Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fiddleheads announce spring

Finally, something like spring seems to be approaching us in the chilly Mid-Atlantic. I went out to survey what's coming up in the yard and have seen bloodroot, rue anemone, and a few spring beauties blooming.

And there's also my fern nursery. This began as a big planter of ferns, left on the property by the previous owner. The first couple of years I just tried to keep them watered. They seemed to get pretty withered in summer, but came back well in the spring. Knowing little about ferns, I started wondering what kind they were.


I thought at first they were cinnamon ferns, but they never developed the distinctive cinnamon-colored stalk. Now I've identified them as ostrich ferns, Matteuccia struthiopteris. One telling characteristic: the fiddleheads have a groove running down one side of the stalk. A couple of years ago I picked a few fiddleheads and steamed and ate them. Not bad!

But mostly I like to take little clumps of rootstock - they are kind of nobby pieces from which the fiddleheads emerge - and transplant them into the yard. I always leave some rootstock to keep growing in the nursery for next year. The ferns do well in shade or part-shade, though they can take a fair amount of sun if you keep them well watered.

Here they are in a previous year, intermingled with Virginia bluebells.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A giant from the winter garden

Pulled from our new raised bed, this monster Daikon radish got sliced and oven roasted with carrots and red pepper. I was telling a friend how good the dish was, and John was apparently standing behind me shaking his head no while I talked. I'll try again, because he just thought I didn't roast things long enough. All the other Daikon radish look to be about carrot size, and I have rainbow carrots in the same bed that I will pull for the next round. It's nice the root vegetables can sit in the ground for a while, until the ground starts to freeze, anyway.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Yard Recovery



One of the things I love about plants is that they are so resilient. After the big dig for a new sewer line took out most of this native plant bed, the recovery has been amazing. 

These are plants that sat in pots for days, even weeks, waiting patiently to be put back in the ground. The garden bed they went back to was far inferior to the same bed pre-dig The trench dug for the sewer brought up a lot of pure clay, which was then packed firmly down as part of the project's completion. Thorough amendment of the soil was beyond my time and energy. All I managed was light tilling plus scattering some compost on the soil surface and into each planting hole. After the first weeks watering was infrequent.

Voila, a couple of months later and things are looking good, maybe better than before. The plants are certainly less crowded, which I think makes individual species stand out more. Come late fall when the garden is put to bed I will work on seriously improving the soil. For now, I'm thrilled to have my garden back.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tomatoes BIG and small

Our new raised bed is creating some happy tomatoes. Both of these are heirlooms. The big ones are Brandywines. From the three pictured I made a terrific spaghetti sauce which we ate for two nights. The small ones are Brown Berry, good for snacking.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yard disruption

It's been a bad year on the home and garden front. A foot and a half of water in the crawl space after torrential rains.  Reseating of the sump pump, digging of a French drain and then a dry well.

Plus a broken sewer line that had to be dug up and replaced. (It was the original line from back in the 1950s, so not too surprising, but the timing was sure bad.) I did some pre-dig plant rescue, and got some things replanted in the post-dig clay. So that's the beginning of the restoration of the front flower bed.

















Questions remain: will the dry well work as planned? What to do with the clay from the digging of the well? To be continued...



Figlet

Here's the growing figlet that made it through its very first season, planted out last fall and surviving what proved to be a brutal winter. Time to take off the protective cage until next winter. Go, baby!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Baby fig tree overwintering

This past fall I agonized over how to overwinter my two small fig trees. One I had purchased at a farmer's market. The other I had started as a cutting from my beloved mature fig tree. (See previous 2 posts.)
I finally decided to risk planting out the daughter plant. After planting, I built a chickenwire cage around the tiny tree. I mulched the plant and then filled the cage with leaves for insulation.

The purchased plant I wrapped in burlap and placed the plant, in its pot, inside a larger pot. I insulated the space between the two pots with leaves. This little tree went into a small unheated shed attached to the house. (Thanks to the Garden Web fig forum for ideas on overwintering.)

I knew I was taking the bigger risk with the propagated plant, putting it in the ground when it was so young. But if the risk paid off, I might someday have a majestic, prolific tree like the parent. Then came freezing rain, many snowstorms, and bitter cold, a brutal winter unlike what we normally experience here in the mid-Atlantic.

Yesterday, with some trepidation, I removed the leaves from the enclosure. My tree looked like a dead stick. But as I dug away the last of the compacted leaves, at the very base of that stick was a leaf bud tinged with fresh green. The baby lives! And the other little tree looks to have survived as well, in the dark shed and with only a few sips of water over the winter. Hooray for the vigor of plants!