Spring 2017: freaking cold

So winter wasn’t too bad this year and, while I know I’ve said we somehow seem to skip spring and go straight to summer here in Halifax, this year I do believe we have spring! I don’t know how to explain it really, maybe I’m just getting used to it. That said, it’s below normal cold. But hey, the garden grows!

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Peas coming up under protection of prayer flags (they keep the birds out).

Beets under the Wire

Beets, slowly but surely, pushing through. Chicken wire keeps the cats out.

Lettuce Seedlings

Lettuce. Chicken wire will stay on until the plants are big enough to take up their space.

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Garlic, planted last fall, off to a good start.

Meanwhile, pain in the ass that it is because they take over the house, tender veggies have been started indoors. I should be able to plant them out in a couple of weeks. Click the pics for captions.

Other than the veggies, I’ve been keeping busy with post-winter cleanup and welcoming the perennials…

So snow shovels are away for another year and gardening tools have been resurrected. Now I’m going to go plant the onions.

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Winter’s over, spring has sprung…the gardener and her extraordinary assistant.

Introducing…baby veggies

What can I say? We
started late but here they come.
Let’s appreciate.

(It not only rhymes, sort of, but hey, it’s also a haiku.)

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Baby broccoli.

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Baby peppers.

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Baby tomatoes.

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Baby blueberry that seems to be calling for some food of its own.

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Baby squash.

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Baby kiwis.

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Test harvest of the garlic. They’re ready.

So that’s the next big task… harvest the 2 beds of garlic, dry it briefly in the sun, hang it in bunches in the basement until it’s ready to be stored. Meanwhile we continue to harvest all the various greens and herbs as we wait for the babies to grow up.

September Still My Favourite Month

September is my favourite month for a lot of reasons … the weather is gorgeous, tourists have gone home (nothing against tourists, it’s just quiet again, enough to hear the crickets day and night alike), the garden continues to do its own thing while us gardeners continue to help it along and happily harvest the food it offers up.

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First step of garlic harvest. One bed dug up and laid out for initial drying before move into our basement/barn to hang and dry.

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One bunch of garlic dried and stored. We grew 88 heads this year which should be enough to plant next year’s crop with plenty left to last us through next harvest.

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We planted a bed of corn this year…popcorn! That’s a row of Limnanthes douglasii (poached eggplant) in the middle.

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A barrel of Tom Thumb Popcorn grown from Heritage Harvest Seed out of Manitoba. 2’ plants produce multiple small cobs that average 2-3″ long.

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We’ve had a bumper year of acorn squash, also from fabulous Heritage Harvest Seed. Lost track of how many are growing out there.

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I found it fascinating that every single time the bees entered the squash flowers, they seemed to just lie down and wrap themselves around the pistil.

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This beautiful little guy seemed to like the leaves of the Black Turtle Dry Beans.

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I have no idea what happened here. Part of the life and death cycle all around us.

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More life and death.

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I decided to cut and move all the strawberry plants so they would have their own bed instead of scattered throughout the flower garden as I’ve had them. This way I can cover them, protect the fruit from the birds so we actually have something to harvest.

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Blue Solaise Leek, squash behind them, black-eyed susans to the right.

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And last but not least, COMFREY! A couple of seedlings were given to us by an herbalist friend early this summer and they have grown like crazy. In fact, I’m going out right now to cut some leaves to make a tincture.

Picture Perfect

In the middle of the worst winter in a bazillion years, my partner and I decided we had to partake in an introductory insanely cheap flight to Scotland. Problem is we could only get tickets for July, prime gardening time. But winter will do crazy things to you and we bought the tickets. Now having just returned, the garden overflows and I have done nothing but weed for the past week. Oh, and harvest.

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Broccoli, lettuce, kale, and garlic scapes harvested the first afternoon we were home from our trip.

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Lettuce, beans, and kale, oh my!

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Carrots, parsnips, beets in the front bed; lettuce and beans in the next. There’s a bed of broccoli down there, corn, garlic, sunchokes; onions, leeks, and more garlic over in the top right corner. Click the pic to see better.

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One of the heads of broccoli.

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One of 2 beds of garlic. Scapes have all been harvested, garlic soon to be.

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Never having grown currants before, I’m not sure when I should pick them. At least one robin has been checking them out but hasn’t touched them yet.

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The oregano has gone crazy. Lots of different pollinators appear to love crazy when it comes to the herbs but I think I’ll be cutting it back severely come fall.

And speaking of pollinators, what would a garden be without flowers…

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Rudbeckia. This is always swarming with bees.

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Beebalm. Beloved by both hummingbirds and bees.

IMG_3068 'Jackmanii Superba'

I just planted this Clematis maybe 6 weeks ago, nothing more than a few little twigs. I wasn’t even sure it would bloom this year.

