Friday, December 18, 2009

Wintersowing a Cottage Garden

On Dec 21, 2008, I started my cottage garden. I had spent the summer laying out a new bed in the side yard. This is what it looked like the day I saw the house when it was for sale.

In the summer of 2008, I started working on a new bed layout, covering the existing grass with leaf mold from the landfill. I also brought home truck loads of wood mulch, but soon learned that was a mistake for this garden. My first attempts weren't exactly what I had hoped for. It was a sad little garden with a couple of purchased plants, some knockout roses, and my dad's ugly boat. Sure was a fun summer though.

By late summer, the design was finalized. Stone edging was added throughout the fall from rocks picked up here and there around the property.

By December, the leaf mold had turned into really nice dirt in most areas of the bed. That's when I started taking a weekly photograph from the same spot, using the birdbath as a frame of reference.

To make my wintersowing containers, I used a bandsaw. You can find a previous thread about it here. This morning, it took me about 30 minutes to make 80 new containers for this year. The bottles were saved by my sister, parents, and friends of theirs from church. More will be arriving Saturday, I hope.

Seeds were sown all through December and into the spring of 2009. Germination started coming quickly in mid winter thanks to a warm spell in January.

I spent a lot of time peering into the opening of containers.

And then there was March.

After the snow melted, lots of green was still visible in the containers. They had made it through the winter.

And then April.

Planting out had already started, but really took off in mid April.

By May, the plants were showing significant growth.

June was a very good month.

Summer Solstice. Just six months after sowing the first seeds using the wintersowing method, my garden was in full swing.

By late July, it had become a morning ritual of mine to walk the yard with a cup of coffee and the camera.

An injury caused by my hateful lawnmower in early August gave me reason to sit on the front porch every morning instead of hobbling through the grass on crutches.

As soon as I could manage the steps, I would pace back and forth on the concrete driveway.

Even in September, the gardens were still full and lush.

Just before our first light frost, many things had been removed or cut back for the coming winter. The changing angle of the sun was the biggest reason for the decline. The trees to the South of this bed block a significant amount of sunlight for several months, until they lose their leaves.

Overall, it was a very good year for gardening here on 7th Street. So it's no surprise that I'm planning to do it all again this year. I have more seeds, more varieties, more everything. The hoophouse is set and ready to go. When I run out of soda bottles, I'll start using saved nursery pots. I have several 55 gallon trash bags with quart, gallon, and all sizes in between just waiting to be filled with soil and seeds. Under cover of the hoophouse, they'll germinate quickly and I'll be planting out hardy perennials in late January and February. Snow won't phase them. Annuals will be sown in March with tomatoes started indoors a month earlier. Hardwood cuttings will be taken from several deciduous shrubs about the same time. They'll go into a cold frame at the end of the driveway. I've promised Carla that I would "prune" her fig tree in January. I'll store the cuttings in the fridge until it's time to pot them up.

Thanks to wintersowing, it's a nonstop cycle even through the dead of winter for me and my gardens. I've created so many new beds this year that I need a lot of new plants. I'll sow tons of rudbeckia and echinacea. Cosmos will be direct sown as will some other reseeding annuals. It's just a matter of knowing when. Trial and error is my friend. The backyard will receive the same attention that I paid to the side yard this past winter. With the fallen oak tree, I've got new sunny beds that were partially shade last year.

Today, it's cloudy with snow, sleet, and rain in the forecast. It's 37 degrees. It's coming. There's something new in the gully this morning.

She's a fat hawk. She's perched in a squirrel's drey at the top of a tree in the gully. Last year, I had owls. No sign or sound of them lately. The squirrels know she's around. They've been chattering like crazy. My birdfeeders aren't getting many visitors either. At least there won't be rabbits. I might have to move by feeder to the other side of the house for the winter.


Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

This was so great to see the progress of your cottage garden. I remember seeing all those seedlings last winter.
I've actually been trying to decide when I should start wintersowing. Last year was my first attempt and I had great success with it.
Your plans for all of your beds look so great, can't wait to see them progress.

Jimmy said...

I want a boat like that for my driveway.

Darla said...

We too have a yard boat...told my husband if he doesn't do something with it I will make a huge container of it!! Love seeing the transformation here, I will be checking out those plastic bottles for sowing!

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Catherine, it's a great way to get a lot of plants for cheap. And it really does work.

Jim/Darla, all those pictures, all those flowers, and you two want to talk about the boat. Okay, it's an old boat. But once on the lake, it was easy enough to toss a float over the side and just watch the inside of my eyelids for a few hours. Laura and I sure had some good times on Badin Lake. Next summer, I'm going to ask if I can borrow the pontoon. I'll have to make room in the garage though. It's a hideous blue and silver.

