Brassica Attack

Remember how my nasturtiums were supposed to act as a sacrificial crop to protect the cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower from cabbage white caterpillars? And how I wasn’t sure they’d be able to do the job because they couldn’t be planted until after the last frost, when the brassicas had already been in the ground for…

Dear Wind

Dear Wind, Thank you for bringing in last weekend’s lovely rain clouds. The earth is damp and crumbly again, and the roots of the garden plants are feeding abundantly on all the newly freed nutrients. In this, you have done a very good thing. But I was just wondering: in the future, could you try…

From the Land and Back

This weekend, kept indoors by the glorious rain, I finally read a book that’s been sitting on my shelf for at least a year. One of my best friends found it at a thrift store and thought of me. She knows I love anything to do with gardening or farming, and especially with old-timey farming…

The Earth’s Gift to Itself

For Earth Day, it looks like nature decided to give herself a present–around here, anyway. The ground in our part of Virginia hasn’t seen substantial precipitation since March 5. When it was snow. But today, when May flowers are already in bloom, April showers have finally arrived. It’s a luxurious feeling to go out and…

This Life Is in Your Hands

If you’re an organic gardener, you must have heard of Eliot Coleman. You’ve probably read some of his books: Four-Season Harvest or The New Organic Grower. I confess that I haven’t. Yet. But that didn’t diminish my excitement at finding a memoir written by his daughter, Melissa Coleman. In 2011, she published This Life Is…

Planting Corn

What a gorgeous day for planting corn it was yesterday! In the 70’s with a breeze blowing and a few fluffy clouds wandering across the sun. It was so nice I got my entire first planting of corn in in one day, even though it meant digging compost and fertilizer into almost 200 sq. ft….

An Empty Chair

The chair at my computer desk is empty this morning. Why? Because it’s corn-plantin’ time, folks! See you outside!

Planting Tomatoes

April 15 is a red-letter day here in Zone 7. It’s our last expected frost date. And especially in a warm year like this one, it means all the frost-tender crops like tomatoes and peppers can safely go outside! Actually, since the weather was already so warm (today we’re supposed to hit 90 degrees…good grief),…

Citrus in Virginia? You bet!

This winter, I was lamenting my lack of greenhouse, because I really wanted to be able to grow some citrus trees. My sister in California was eating oranges straight from the branch, and they sounded so juicy and luscious I was starting to feel deprived. (It was winter, after all. The freshest food we had…

Asparagus, Part 5: They’re In!

Eight weeks ago, I started 30 Mary Washington asparagus seeds between two damp paper towels. Potted up, 12 of those became healthy little ferns, and now they’re continuously sending out new shoots, each one a little bigger in diameter than the last. (We might finally be up to a hair’s breadth!) Since the apple trees…

Edible, Flowering Mulch

One of the principles of permaculture is that everything should serve more than one purpose, and every purpose should be served by more than one thing. This complexity makes an ecosystem flexible and resilient, leading to long-term stability. Creating a garden that emulates nature in this way is one of my long-term goals. But permaculture…

It’s Not Paranoia If…

Back in January, at seed-ordering time, I wasn’t sure if my plan for extending the vegetable garden by 1200 sq. ft. in one season was going to be feasible. Since I dig a new bed three times in order to kill the sod, that’s a lot of hand digging. But it turned out we had…