The winter is a time for reflection and planning. Now that we have our snow and ice, I like to take stock of what worked well in the garden, what could have been better and make plans for the future. Many of the seed catalogs have arrived and I have been busy earmarking things I am going to grow this year… I am growing my garden in small steps; inching my way to (at least vegetable) food independence.
My plans for the early spring are to get the peas in the garden in March and (weather permitting) redesign and rebuild the herb bed I put in two years ago. There is an ornamental juniper tree that is really inappropriate for the space that will have to be removed to make room for the rain barrel that is already squeezed out. The tree will be composted as there is no place for it in the garden. It has been a beautiful tree and I appreciate the plant, but it has to be removed to make room. In addition, there is a hydrangea bush that is going to be relocated (if it survives the transplant) to the front of the house where I need a little flower power! Removing it will allow the yarrow to spread and make room for an herb spiral. As you can see by the picture, I have some plants that will hopefully transplant into the spiral and some net new plants.
A herb spiral is as simple as it sounds: a large spiral structure, typically measuring 1.5-2 meters wide at the diameter, spiraling up to a height of 1-1.5 meters, with a planting path running up it . A herb spiral of these proportions is big enough to accommodate at least all of the basic culinary herbs, and a few more special ones too! I am going to include a small bog/pond (probably no more than 14-16 inches square) at the bottom of the spiral to experiment with some water plants such as watercress.
I also have a couple of other plants (not herbs) that will be removed from this border, a perennial geranium which grows too lush and flowers but rarely attracts bees, so I will be extending my lavender and salvia border. The bees absolutely love both so the more the merrier.
Out in the perennial border I have moved some things around in the past year to allow for three to four annual plants to be added. This year, the border will be home to additional tomato plants as well as some caged eggplants. The amount of sun that this border gets is perfect for eggplants, so hopefully I will be harvesting some delicious crops after a couple of years of poor performance.
On the patio, I am going to attempt to grow potatoes in specialized grow bags. I cannot dedicate either the horizontal or the vertical space needed to grow potatoes properly so I am going to remove them from the potager and grow them on the patio in these bags from Gardeners Supply Company
Finally, the changes to the potager; you will recall I added another composite raised bed to my potager in the late summer. I planted fall and winter crops in it to maintain soil integrity over the winter and covered it with a greenhouse kit from Frame It All.
Soon (when we get our January thaw) I will remove the root crops I can harvest from this bed and in a few weeks I will top dress with manure and compost. This will give it a few weeks to rest and incorporate the mirconutrients before becoming home to my first experimental “Three Sisters Garden”.
According to Iroquois legend, corn, beans, and squash are three inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together. This tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mounds, widespread among Native American farming societies, is a sophisticated, sustainable system that provided long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations. For me, growing a Three Sisters garden is a way for me to feel connected to the history of this land, regardless of my own European ancestry.
These are ambitious goals for the year and I am not sure I will get them all accomplished with a full time job and nearly full time grad school, but I am so very excited about the changes to the garden and about seeing the changes I have made over the last couple of years begin to bear fruit (literally and figuratively). I will keep everyone up on the progress!