Good Bye to Pokeberry Hill...


Sunday, January 17, 2010

January in Pokeberry Garden

I've been busy dreaming, planning and getting a little bit going for the next garden season here. I've already got quite a few baby seedlings under light and a several dozen little containers sown that haven't germinated yet.

Popped up at the moment I have, some cabbage and broccoli, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and snap dragons--and more thyme--Can you have too much thyme? I think not.

Sleeping in moist warm soil I have some celery, celeriac, Zwolsch Krul-cutting celery, bok choy, spinach, cauliflower, lettuce-gourmet blend, Sweet Onion, Scallions, Leeks, and brussel sprout seeds. Not a bad beginning! I've only used a shelf and a half on my light stand! There's room for more. :)

These are all cool season plants which means I intend to try to get a crop of most of them before summer's worst heat. I still have a few more cool season things to start under lights--some things will be direct seeded outside--like peas. ~yummy snap peas~

The warm season crops will be started a little later as they won't be going outside until after Easter--I'm thinking they'll start to be planted out in early April, depending on the weather. I'll begin to sow the seeds for some of those in mid-February. Almost certainly most will have been put out by tax day. Those will include the tomatoes and peppers and such like things.

I want to get the garden almost all in before heat comes. I'll mulch it all well too so I won't have spend a ton of time watering--I'll still have to water--just not a 'ton of time'. Mulch cuts weeds too and adds to the soil here which is lousy. I'm using straw mulch mainly in order to add it to the soil and compost when its done. Pine needles take too long to break down, and wood chips I usually add to my soil mi--but don't use as a mulch so much in the veggie garden as I would around ornamentals, same with pine needles.

A great deal of the plants will be going in containers--recycled nursery tree pots and 6 gallon buckets. Buckets need a sort of mulching too--I'm leaning also toward putting the covers back onto the buckets but cutting big holes out for the plants--at least on some as an experiment to see how that works as a sort of mulch. Of course I do have some raised beds too and will add a little more of those. I expect better crops next year and less weeding and watering--but it will require lots of early work to be done in spring, and some of it can be done now on warm days. The key is to pace oneself and do small increments at a time, a huge amount can be accomplished that way!

Last year I started my fruit garden here at our new place with strawberries, red raspberries and blue berries. We also have wild blackberries but we're not that keen on those. I just don't really like the flavor that much. This spring we intend to move the strawberries since we realized they are atop the septic field and I'm just not very comfortable with that idea. We will also add some fruits beginning with grapes. I'm leaning toward using Catawba Grapes and a type of Muscadine/Scuppernong. The Catawbas originated near here and the Muscadines are good in the south, I'm not sure they may also have come from this area.

We want to use them for a variety of purposes; jams and jellies, juice and wine and also for the vine itself which will provide some shade and material for crafting and also since we are building a 2nd story deck on the front of the house we want to make that a trellis and have the grape vine decorate the front the house and hide the rather tall block foundation--which we will eventually find time to put a stucco finish over. I'm doing my research now on our grape project so I'll be ready to get going on it in early spring.

I don't know that I want big fruit trees. I want things I can easily tend by myself as I am the main gardener. I may buy some dwarf style trees, probably not this spring.Perhaps peaches and pecans--although really, those would be for Hubby and it would be likely years before we could eat any. Maybe we should get them started.... I guess we'll have to discuss that.

I would love to grow some shrubby fruits and nuts. I like filberts and currants but I'm thinking I probably shouldn't grow currants here although they seem to be legal here in South Carolina, they are not legal in North Carolina. They are a host plant for white pine blister rust. This disease doesn't really hurt the currant but is deadly to certain types of pine and thus also to the logging industry. We have a great deal of pine here and also there is logging in our area. I don't know if the pine in our area is the sort that could be damaged, it doesn't seem to be a restricted plant here, however we are near the border of North Carolina and they don't want it there. This tells me that maybe I should get used to the idea that I can't have currants, it just wouldn't seem very neighborly. Perhaps I'll have elderberries and a shrub cherry instead, cherries can be tart like currants can't they? I'll look into those. As for the filbert or hazel nuts--I've heard conflicting information on how well they do here. I think its worth a try at least. I may just need to baby them is all.

