The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making


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Potager Plan 2016

It’s that very most favorite project of mine around this time of year … planning the Potager (vegetable garden) and ordering seeds! It doesn’t matter if you are in cold country or closer to the equator I’ve found, one still gets the gardener’s itch.

Yes, even though I try to have some amount of discipline and control, I went crazy! It’s time I revamp most of my seeds anyhow and well, they are stored in a box in a dark closet in my (frozen) house so how viable will they be anyway? I’ll find out. Yet, one more gardening experiment. Last year I stored my seeds in our heated garage so technically they did not freeze because the garage remained heated while we were away.

Before I migrated, I managed to move my office/studio to a slightly larger room in the house and I set up my seed station so that I am ready to start seeds the day after we get home? Last year I started seeds in my little greenhouse but I think it was still a little too cool to get things off to a really good start so this year I am going to germinate them indoors under lights and when I pot up they will go into the greenhouse. That is my strategy anyway.

Thank goodness I am not returning home to this!

Now I’m actually looking forward to getting back to my newly moved and reorganized office.

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My seed station is to the right in the photo above in front of another window.

This year I’ve gone back to some of my favorite seed sources. Although Baker’s makes me drool – I mean, that catalog! – I don’t think the seeds do as well for me because of climate and locality as Johnny’s or High Mowing. It is from Johnny’s and High Mowing that I’ve ordered the bulk of my seeds from this year. I also ordered lots of flowers from Renee’s and even though she is in California, her seeds have always done well for me perhaps because most are annual flowers geared to grow fast?

Here it is my annual sketch/plan for the Potager, before I delve into my plant list for 2016. You can view previous years here, here, here and here. I am still missing 2014 (that was the COLD year that I didn’t escape even for a week). It’s fun to see the changes in the Potager over the years. You can click on this year’s plan to zoom in.

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So, what am I growing?

If I had to pare it down to the bare minimum these would be my staples:
Basil
Garlic
Kale
Tomatoes

I enjoy peas early in the season. Not so much radishes but I am going to try some again. I am also going to try cucamelons again because they are just too cute and too fun. I like squash but we can get wonderful squash from the nearby farms, still so much fun to grow your own.

I am into colors so I have begun mixing colors i.e. black, red, gold tomatoes or purple and white eggplant or green and purple basil. Aside from that, the darker more colorful varieties are tooted to be higher in nutrients or antioxidants so win, win.

So, here is the list.

I’m going to make use of the greenhouse now that I’ve evicted the hornets. I will grow some things in large pots I’ve saved from purchasing shrubs.
GREENHOUSE/PEPPERS: Early Jalapeño Hot Pepper (so I can make one of my favorite vegan snacks/dip), Black Hungarian Hot Pepper
GREENHOUSE/EGGPLANT: Little Finger (black), Gretel (white)

HERBS (Annual)
Basils: Lime, Genovese, Purple Ruffles, Purple Dark Opal and Sacred
Cilantro: Caribe and Calypso (will be planted among the Squash – forgot to add that to my sketch!)

PEAS
Spring Blush Tendril
Tall Telephone

RADISH
D’Avignon

KALES
Dinosaur or Lacinato (my favorite)
Curly Roja Kale
Kalettes! (Last year I restrained but I just have to try these!) Snowdrop and Mistletoe (The circled K on my sketch)

BEANS
I prefer growing pole beans.
Blue Coco (I have been wanting to try!)
Runner Painted Lady (I love these for the hummingbirds)

LETTUCES/GREENS
Swiss Chard (going back to Bright Lights)
Belle Isle Cress
Forellenschluss Lettuce

SQUASH
Summer: Ronde de Nice
Fall: Honey Bear (a mini Acorn!)

TOMATOES
For slicing and salads: Yellow Brandywine, Indigo Rose, Copia
For sauce: Speckled Roman
Cherry: Sun Gold, Supersweet 100, Indigo

I grow a staple of flowers in the Potager as well.

