The first weekend of 2014 has been a productive one. I pruned half of my more than forty rose bushes, and got badly scratched up and bloody in the process, prepared and planted one of my four 4 ft X 4 ft raised vegetable beds, weeded my flower beds and thinned out self-sown seedlings, and along with other mundane tasks kicked off another gardening year. This year the focus will be less on acquisition, and more on harmonious growth and sustainable maintenance.
I was out of town for three weeks, attending a wedding and vacationing in India. Before that had a packed Thanksgiving week, so the garden was mostly neglected.
The garden suffered quite a bit of frost damage. The fruit-laden clementine tree is the brightest spot this time of year. We plucked a few that looked ripe and delicious, and found them to be too sour for my taste. Learned from reading up on a few forums that oranges improve in sweetness from hanging on the tree longer or from just sitting in the shelf. I found this piece of public-sourced wisdom to be true; the oranges I had plucked a few days earlier were definitely sweeter. Magnesium or Epsom salts also apparently help. Too late for this year’s harvest, but I’m going to try it for next year’s.
I have over 40-50 rose plants, about half planted in a row that I pruned down to about a foot or so – conventional wisdom that I have followed faithfully ever since we moved into the house. In addition to a diligent fertilization and spraying schedule, this kind of drastic pruning helps to improve the size of the blooms and the appearance of the bushes.
We ambitiously put in 6 raised beds last year with the idea of growing enough vegetables to supply our table with a steady source of fresh produce year round. Only, we didn’t set up a watering system and dragging a heavy 100 ft. hose around to water the beds was too much effort, so the beds stayed empty pretty much all year round. This year tempted by the field-fresh carrots, beets, spinach and kale at the farmer’s market, I decided to get an early start on the vegetable garden and threw in some dolce vita spinach and blue lake bush beans seeds in dirt mixed with (what else) chicken manure and worm castings. It might be too cold still for them to sprout, but these seeds were languishing anyway.
Beans are a perfect starter vegetable; I have a self-sown plant growing in hard packed clay, I never watered it, and it seems to have handled the winter cold just fine, and right now has a bunch of beans just ripe for picking.