We've warmed up considerably, but with the warmth the rain has returned! Oh my goodness enough with the rain already! Today should have some pockets of non-raining time for me to do a little outside. I went out yesterday and it began to rain immediately--which was a bit annoying as we had hit 61 degrees and I was excited to get into my dirt a little. Well, no matter, today it is already 57, which is close to what we expect all day here. If I am able I want to spend a little time on clean up duty in the garden. One thing I want to clean out is my cold frame to prepare it for some pots. I'm planning to put pots sown with some perennials in the cold frame to protect them a little bit and let them germinate and grow outside where the light is free. I should have done it in the fall, but with all the rain and so much else to do it just never happened. Its all good though. I will likely want to be outside as the Vikings have a play off game today and 'He whose name shall not be spoken' is quarterbacking and I think I'd rather be outside where I won't be subjected to any language I don't care to hear, should the 'traitor' make any especially good plays--or worse yet--win. If you've never lived with a Packer fan--you are truly missing something.

Yesterday #3 Son and I drove to Nichols Store to get some ammo for his 22 so he could do some target shooting. I was hoping they'd have sausage casings for me--but alas--they are again/still out of stock. I've been there a few times now to no avail. My fault--I should really call first. I did pick up some sausage spices and I enjoyed the ride and visit with Son #3, so it wasn't a waste. I'm to call them Tuesday at noon and see if they have them yet, then hopefully I won't go there again until I know they do. I suppose I could mail order them, but I just enjoy visiting this store and want to buy them there if possible.

We've been using the new meat grinder for various little experiments. #3 Son used it to grind up some $1.99/# London broil beef I bought recently and mix it with cheese and onions to make a sort of ground beef Philly Sandwich. He used to pound the meat with a meat hammer, but the meat hammer belonged to Daughter and she took it when she moved so this seemed like a good idea to him. Me too, because he did some damage on my maple cutting board and I didn't take it kindly. #3 and Hubby love their philly sandwiches!

I haven't made a big batch of sausage yet--that's something I plan to do as soon as I can get my hands on those casings. I could just make patties but I've already done that and stuffing casings is new to me, so I just really want to 'try it'. I love learning new things, I've seen it done and it looks very easy, we shall see...

I've been pondering adding some animals to our place-- outside. I don't think we'll do it this spring--but its on my mind. Since I most likely won't be getting a job anytime soon, why not add some animal chores to my day? That sort of thing usually fits in quite nicely with a stay at home routine.

I'd like something to get wool fibers from--not necessarily sheep, but maybe angora goats and rabbits. I could use them myself but also sell them, folks do that on Etsy as well as selling their crafts. I love small 'streams of income' that might be a nice little one for me.

I also keep going back to wanting chickens. Hubby seems to be getting closer and closer to saying OK. I've whittled him down--rather slowly--I started YEARS ago. He's come around to so much though. He never even used to visit my gardens in years past, now he's actually growing some plants of his own.

Last year he was quite 'into' bonzai--but I knew it would be short lived as he is not a patient guy and that is very 'slow' hobby. He did enjoy propagating some ficus and maple for potential bonzai-- of course propagating ficus is about hard as growing willow, but he still believed himself an expert in plant propagation after his quick success.

I do love that guy! He is always doing something interesting. Maybe that's what we have in common? Who else would put up with either of us?

This year he is determined to grow bhut jolokia peppers from seed. They are touted to be the hottest pepper in the world, scoring a million or so on the scoville scale. MUCH hotter than Hubby's old favorite habeneros. He has grown his own habeneros now and makes his own hot sauce and sometimes spikes the store bought stuff. In our house, people always ask before they take out the tabasco if he has done anything to it. One does want to know.

When the jolokia seeds arrived in the mail Hubby could not resist and HAD to try sucking on one and eating it. It was hot--but he liked it! He actually ate another one. Then he asked if I'd like a kiss--which I declined.

Well anyhow he's getting more into the garden and has actually talked to me about chickens a few times without saying "no, no, NO!" so I think he's caving. We shall see. It seems his biggest barrier is the idea of butchering them. I may need to start with just a few old 2ND hand gals for eggs.