I like to mix Morning Glory on the trellises so when a vegetable vine is done there are still some pretty flowers to look at. I’ve also mixed in Cathedral Bells in the past – beautiful. The Morning Glory just comes back so no extra work for me.

Nasturtium is a must for eating, and companion planting.

Calendula reseeds itself valiantly as well as Borage. Borage is a bee magnet.

I will also try, try, try to tuck in some Sunflowers! Ants be damned. Last year they toppled their stems like trees by chewing around the base but hey, I moved that entire raised bed to the other side of the Potager so probably will not have ants again (I hope).

I am very excited for another year of gardening – THIS IS THE YEAR I can finally harvest my Asparagus – and can’t wait to also try out my new patio right in the garden so I can watch everything grow!

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What’s Growing: Red & Green

It’s been some time since I’ve posted what’s growing in the Potager!

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This year I am experimenting with tasty food and color as I have been so inspired by Robbie at Palm Rae Urban Potager. I am growing a red and green kale, purple and green basil, red and orange Swiss chard, etc. and I am liking the results. It makes the Potager more ornamental. I have noticed that red and purple varieties don’t seem to grow as fast as green – interesting. I have a black and white eggplant planned too, but the plants are slow growing. They are tucked in the green house until they get a little larger along with cucamelons. The cucamelons finally took off a bit and I planted them earlier today. I hope to be tasting these little watermelon like fruits soon. Last year I planted them way too late.

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Salad bed: Broccolini, Bulls Blood beets, Toscano and red kale, lettuce

Also tucked into the salad bed is something new, Watercress. I love its peppery taste. It's going to flower and I'm going to let it set seed.

Also tucked into the salad bed is something new, Watercress. I love its peppery taste. It’s going to flower and I’m going to let it set seed.

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Green and purple basils

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Colorful chard and a small hibiscus, Zinger, for tea, not yet in flower.

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Two kinds of Hibiscus are in the center of the basil/chard bed. Zinger and this Sweet Hibiscus, Manihot whose leaves are edible. I confess I have yet to try because she’s so beautiful!

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Cucamelon

Strawberries have gone wild and are now growing up the paths. I have been eating them for breakfast for days now. They taste so sweet. I share them with the Robins and a sly Catbird who is my garden companion lately. Although I love strawberry rhubarb crumble, I have to find a recipe for rhubarb chutney or something because I just don’t make desserts. I don’t care either way because I love the large leaves of rhubarb and think it’s a beautiful, architectural plant in the garden. I cut the flower off this year because I heard it makes the stalks taste bitter but since I didn’t even harvest any … next year I may let it flower again because the flower truly is stunning.

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The Asparagus Forest. Next year I can harvest. It’s been a long wait.

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I planned to train these squashes up this wire panel but WOW look at those leaves. Not sure that’s going to happen. We’ll see if it becomes more vine-like as it grows. I planted Zephyr, a little round French zucchini Round de Nice, and a tiny butternut. The nasturtium I planted alongside for a good campanion has leaves almost as large as the squash!

squash

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I just planted my tomato seedlings so they look tiny and a bit sad but seem very sturdy so I have high hopes. The cherry tomatoes – Sun Gold, Black and Coyote (a white variety) – I will prune up this other wire panel. Volunteer Grandpa Otts morning glories are in the mix, too. Color, color, color. That is Chamomile and Calendula both of which propagate freely throughout the Potager, and an ornamental clover, Trifolium Rubens, you see on the other side of the panel.

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Oh, but there is trouble in paradise! I have an ant problem in the squash bed. I am trying to grow sunflowers there as well. The ants have eaten the stems! I resorted to Borax. I am telling you ants are taking over the world. Every rock I overturn, every sandy soil I dig in – ants, ants, ants!

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Ant eaten stems of Sunflowers. I am trying to reroot them in water because I have in the past successfully.

