You know how, when fall turns to winter, we get excited about snowflakes, holidays, and all things scented cinnamon? When we envision cozying up to a fireplace with our dog, cat, or human, looking out the window admiringly?
As we sigh at it’s beauty, we forget how long we have this season! Our cold season can start as early as September, with dropping night temperatures happening as early as August. Some years, we’ve gotten snow well into May, with frosts even in early June! Thermal underwear, hot tea, oatmeal, and wooly blankets are practically a daily necessity for the majority of the year.
Our winter continues to be so relentless this year that we have failed to get outside here at the Mountain Farmhouse. Many tasks, left undone, still await our attention. If spring ever arrives, hopefully we can forge ahead in spite of our neglect, however unintentional. Fortunately, nature often forgives. This certainly keeps things simple, and works in accordance with Permaculture Principles by allowing things to happen naturally while observing.
Perpetual Snow and Failure to Plan Ahead
It really seems as though the snow will NEVER let up! Therefore, to be fair, our absence in the garden is not really within our control, so we can’t entirely fault ourselves.
We can, however, pledge to shovel snow more consistently in future winters, allowing better access to gardens and trees, not to mention compost. Unfortunately, quite a bit of kitchen waste had to go to the Transfer Station rather than the compost pile. This makes my Permaculture/sustainability sense hurt a bit, but it could be worse.
Pictured below, in the foreground, is one of our oldest trees. It is so interestingly shaped we’ve named it, “Dr. Seuss.”
Winter Pruning – Fruit Trees
Our fruit trees must be pruned in the winter, which is the dormant season. It won’t happen this year. It is just too late. Pruning has to wait until next winter. We will have to plan ahead for this so our schedule will permit this next year. In between our current snowstorms, we’ve had weird bouts of warm weather, so the trees have bounced out of dormancy. I can already see little buds on some of them. But many of the trees, especially the apples, have lived long in spite of little or no trimming in previous years, and they still bore fruit.
Roses and Wisteria
We haven’t yet missed the ideal time to prune roses! That is when the forsythia is in bloom, and the forsythia hasn’t bloomed yet! In May, we’ll trim the Wisteria. Positive thinking!
Our blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, elderberries, and currants will do well with a little early spring pruning, if that’s at all possible! I mostly remove just the dead parts at that time anyway.
Our cold frame is made from scrap wood and old windows. The snow was so heavy this year, the glass panes shattered. We will have to repair this somehow, but I’m afraid if we replace the windows, they’ll shatter all over again. Perhaps, instead we will cover them with strong plastic sheeting to prevent further opportunity for breakage.
We ordered some more blueberry and blackberry plants this year, along with two new roses. The ground is still frozen, though, so we can’t plant them just yet. They lie in waiting in the barn.
Even without using the cold frame, and without pruning trees “on time,” we haven’t lost hope. We can purchase seedlings at our local native nursery. I’ll worry about starting seeds in our newly repaired cold frame next year. Next year’s calendar can be marked with reminders for taking care of snowy walkways and trimming the fruit trees. The roses, Wisteria, berries, plus other shrubs and plants will continue to await our attention.
I particularly look forward to planting tomatoes this year. My tomatoes did poorly last year, and I’m not sure exactly why. Many local farmers had the same issue. One of my friends, however, had beautiful tomatoes and canned several quarts of sauce! Thankfully, she gave me one of the jars!
I would love to surround my house with more herbs such as lavender and mint. I got a start on that last year, but I hope to add more each year. Besides smelling delightful, critter (ahem) tend not to like these plants. A huge bonus, as far as I’m concerned.
Another area on which I’d like to focus is my wee orchard. We have fewer than 20 trees which we planted 2 years ago. I’d love to add more companion plants beneath the trees, creating a lovely understory hopefully mimicking a natural forest-type setting.
What’s wonderful about a garden? Even if we couldn’t tend it over the winter, we can still learn from our failures and mistakes. We can vow to try harder next time, and continue to hope for better outcomes. No matter what, the garden allows us to forge ahead each year with a renewed sense of wonder, curiosity, and discovery!
(I wonder if I’ll still feel this way in the midst of summer when I’m swatting mosquitoes while sweat runs into my eyes. I would certainly like to believe so.)
“Gardeners, I think, dream bigger than Emperors.” – Mary Cantwell
Wishing you and your garden many blessings! <3