Anticipating Florida

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Pete and I have been invited to visit friends in Florida next month. Of course, we accepted the invitation! I’ve arranged time off from work, I’ve made my packing list, and our house sitter is all lined up (with instructions on keeping the feeders filled). Now I’m eagerly counting the days until we leave.

While there are plenty of logistics involved in escaping winter for a couple of weeks, I’m also trying to prepare for birding in a relatively unfamiliar location. Yes, I’ve been to Florida before—twice, in fact—but it’s not my usual birding location, and those aren’t my usual birds.

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What to Grow?

Seed catalogs_LAH_2733January. The start of a new year. The start of a new garden. As I contemplate my empty veggie beds, I feel like a race car driver waiting at the starting line. “Gentlemen (gentlewomen?), start your engines!”

This year is truly new in another way. We moved last year, and I no longer have a my huge veggie garden. I used to have twelve, 4ˈ x 12ˈ beds, plus four 4ˈ x 4ˈ herb beds, plus a series of 2ˈ wide border beds around the entire area, ideal for pole beans, peas, and perennials (lovage, currants, berries, asparagus). Now I have two, 4ˈ x 10ˈ raised beds. Two. Well, we intended to downsize, right?

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A Garden Retrospective

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With the bustle of Christmas over and the new year just ahead, it’s time to take stock of our lives, and that includes our gardens. Now, when the ground is frozen, plants dormant, and hopefully under an insulating blanket of snow, we have time to catch our collective breath and consider our garden from a broader perspective.

Let’s start with the positive. What worked this year? What do we want to do again? In my garden, I trialed a new variety of carrot (my old standby was no longer available). It was an unqualified success. ‘Prodigy’ is a terrific carrot, a uniform bright orange and amazingly tender considering how huge each root is. I cooked the ones I’ve pulled so far (the rest are tucked under mulch in the garden, waiting their turn), and they were tender and delicious. I intend to grow it again.

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“Days to Maturity”

tomatoes-greenhouse-2008sept08-lah-296When can I pick my tomatoes? Will these melons ripen in my short growing season? If I plant these flowers from seed, when will I have blooms?

“Days to maturity” is one of the most important factors in determining what we can grow in our high altitude gardens. Technically, this number tells the gardener how long a particular crop or variety takes, on average, to yield a harvestable crop. However, it’s all a bit fuzzy.

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Planning Your Veggie Garden: How Much Should You Plant?

264-wheelbarrow-of-veggies-closeupYour seed catalogs are well-thumbed by now. You have all your favorite varieties flagged, along with some new offerings you’re eager to try. After months of indoor weather, the gardening urge is looming large. It’s tempting to go overboard, and order every seed listed. Making a vegetable garden plan will help keep your cravings in proportion to your needs.

Even if you’re not much of a planner, some simple steps now will pay off in fewer problems and less work as the season progresses. I’ll start at the beginning: how big a garden should you grow? Cultivating more veggies than you can use increases your expenses, your work load, and your need for compost, water, and pest control.

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Grow a Garden of Eatin’

264-wheelbarrow-of-veggies-closeupDo all the fresh veggies appearing in the local farmers’ markets have you inspired? Victory gardens are back in style. Maybe it’s the economy. Growing your own can save you money, although your initial investment may take several years to pay off. Or perhaps you want to plant crops that are normally expensive at the market.

Gardening is good for you. You control which chemicals (if any) you use in your garden. Plus, it provides a great excuse to go outside and get some exercise.

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