Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gardening in Virginia

My Square foot Potager in June 2007. The corn and everything look great here... unfortunately, the lack of water and the fact we had to conserve killed the corn. OK I admit it, we have never really had much success with the corn... I think I need another variety! (It was Silver Queen)

How frustrating is it to be a gardener in Virginia.

We don’t quite fit in anywhere… our winters are colder than those in the Deep South. Our winters and summers are warmer than those further North. And the winters just DON’T compare with the Upper Mid-West!

See… we get quite a few sub-freezing temperatures. In fact, it is very common for the temperatures to go below freezing at night (unlike the Deep South), while hovering in the mid 40’s during the day (all temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit). THAT is typical winter weather for us. Then there are the atypical days in January or February, where the temperatures might get up into the 80’s or never get beyond the 20’s.

Then there is summer. Summer here is HOT. But not just hot. Mostly that is the way it feels because it is HUMID. I am told it is not as hot or humid as the deep South, but it is far hotter and more humid than anything I ever experienced before. Of course, as an Englishwoman that is not too hard… but I have been to the Mediterranean!

Anyway… consider then, the frustration of a gardener without the benefit of life-long experience of the weather here in Virginia. Or without the books that help me garden in my climate.

The harvest from July 2007. We actually started out quite well last year! As you can see, in one day I have picked a load of beans (a mess DH calls it), some onions and some chard. There may be some turnips in there too ;)

For instance, I KNOW I could do four season gardening… I see it down at Colonial Williamsburg all the time. But I would like a book about it ;) one that told me how to do it! Or at least a gardening neighbour… but they are few and far between. Where do I begin? When should I plant seeds? Should I sow my seeds indoors? When do I plant the seedlings out?

When I browse the web, people talk flowers and plants. I love them, sure, but my real passion is growing food. Well that and herbs ;) I think it is exciting to go out and PICK the food, and then COOK the food right away. (Or cook WITH them in the case of herbs). I don’t suppose that is particularly surprising to those who know how I love to cook :D

The back garden in August 2007. Not doing so great because water was scarce... but this was a nice foggy day ;) EARLY. I always like this view off of the back porch. No, there is no current inhabitant of the rabbit hutch... we're looking for a good (i.e. not hairy) candidate. (Angoras are LOVELY, but their fur makes me sneeze :-( )

But just in case there are others who can (as in there are no neighbourhood restrictions) or want to do some Kitchen Gardening in the Mid-Atlantic/Upper South region (USDA zone 7) (and other areas are more than welcome to share their wisdom), then I am aiming to push this blog towards doing JUST that, right here. And maybe have some information handy to those who want to try too!

Join me?

P.S. I added some lists to the sidebars, links for books, websites and blogs I like!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Bird Feeder

This weekend, I took the advice of some friends and went out to purchase some different bird seed… I picked up a mesh sock of nyjer seed and some Harvest bird seed mix. I also got a small, new tube feeder to put the latter in!

I was amazed, the birds quickly found the feeder… and quickly decimated the food supply! I have to refill the feeder once a day at present!
This morning, the feeder (which I filled yesterday) had a bunch of seed.

A couple of hours later, the thing was almost empty! You can see it towards the top of the picture ;) (see the goldfinches munching on the nyjer?)

This is certainly successful, I am wondering what to get next… I think I will get a bird bath :)

And yes, I am still having garden dreams…

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Garden Planning

I was astonished to discover that there just don't seem to be many gardeners in my area.
Trawling the blogs led to a couple, but our unique circumstances of being in the Upper South, with disadvantages of both the Southern hot summers and the sub-zero temperatures of the Northern winters, seem to just make gardening something people around here in Central Virginia, NOT want to do!
Well I for one will not quit! I grew up in gardening country (yes the English still love to garden, and most will at least have one or two veggies hidden in their flowers), and I really, really want a vegetable garden.
I picked up a new book to help me The Southern Kitchen Garden, but disturbingly, it seems to think that the 'South' ends at North Carolina!

HELLO... Virginia is Southern too! Oh well, the information is sound.

I enjoyed reading the seed catalogs, planning my garden for the year!

And I journalled my choices of vegetable if not the varieties!

Later I will update you on my new bird feeder... it's great!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Second Snow

Which the kids are out enjoying... well, trying to recreate Snowflake Bentley's experiments :)
Action shot of the cardinal trying to stay on the feeder!

There is not really much snow, and the weatherman said that it should turn to rain later... but when the kids are eager to catch a snowflake, what do you do?

I love shots of cardinals sitting in the snow :)

Then there are snow angels... my 3 year old (almost 4) has never had the chance to make one!

Two male cardinals at the feeder.

The birds have been coming to the feeder in droves. We have hopes of seeing more now the kids are in, but I have been listening to birding friends with LOTS of birds, and soon I hope to improve our setup! You can click on my pictures to see them a little larger ;)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Birding: Nature Journal Entry #2

I sat by our 'bird window' today, and drew the birds. We set our feeder up here, almost a year ago, and I have not regretted it since.

The birds were busy today… all the regular cast of characters were there, including the relatively new addition of the red-bellied Nuthatch. They only started coming a few months ago!

Today at the feeder:

White throated Sparrows, both the tan variety and normal,
Downy Woodpecker (female)
Cardinals (male and female)
Red Bellied Woodpecker
Mourning Doves
White Breasted Nuthatch
Red breasted Nuthatch

Some of these were ON the feeder, some below it eating the spilled food.
I also observed some other birds in the back yard, including a Rufus Sided Towhee.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Nature Journal Entry No. 1

I sat by the window, watching the feeder today, and as part of my art plans for the year.