IMG_3116 Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’

The majestic Filipendula.

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Astilbe, given to me by my friend, Ed. I have another one out front under which wasps built a nest last year. Here’s to them staying away this year.

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Teasel. I’m not crazy about it because it’s so hard to deal with but the bees love it and I’m all about keeping the bees happy.

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And speaking of bees, I’ll let this one, sucking on the comfrey, have the last word.

New Seedlings in the Rain

So we’ve had some nice weather and we’ve had some unseasonably cool weather this spring. With the growing season already being 3 weeks behind because of the late arrival of a cold and snowy winter, plant life seems just a little tentative in the ‘trust the weather’ department. But lots have sprouted anyway: broccoli, kale, comfrey, chard, mustard, lettuce, garlic, beans, sorrel, chives, ETC. And I’ve sown carrots, parsnips, beets, popcorn (a first for me). Everything just showing except for the corn.

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And now it’s been raining all weekend! I can pretty safely say this: the young plants are happy that it’s raining and I’m happy for them.

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Mustard greens. We’ve been adding them for a couple of weeks now to our salads. Delicious!

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A bumblebee using newly sprouted lettuce as an umbrella. (Actually, I woke her up from somewhere in the layers of straw and she buzzed away, settled in here.)

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Beans to the left, kale to the right. I’m not sure why I planted kale again as we’ve got kale sprouts coming up everywhere from last year. Like the baby mustard, delicious added to salads.

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Hard to see but these are rows of leeks. First time I ever planted leeks from seed. Fingers crossed they make it.

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A bit of a closeup on a couple of the leeks. Hard to imagine them as big leeks.

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Front to back: currant yearling, garlic, rhubarb, leeks and onions, comfrey way in the back. Prayer flags to keep out the birds and give an overall good vibe.

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These are very scraggly looking squash that I just (at the time of this pic) transplanted into a new bed I made last year. Made it sometime in the summer out of compost, soil, sticks, and stones and left it. Seems pretty good so I’m hoping the squash will settle in.

Hello Fall

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Most of the beds have been mulched, garlic planted.

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Bamboo to the left, mustard greens to the right.

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A variety of mustard.

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Last of the brown-eyed susans.

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Newly sprouting mustard and onions.

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The calendula love the cool weather.

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Calendula, spirea, and various herbs.

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The dahlias finally call it a season. Once we have the first frost, I’ll dig up the tubers and bring them in for the winter.

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One last shout-out from the saxifragia.

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Yucca gets mulched from the overlooking maple.

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More veggie beds.

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Last leaves of a blueberry bush.

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Juvenile peach tree which just a few months ago was a peach pit in a compost pile.

Late Bloomers

In an earlier post, I’d said that the cucumbers were unsuccessful this year, that none had survived the cold spring. But a few weeks ago, while harvesting mustard seeds, I found this cucumber hiding in the shade of what had once been very tall, leafy mustard greens.

Hidden cucumber now revealed.

Hidden cucumber now revealed.

We’ve since eaten this very delicious fat little cuke. We’ve also since harvested all of the tomatoes and, while we’ve canned some of them, stacks of them await our attention. In fact most of the gardening these days has turned to harvesting and clean-up. So it’s a delight to see the Jerusalem Artichokes just coming into their glory and the zucchini, which took so long to come to fruit, keep on giving into the fall.

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First year Jerusalem Artichoke (AKA ‘sunchoke’) in bloom.

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Zucchini plant still producing and looks like it will be for awhile.

And the tomatillos are still producing…food for us and flowers for the bees.

Tomatillos getting ready to burst.

Tomatillos getting ready to burst open.

Symbiosis

symbiosis |ˌsimbēˈōsis, -bī-|noun (pl. symbioses |-ˌsēz| ) Biology
interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.

There may not be a more perfect example of symbiosis than gardening’s Three Sisters: squash, corn and beans. Various Native American groups grew the 3 crops together in order to get the most yield for their work and many follow the practice today. Click here for the full story: http://www.almanac.com/content/companion-planting-three-sisters

Two of the three sisters: beans growing up the corn stalk

Two of the three sisters: beans growing up the corn stalk.

Bee on Scarlet Runner

Bees are getting fat on the scarlet runner flowers which are happily entwining themselves around the corn. Is that an ant on the flower to the right?

In a completely different kind of symbiosis, let’s talk humans… our back yard neighbours have 2 beautiful plum trees whose branches hang into our yard. We have harvested the most delicious plums from those few branches which in turn keeps the neighbours happy because they don’t feel guilty about wasting food!

Plum trees and their harvest.

Plum trees and their harvest.