I also was introduced to leek moth on the best garlic I have ever grown!

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Leek moth damage

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Leek moth larva

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Leek moth damage and frass

I sat diligently and pruned off any infected leaves and plucked cocoons for close to two hours. It was an emergency surgery but so far all is looking good.

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Surgical tool

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Surgically removed larvae

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Leek moth cocoon

But now I have some squatters in my greenhouse! Not necessarily bad, but it may become problematic if they decide to get territorial.

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I like to share the Potager but c’mon! I like to sit in the backyard with my feet in the grass and watch and listen to this part of the garden grow. What are you growing?


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Well, IT’s Here …

Yesterday we woke up to the first of IT. Today we woke up to IT again. IT is predicted in our weather forecast for the next four days, through Friday. IT is doing its thing right now. [Sigh.] I still have a few bulbs to plant.

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Waking up to IT

I didn’t quite finish prepping the beds in the Potager, either. I have just one more bed to compost and “leaf up.” The other I’m still harvesting. I also want to mulch the Asparagus. But I did manage to clean up four of the beds and add a layer of compost and a thick layer of leaves and grass clippings (aka “leafing up”). The garlic is planted and snug under one of those leafy blankets. I also managed to dig up the horseradish. I use its own leaves as a winter cover since they are so large and I can layer them alternately so the wind won’t blow them away – or maybe even use them as a raft or something! Probably not the best idea since diseases can harbor in that cover but I am not even aware of any horse radish afflictions and it always grows like mad.

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During my clean up attempts I discovered that I killed a small Alberta Spruce due to my neglect. [Sigh.] You see the raspberries are planted behind the greenhouse. I was going to move them after we put up the greenhouse but then, well, Summer happened. And well, wild grapes grow on the fence line. I had some Tansy planted next to the raspberries because I read somewhere (forgive me, I do not remember where) that Tansy is a good companion plant for raspberries. And there is some Lemon Balm growing in that little strip of border along the fence before the path. Well, all of it went quite wild and became an entangled mess. Before I knew it, the raspberry vines were growing into the greenhouse through the vents! I couldn’t even make my way behind the greenhouse. That poor little tree was snuffed right out. Whew, confessions of a killer gardener, relief. I will move those raspberries come Spring because I already have a spot planned, prepped and mapped out for them – that helps – A LOT. And I have another poor little Alberta Spruce that isn’t quite yet snuffed out. I think I will move it and add another on either side of the greenhouse to make it all quaint and formal in this wild patch of my world. I’m actually looking forward to it.

[Sigh.] Anyway, I thought maybe I would escape IT but I haven’t migrated soon enough. But this is what I love about the garden: I venture out and begin walking through it admonishing myself for things yet undone, swearing at this other four letter word, and then it slowly works its magic and I am captivated. IT is really quite beautiful and peaceful – the world is hushed. The Pin Oak still has some of its leaves and they are now a deep shade of red.

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A last Hydrangea bloom.

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Calendulas still bloom in the Potager.

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I still have many greens in the Potager, too, which we will eat up before we migrate either sautéed or in morning smoothies. Brussels, too. IT will bring out their flavor.

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Siberian Kale, Collards and Broccoli Rabe

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My favorite Lacinato Kale

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Brussels

I am admiring all the berries I have now in the garden. I thought I might get a good picture of the Winterberry but those birds snuck in and scarfed up every last one of the red berries. The orange, Winter Gold, still remain but will be gone by Winter’s end.

Winter Gold

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Cranberry Viburnum

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Crabapple Purple Prince

Unknown “mega” crabapple

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Yellow Twig Dogwood

I know the birds will eat these fruits while I migrate. I am comforted when I see the gold finches and sparrows feeding among the Black-eyed Susans and Helianthus even though a bird feeder sits just a few feet away. I know when the feeder is empty, the garden will still provide.

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Time to serve up the pumpkins, too. [Sigh.] IT’s here …

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