lots of trees on the property and huge numbers of branches, I had to clear myself a path from the trail to the homestead site. I pushed a load of fallen debris to the side of the trail, but when I visited the land about a month ago, I realized that I had piled it all up over the spot where daffodils come up every spring. So I shifted all that and enjoyed the results today. The daffodils are up! This time last year they were already in bloom, which just shows how long and cold a winter we are having.


daffodils on the way

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from January to… June!

An online friend has pointed out that I need to update this blog and he is not wrong. When I logged in tonight to remedy the situation — beer in hand, because I need some help at the end of a working day — I discovered a post I started back in March. A post about planting onions. Well those babies are well on now. In fact, all the seeds I started back in February are sprouted and grown and in the ground…as you’d expect. Except for the lemon grass, which is doing amazingly well, but I haven’t yet researched what its needs are or dug it a hole it might like. This is making me think of what I might do next time I’m in the garden, but — guilt descending — something tells me it probably won’t involve putting lemon grass to bed.

Moving swiftly on for the moment: here is the garden, most of it, in a pic taken just yesterday! (See how up to date we are now!)


The veg beds in June.

Let me explain what’s been happenin’. The closest bed to the camera is the one that grew all the wild cherry tomatoes and basil varieties so well last year. The toms were in the right-hand half. The left-hand half of this bed ended up being mostly fallow since the plants I put in there (edamame and herbs, I believe) were eaten by demon bunnies… or maybe box turtles, but I don’t want to imagine that. Anyway, that was last year. Obviously tomatoes couldn’t go back in to most of this bed — although try telling that to the volunteer tom seedlings. I must have weeded dozens of them out by now. Instead, I’m growing perennial onions and a row of leeks in an improvised raised bed. There was nearly a post on the making of that raised bed. Basically it involved a couple of days of hauling old cement blocks from another part of the property and hauling in bags of topsoil and Moonure (love that stuff!) from Home Depot. Both the onion sets and the leek seeds were gifts from Steven at Turkeysong. There should have been a post about that too, but if you’re following on Twitter or Instagram (and please do!), everything has been documented there. I think I’ll do some separate posts here to celebrate seed to harvest of the Turkeysong produce, so watch this space… Those leeks are going to be giant. COLOSSAL!!

To the left of the leeks and down a step, please notice one of my row covers, constructed out of halves of hoola hoop and chicken wire. The hoola hoop is sparkly to provide extra protection and glamour. You need a bit of glamour in the garden. Under that, although they’re pretty much bursting out now, are my fennel plants. Doing really well. When the cover comes off (probably next visit), I’ll take portraits of them and post. To their left are some tomatoes and basil. I’m only growing cherry-type tomatoes this year. Three different varieties: Matt’s wild cherry, because you can’t go wrong with those; Amy’s Sugar Cherry, and another Sugar/ Cherry variety whose name I forget. Hopefully all will make it to harvest and not get snacked on like my big heirloom varieties last year. Needless to say, I’m already on the look out for hornworms.

The middle bed has seen some changes! That used to be the Solstice Bee Garden — remember that? The first bed I dug! While my parents were visiting back in March (and helping put up a bit of anti-bunny wire netting round part of the perimeter of the deer fence… harder work than we thought, and we didn’t finish it…) I dug this bed out and replanted the three strains of native wild flower that had survived from the original garden (hyssop, bergamot and wild indigo). The flowers are now in a new bed running down one of the long sides of the deer fence. I’ll feature them next time… Where they used to be are now: Amish snap peas — zoom in on the pic, and you’ll spot them with their stick and string trellis. A bit of greenfly action on them, but otherwise making it. Near them (and still partially under a second row cover) are clumps of chamomile and some herbs — cat mint, echinacea and thyme. All grown from seed! At the extreme left of the bed, I’m growing peppers and trying to grow egg plants. But something is bothering the egg plants. They’re hanging on in there, but they don’t look all that happy.

On Sunday just gone I extended this middle bed. Not for use this year — just preparing the ground at this stage. I covered it with a layer of cardboard, and on top of that, a thick layer of leaf litter. By the autumn it should be ready for a cover crop.

And that leaves the hugelbeet, because the row of cotton isn’t visible in this pic. The hugelbeet has more tomatoes and basil, a couple of marigold plants and a fennel. Only the fennel isn’t doing well. It’s looking a bit crispy and unhappy. I was worried about that hugelbeet because I wasn’t sure it got enough sun. Turns out — now that I’ve visited earlier in the morning (ahem) — that it gets fantastic morning sun, and sun again in the late afternoon, so I think the toms in there will be fine. They need feeding, but I’m hopeful.

So that’s it. The state of play in early June!



Posted in herb garden, Homesteading, raised beds, vegetable garden, wildflowers | 2 Comments