Everything Grows

Well, almost everything grows. Unless it doesn’t. The cucumber has refused to grow this year. First it was too cold, then it was too wet. That was immediately followed by it being too hot. And when it did start to show its beautiful viney self, the slugs ate it. So till next year, no cukes from the garden.

That all said, if I make it to August I’m cruising. This might be my favourite gardening time because it’s a little bit of everything going on: planting, harvesting, clean-up all happening at the same time. And if you have flowers, that’s just a bonus.

Perennial bed back of the house.

Perennial bed back of the house.

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Yucca plant, 1 of 3 given to us by neighbours, in bloom.

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Evening Primrose.

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A Comma butterfly slurping up the echinacea pollen.

We’ve been harvesting for awhile. All kinds of greens, peas, beans, carrots, onions and on the last day of July we harvested the garlic. We’ve now turned the living room into a drying shed or, as we like to call it, our barn.

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Garlic drying in the living room.

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Thinning the carrots. This year I planted carrots every few weeks so we’d have a steady stream of them.

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This is the first time I planted tomatillos and, to be honest, I’m not even sure how to tell when they’re ripe.

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Peach tree (!) from a friend who pulled it out of the compost.

 

2014 Vegetable Garden Is In

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted anything here and, at this time of year, that can only mean one thing: spring finally arrived and I’ve been busy in the garden! It was a long time coming this year. In my impatience and frustration, I lost a few plants to late frosts. I learned, though, that tomatoes and tomatillos are hardier than I think. I put them out too early and they struggled with that same late frost that killed all but one of the zucchinis. But the tomatoes survived and are now flowering. Hardy as they may sometimes appear, I do not intend to push my luck. Next year I will plant them later, after all signs of frost have gone. Why make them suffer?

Tomatillo plant finally on the other side of late spring frosts.

Tomatillo plant finally on the other side of late spring frosts.

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By the time the 2nd frost warning came around, I decided to cover the zukes but it was really too late. They were never able to fully recover.

We are definitely over the hump and quick approaching the first days of summer. The vegetables are coming into their own with beans, peas, tomatoes, kale and all kinds of other greens looking all pleased with themselves. Carrots, onions, parsnips all good. My big fat fail continues to be the squash family. I couldn’t stop them from growing on the west coast and for the 2 years I’ve been here (Nova Scotia), I’ve been completely unsuccessful. This years it’s the slugs … ate the leaves right of the baby cucumber seedlings as they appeared. I’m waiting to see if they recover. Meanwhile, I go slug hunting at dusk. I’ve been clearing out all the straw mulch where they like to hang out. And I keep drinking lots of coffee so I can use the grounds as slug deterrent (see previous post).

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Chives just starting to flower in this photo. They are now in full bloom. I’ve watched baby crows try to pull the flowers right out of the ground! I have no idea what the attraction is but they were not successful.

Last yea's kale sprouting up new delicious leaves.

Last year’s kale sprouting up new delicious leaves.

Last year's kale already attracting pollinators.

Last year’s kale already attracting pollinators.

And for those veggies that can’t over-winter, that I start indoors from seed, that need to be hardened off before being planted in the ground, there’s this:

Plastic portable greenhouse worked beautifully for hardening off plants...I didn't have to bring them in every night! Gift from a neighbour.

Plastic portable greenhouse worked beautifully for hardening off plants…I didn’t have to bring them in every night, I just zipped them up and unzipped them in the morning! Gift from a neighbour.

Note: To harden something off is to inure a plant to cold by gradually increasing its exposure to it.

Today was a  perfect day for playing in the garden…a mixture of sun and cloud, temperature neither hot nor cold, I had a couple of hours to spare, PLUS there were pansies volunteering themselves into the mostly weed lawn!

Volunteered pansies.

Volunteered pansies.

Another plant that’s very happy this time of year is the , AKA red lungwort. And I’m very happy to see it because once we hit the heat of summer, the lungwort acts like it would rather hide out in a cave. It’s a shade loving plant and it doesn’t like heat but look how lovely it looks now…

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Pulmonaria rubra ‘Redstart’

After admiring the newly arrived plants, I sowed some beet seeds in a bed with some extra space between what I’m calling the “surprise” brassica because I don’t know exactly what the seeds are (got them from a Seedy Saturday event) and the sorrel that will not give up no matter how many slugs survive the winter by nibbling on it.

And speaking of slugs, if you don’t know the coffee grounds trick and are having trouble with slugs (and snails too, I believe), it’s worth a try. Just sprinkle coffee grounds around plants that you notice slugs find tasty. It seems to work. It’s a line drawn they just won’t cross. It’ll look something like this…

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The coffee grounds are the darker brown colour. Just sprinkle them so they’re like a moat around the plants you’re trying to protect.