He also doesn't mind that I plan to litter the garden with recycled buckets full of plants--I do have to paint them however. They are white and he thinks I should make them something that won't be so blaring-ly bucket-ish looking in the garden. Happily we have so many nice tall pines at the bottom of Pokeberry Hill that none of the neighbors can see my garden. I am thinking I can paint them by first priming with shellac and then use latex so I won't have to invest in pricey plastic paint. Also, Lowes always has those wonderful 'mis-tint paints' for bargain hunters like me. I already have quite a few colors. Perhaps I can sponge them in a camo style? Or, I wonder if Hubby would like to see a pink bucket garden, I got a nice gallon of strawberry pink exterior a few weeks ago, a pricey exterior grade, for just a few dollars. "Pink?" - I believe its a "no".

Speaking of buckets, I also think one of my wonderful buckets should be a worm bin. Hubby asked "what do you want to do with those?" Well he asked. I did give him the run down on that, they are good composters, great for the garden, for fishing and for the chickens. We grew worms before, I guess he's forgotten. Eyebrows went up at the mention of chickens but there was no nay saying, I think I've nearly got him.

Well.. this is another one of those 'cabin fever' long posts isn't it? I really should write a book. I know Sarah Palin could have written her memoir in just 2 months cuz I'm pretty sure I could and I wasn't even a journalism major. I'm just as jabbery as my little grandbaby Ruby--only my jabber is in written form--and if you read it you can actually tell what it means.

Another Winter Pokeberry day has begun!


  1. Mary,
    Your garden plans sound great. I am envious of your early start to grow things there. And thank you for mentioning peas - that is one thing that I will be able to start early here, too.

    I hope you get your chickens. The butchering thing would be difficult but you could just keep a few hens for eggs, fertilizer and bug patrol in your garden. What would Mojo think of chickens?

  2. LOL... Mojo LOVES chicken...but not in a very friendly way.
    That may just be a problem. ;)
    Still we do have our little parrots in the house and he knows they are part of the pack--he should be able to learn that about chickens.

  3. A warning about wood mulches - Mike McGrath, our gardening guru in the mid-Atlantic, warns against any mulch containing wood products. The mulch harbors "shot gun", or artillery, fungus, the spores of which can shoot 30 feet towards any light-surfaced object (like the side of your house) and attach themselves. They are next to impossible to get off once dried. Mr. McGrath hosts a gardening show in NPR called "You Bet Your Garden" - check out what he has to say.

  4. Isn't that interesting? I think here they suggest you use the colored wood chips against houses due to bugs--a big concern in this area. I usually buy bags of small pine chips to mix into my plant containers I mix it with peat and compost for a growing medium--so far it works very well--but this is in the garden not too close to anything. I tend to rely more on pine mulch than on wood chips for mulching-just easier for me to cover more with less lifting and less money. I'm on Mike McGrath's email newsletter list--and I didn't even know he had a gardening show! I've followed him for years and years--bought one of his backyard nursery e-books long ago--though I think I've lost it now. I'm glad he's got a gig, he's full of good info isn't he?

  5. Hmmm... actually I think I have the wrong Mike McG something.. maybe I meant Mike McGroarty from

    Aww darn and here I thought he had a show. :(

  6. I can hardly believe all of the seeds you have started, Mary!!! WOW! I keep going on and on about my little tires of collards, LOLOL!!! I would love to have chickens and rabbits especially! Have I ever told you about my plan in case of emergency food need? With sprouts and rabbits??? I have since learned that it would be a starvation diet. I need a new plan!

  7. Throw some beans and rice in there with the sprouts and rabbits--that might just help. ;-) And maybe keep a little dry milk too. I'm actually going to buy some of that this next week. My old stash is pretty ancient, I will use it up in cooking. I know Milk is going to go up so I just want to get a fresher box and put it in something air tight in the root cellar for emergency sake. I always think it doesn't hurt to have an emergency stash. I'm not a survivalist and I don't believe in trying to hoard enough to last forever--but you know-- it is very conceivable to have a few weeks of emergency for so many reasons, there's things we ought to keep on hand so we are able to manage-- just in case.