Jimmy said...

pontoon! Your new patio!

Unknown said...

OK, your photos have convinced me! I've got to try wintersowing!

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Jim, I'm gonna need to install a pond to pull that one off.

Tim, go read the website. Sow hardy perennials anytime after Dec 21. Trees, shrubs, and others that need warm periods then cold can be sown indoors and moved outside later. I sow mine in the fall instead. Annuals can be sown about 2 weeks before your average last frost. For me, that's late March, early April. With the hoophouse, I can push that a bit. Let me know if you need seeds. LOL!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Loved seeing the progress of your garden. This coming years garden will be even better. You really inspire me Tom.

Have a lovely Christmas.


L. D. said...

Your really are the master gardener with energy to spare. I am getting to old to try and keep up. The year in pictures is a wonderful thing. Only by blogging would you have ever had a visual journal of your gardening. I like how your place is on a rolling hill. I had never noticed that as I did when I say neighbors down the hill. I don't know if you like it but it makes it interesting.

Randy Emmitt said...

Thanks for the garden lay out it helps me to understand your garden better.

We already have 1 1/4 inch of snow and it has only been snowing a short time. Our garden still has kale and salad greens out in the snow.

Darla said...

Don't get me wrong I drooled over your gardens, just didn't want to admit it!!!

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

LOL. It's okay Darla. It's a really ugly boat.

Randy, it's just sleet and freezing rain here. Maybe turning to snow overnight.

FlowerLady, thank you. I've been inspired by you as well.

LD, I'm just waiting for the time when I won't have this much energy. Gotta get a lot done before I cross over the hump into late middle age.

Darla said...

Okay, so, I watched your video, simple do I plant the seeds in the bottle, put the top on and leave them outside on the porch in the sun all winter? I had the volume turned down per your instructions....I have already instructed everyone,

Unknown said...

Awesome post! I love seeing all those containers and the progression of the gardens.

Nell Jean said...

Marvelous post. I watched the entire process throughout the year, but what a treat to see it all gathered together! I look forward to seeing the 2010 garden.

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Darla, I'll be sowing seeds on Monday. I've got 100 containers in the basement all ready to go, soil and everything. Be sure to come back then. I'll show you exactly what to do. Milk jugs work great too. Any clear plastic thing that you can put 3" of dirt in.

Thanks Michelle and Nell. It's come together the way I really wanted it to this year. There were a few spots I wish I had done things differently. But I have never done anything perfect the first time. I have many years of seed sowing left. I'll get small bits just right every year until the whole is "complete".

Darla said...

I'll so be back!!

Pam J. said...

I bookmarked your blog recently, probably because of the hoop house. Today, while a blizzard rages outside my house in the DC suburbs, I spent more time lurking around your site. I am so impressed! I love the plastic bottle seedlings, the almost free wood stove, the instructions on how to make that hoop house, and so much more. Your garden is so beautiful I can't find the right words! But I'll be back keeping tabs on your progress.

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Thanks Pam. Welcome. I like your weed blog. I've got most of them in my yard this time of year. I consider them living mulches. They protect the soil from the drying winter winds. Dry, if it weren't for all the rain we've had lately.

Pam J. said...

"I consider them living mulches. They protect the soil from the drying winter winds." Such a great observation...why didn't I think of that?

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Tom,
I enjoyed catching up on your posts. Like I've said before, you are one busy guy! Your gardens were glorious this summer, and your plans for next year look to be also.

Wendy said...

i loooooved this post. I loved seeing the progression of the garden. The photo in April (bottle top greenhouses) is beautiful!

Carla said...

To everyone who has enjoyed Tom's progress, I have to say I have been lucky enough to see much of this in progress in person. You can only imagine how beautiful this is in photos, I can tell you the pictures do not do Tom and his gardens any justice. His garden is not only peaceful on some very hectic days, but also exciting to see how it all comes together. I am also lucky enough to have him lay his gardening hand on many of my attempts at having a peaceful retreat. What a pleasureable place to visit

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Thanks Carla. Your name pops up here and there on the blog. Glad you could stop by for a visit. See you at 3:30pm when the meeting is over.

tina said...

What a difference. It looks beautiful.

Donna said...

Wow! :O Nice planning! Did you Wintersow the Castor Bean? And what vine do you have growing on the arbor and how long did it take for the vine to establish its self so well?

Thank you,