I found these as I was cleaning up some of the veggie beds:

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It’s always good to remember where you planted the carrots in the fall. They are at their sweetest when you dig them up come spring.

 

Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day, the weather has cooperated and given us spring! We’ve been out in the garden most of the morning generally cleaning up, “removing” any slugs we come across, adding compost and manure, and dreaming of summer. It seems we’ve suddenly fallen behind in prepping the beds for planting… yes, we’ve turned that corner where it’s warm enough to start sowing certain crops. So some purple bunching onions went in today and we’re madly cleaning up beds to plant peas and beans and some of the more hardy greens.

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In the bed on the left, underneath the straw and behind the chives, are 3 rows of Deep Purple bunching onions. I left a bit of plot behind to plant something else later, saving some of the onion seeds for a summer planting. And in the bed to the right, slowly but surely, the garlic inches upward. If you look at the picture in the last post, it’s barely visible.

And what is early spring (especially in Halifax where people say we go from winter to summer but that’s a story for another time) without the brilliant yellow of daffodils. Happy Earth Day, everybody!

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Spring is Peeking

Yes, it has been a really long and harsh-for-Halifax kind of winter but just as the bravest of the plants are starting to peek out from under their protective mulch, so go I. Twice now I have been out in the garden in a tank top and steel-toed boots cleaning up the detritus (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence). While the perennials may be far behind where they were this time last year, the important thing is that they’re here.

After a little cleanup of dead stalks and mulch, voila...chives! Always the first green I see in the veggie garden. And we've already sampled them...scrambled eggs and chives!

After a little cleanup of dead stalks and mulch, voila…chives! Always the first green I see in the veggie garden. And we’ve already sampled them…scrambled eggs and chives!

Garlic finally peeking out through the mulch.

Look for the green… garlic finally peeking out through the mulch. Last year’s were 5 times the height by now.

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Tulips and daffodils never let me down. They’re later this year too, of course, but later is better than never.

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I’ve never been a big fan of crocuses (crocii?) and this is the first year I planted them. I’m still not a fan but seeing their blooms is beyond delightful when there’s still snow on the ground.

 

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Meanwhile, inside I’ve got the tomatoes going as well as some squash and goji berries. Goji berries are a first for me and, while apparently almost indestructible once planted out, the suggestion is that they stay indoors for the first year.

No, Really

OK, now the garden is really put to bed. And unlike the previous post, the beans are gone, I haven’t seen a bee or a ladybug in weeks (well, ok, in days and days at least), and the flowers…well, I wish there were still flowers but alas (or alak?), they’ve said so long till next year. After all, we’ve already had snow flurries and frost. Who would want to stick around for that? Carrots maybe? Parsnips?

What there are lots of are leaves. Beautiful, differently coloured leaves. I see their beauty and I also see… mulch. So along with all my neighbours, I’m out there raking. But instead of putting the leaves in bags, I put them in the wheel barrow and dump them where they’re most needed… as a protective cover on the veggies that I’m leaving in over the winter: carrots, rutabagas, and parsnips.

Leaf mulch protecting rutabaga, kale, and broccoli.

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Mulch covering parsnips and carrots.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to go out this winter and dig up root vegetables from underneath the snow and mulch. Nothing would make me happier!

You Do What You Can

It’s been a busy couple of days but I love when I get a chance to spend at least some of that busyness in the garden. There are still root veggies in (parsnips, carrots, rutabagas and  a few beets) and they’ll probably stay in most of the winter, kale of course, broccoli, arugula and baby lettuces. I decided to test out a small plastic greenhouse tunnel that my neighbour gave me last spring.

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It’s really too small for anything I’m doing but since it’s getting colder at night now, I thought I’d try it on the baby arugula and see if it’s something I might want to pursue on a larger scale for the larger beds. And speaking of neighbours, which we were, ever so briefly, Wally’s maple tree has lost all its leaves already while ours has just barely started to change colours. So he gave me 5 bags of leaves that I’m using as mulch in the flower beds.bedmulch

If I was doing it right, I would have chopped up all the leaves first and dug them into the soil a little bit but what the heck. You do what you can. They’ll protect the soil and the bulbs and other plant roots and in the spring I’ll rake up whatever has not decomposed. Five bags doesn’t go that far either but I’m laying them on thick.

Meanwhile, in another part of the garden that I’ve been doing nothing with, some strawberries have volunteered themselves. I noticed one all by itself a couple of months ago so I encouraged it to branch out, so to speak, and this is what it looks like now…

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So I’m adding some nice compost and in a few days, I’ll cut them back and mulch with straw. I’ve worked with strawberries previously and they’ve gifted me with huge yields so… yep, you do what you can.

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