Despite most of February being cloaked in grey clouds here in Texas, something that is not usual, we did at least warm up. With plenty of days in the 60s and 70s, spring began bursting wide open. Plants pushed through the soil, trees blossomed, and the inevitable elm, pine, and Virginia creeper seedling season has begun in my flower beds. Nature would love to convert my flower beds back into a pine/mixed hardwood forest!
Having spend December and January in a non-gardening stupor, I was suddenly shown mid-February that I needed to get my act together and prepare for spring. Trimming began and seedlings were moved outdoors. With long strings of 70*+ days, I began contemplating that I needed to act faster than I was able but I managed to talk myself down from hysteria. I never get to everything that needs to be done each spring and something inevitably gets planted late or not at all---such is the life of a gardener.
With March knocking on the door, there's even more to be done to prepare for summer edibles. Yes, summer edibles. It will be in the 80s with frequency by the end of the month, no doubt a 90* sneaking in there by April, so thinking ahead for squash, gourds, tomatoes, beans, and peppers is a must.
Time to start making a plan!
What's Growing In Late December
This wonderful heat has made some of the greens, like lettuce, a bit sloppy and it has sent the arugula into bolting mode. So long arugula! Cilantro is joining the arugula in the parade to send off winter and not far behind I suspect the lettuces will give it up and call it a season. In the meantime, I am furiously eating salads like nobody's business. My hope is that the kale and Swiss chard hang in until May, maybe June, and I can have some greens in my life until then.
A new edible plant I'm trying this season is New Zealand spinach. Not actually related to spinach but in the Aizoaceae family, this plant grow wild in places like (duh) New Zealand, Australia and parts of Asia. I'm hoping to underplant my tomatoes with this plant---it will be an exercise in trial and error!
Speaking of tomatoes, my plan is to get them in the ground this week. I sowed seeds in early January and moved them outside a few weeks ago and they plants have grown considerably. I'll need to add compost to the beds before I get them planted but I cannot wait for fresh tomatoes once again! Off the top of my head, I'm growing Arkansas Traveler, Black Plum, Matt's Wild Cherry, Creole, Amazon Chocolate, and Yellow Pear. I feel like I'm missing one or two varieties in there. Not super diverse but that's what germinated. My hope for getting some older (10 years+) seeds to germinate did not come to fruition so next year I'll be ordering fresh seeds.
Soon there will be strawberries to harvest. Flowering started promptly about four weeks ago and while last year we were harvesting by the first week of March, that does not look to be the case this year. I am looking forward to those first juice bites!
The Flower Garden
Many plants are poking their sweet selves out of the soil now and branches are returning to life. One of my goals this year to attempt to have more plants for a fuller, thicker flower bed---more plants acting as mulch instead of mulch acting as mulch. Time and time again I'm reading about this strategy from prominent garden designers and horticulturists but getting this into plan is proving harder to implement. I'm also attempting to let most of the leaves that fell into the garden act as a mulch this year---which again, easier said than done. I will be cleaning up leaves that have found themselves stuck between our limestone garden border and the fence line and other annoying spaces but generally leaving them on the garden beds to see how they perform. Also, having been the primary mover of mulch the last several times we've put down mulch, I'm feeling rather lazy this year and would just rather not bother. We'll see if this plan comes back to haunt me mid-summer. I may be buying bulk mulch!
For Valentine's Day my husband listed our yard as a Monarch Waystation with Monarch Watch! I'm hoping to increase our milkweed amount this year, even more so than we did last year, in addition to diversifying it. We primarily have Mexican/tropical milkweed but we're adding in more regionally native species as well. These have all/will be started from seed.
In another month the flower garden will be fully ramped up and filling out! I'm ready!
Good Garden Reads + Listens
+ Johnny's Seeds, Terrotorial Seeds, and Monsanto: A 2018 Update via NW Edible Life
+ Retrosuburbia: The Downshifters Guide to a Resilient Future via Milkwood Permaculture
+ All the Seed Terminology You Need to Know via NW Edible Life
+ What Can We Learn from Trees? via Nancy Lawson at The Humane Gardener
+ Dense Planting Technique: Not Just for Tomatoes via Craig LeHoullier
+ Chemicals - The Good, the Bad, and Why You'll Want to Start Your Own Vegetable Seedlings via Growing with Plants
+ Adventures in Stalking the Wild Asparagus via Melissa Keyser
+ Ep. 149 - Are These Herbs Working? via In Defense of Plants Podcast
+ Ian Caton On Variation Within A Species via The Native Plant Podcast
PODCAST REWIND - FEBRUARY 2018
+ Ep. 3-14: The Common Milkweed Nursery | Jennifer Kleinrichert & Steve Ross
+ Ep. 3-15: A New Garden Ethic | Benjamin Vogt
+ Ep. 3-16: Permaculture in Texas | Talking Tree Farm: Sylvain & Sarah Calvieres
+ Ep. 3-17: All the Seeds: Native Plant Edition
COMING UP ON THE PODCAST - MARCH 2018
+ Ep. 3-18: Grow Milkweed Plants | Brad Grimm
+ Ep. 3-19: Why You Garden
+ Ep. 3-20: Foraging Texas | Mark "Merriwether" Vorderbruggen
And if you are still buried under snow---spring is just around the corner!