Well, my winter vegetable garden looked great this fall and winter — until we got temps at or below 10 degrees Fahrenheit for two nights in a row, a few weeks ago!
Almost everything collapsed in a heap of frozen mush. So last weekend, I cleared out the debris, leaving a few hopeful stems that were still green in case they might sprout leaves again. Even my parsley died! The Bull’s Blood beets seem to have survived; the pansies will come back; a couple of kale plants are trying to regenerate. That’s all, folks! Sigh. Even the Swiss chard gave up the ghost.
Interestingly, some of the lavender in another part of the garden has survived very well (“Phenomenal”). The “Black Scallop” ajuga around it looks discouraged but not defeated. I will probably plant more cool weather vegetables in a while, but not until February at the earliest. Any suggestions? I’m in Zone 7, in Atlanta, Georgia.
I’m quite pleased with how well my winter vegetable garden is doing. I love planting all the colorful winter leafy greens, like rainbow chard, red romaine, purple mustard, “Bull’s Blood” beets, different kinds of kale. I’m even growing cauliflower whose heads will be orange or purple! I have a few pea vines, mostly for their looks although they are thriving. I learned a year ago that it takes a LOT of pea plants to get enough shelled peas for one meal! I also enjoy planting pansies among the vegetables and herbs, as they will bloom all winter in this climate. Finally, there are many fewer weeds in the winter, at a level I can manage to keep under control.
We’ve had a busy fall, all in good ways, but now things are settling back to normal — except the weather. It went above 80 degrees this weekend, which is extraordinary for November, even in the South. One bonus: the fall foliage is still gorgeous, especially on the Japanese maples, though not on the same scale as New Hampshire, which we visited in October. We had just missed the absolute peak, with all the red maples, but there were still plenty of orange, gold, yellow, and brown vistas to make us happy. And the swarms of mosquitoes that tormented me all summer are gone.
We went to the Lakes region for a week to see my father-in-law, who is in his 90s and lives in assisted living. He was in fine form, and we loved being able to spend leisurely time with him every day! We treated ourselves to staying at our favorite bed and breakfast for the week, which was heavenly. They fed us such large breakfasts that we didn’t need lunch and mostly had wine, cheese, and charcuterie for dinner, with an occasional lobster roll. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but we only eat lobster in New England, because it just doesn’t taste as good anywhere else, no matter how quickly they ship it inland.
On this visit, we flew into Portland and spent the night of our arrival in Maine, staying with one of my cousins who now lives there year-round with his wife. Like me, he has inherited the hopeful gardening gene from our grandparents, but he is horticulturally challenged by the much shorter growing season in Maine. Noentheless, he proudly showed me the ropes and ropes of fresh garlic has had grown and is drying in his shed; and I proudly described the one shallot I succeeded in growing this year! Not sure what happened to the others I planted; I think they got pulled up by the yard crew I hired to clear out the overgrown summer veg garden.
I’ve been on leave from my job this fall, in a sort of trial run of retirement. I’ll go back on December 14 and see how I feel then. I must say, I’ve really enjoyed being able to do all kinds of things around the house and garden without feeling time-pressured! If I don’t get to a task on a given day, it doesn’t have to wait for the weekend. I still have a lot of de-cluttering to tackle, though. What I’ve confirmed, though, is that I have plenty of interests and activities to stay happily occupied when I do finally retire! And removing the stress of my workplace has done wonders for my health, which was the whole point of the leave.
And now, it’s onward to Thanksgiving, several family birthdays, and Christmas! Meanwhile, I still have to deal with the tomatoes I picked when we expected freezing temps a couple of weeks ago (it did get down to about 34 degrees for a couple of nights). And wouldn’t you know — with the recent higher temps, I now have more green tomatoes on the vine! I’ve let some of my basil keep growing and flowering, mostly for the benefit of the pollinators who cluster there and around my asters and wild ageratum.
I’ve just found a local source for “Coral Bells” kurume azaleas, to replace a couple that have finally died after decades of service along the walkway in our front yard. They must have been at least 40 years old, as they were planted by the former homeowners who died of old age in the late 80s (both their age and the decade). “Coral Bells” is no longer as widely found as it must have been at one time. I used to be able to find them as needed at the State Farmers’ Market, but not this year. All anyone seems to sell these days are the Encore azaleas, or the really short gumpos. I’m so happy to have found replacements! We have a large hedge of them on both side of our front walk, and now I can fill the gap with ones that match. Do you have any cherished plants that are now hard to replace?
The planting and weeding continue! Azaleas have mostly faded away and are being pruned. I bought some interesting tomato seedling from a local community garden’s plant sale, which I look forward to trying!
I have a new vegetable garden! Last spring, at the outset of pandemic lockdown, I planted two temporary raised beds of vegetables, partly to make sure my family had fresh produce in case of store shortages, and partly as a mindful, calm activity to soothe myself and get outside. It was very successful but it quickly overran the limited space I had and became more of a vegetable jungle than garden! It was also awkwardly positioned near the site of a huge tree stump that we hadn’t yet removed, which limited my ability to reach into the beds.
So this spring, we hired a local group that specializes in “edible landcapes”, who removed the temporary beds and the massive stump, and built two long, narrow raised beds with a path between them, and a trellis arch made from cattle fencing to support squash, melons, and maybe some runner beans. Here it is, with only a few plants in place yet:
My goal is to post a snapshot weekly of the vegetable garden’s progress. Wish me luck! And please share in the comments any advice you may have, or any updates you’d like to share about your own gardening adventures!