Sunday, January 28, 2018



Here we are in early 2018 and I already seem to be far behind on everything. Despite an immunization in October, Gail caught the flu someplace she volunteers at during the winter and that pretty much changed my plans for the past couple weeks. Alex and I are fine. Things are finally coming around with her and anything above zero degrees has been a “warming trend” for us. Hope you have stayed healthy and your gardens did well for you last year.

Gardeners must love competition as every gardener I know competes with the weather and with nature. There’s nothing we can do about the weather although we should try to learn from what we see from year to year. Making notes of temperatures, sunshine, rain, snow depths, wind, and floods, is a start. I used to keep a weather and garden journal but now I do things online. Sometimes I would make entries like these below. I mention keeping a journal, as along with birdwatching it forces you to think about your gardens and what you want to purchase/grow/plant come spring. It also will get you through winter faster and with a bigger smile, less gloominess!

Trying to remember what spring is like from year to year serves as reminder to how things grew (or didn’t) or what and when you need to start more tender transplants from seed. I’m sharing a few entries I made over a few days from 1997-2001 just to give a hint of how it works.

January 29th, 1997. -23° wind chill at noon when I was in Burlington, then off to -17° outside at the Vermont Farm Show in Barre. Really blowing when I headed home. I stared at a beautiful piece of apple pie that had just been judged at the show. I wasn’t alone!

January 29th, 1999, Cold and sunny all day. About 4” of new snow here, 5.6” in Burlington. Yahoo bought GeoCities for $3.9 billion. I’m home with a bad virus. 46” of snow at the stake on Mt Mansfield. When I feel better, I’m going to take cuttings from some red geraniums I carried over last October in the cellar. Maybe three dozen.

January 31, 1999. Seed order came yesterday from Johnny’s. I want to grow more delphinium this year and think I ordered too much. Var. Pacific Giant. Will grow some 3 foot tall celosia like we did in Burlington for the farmers market. Probably bought too much of that too. Broncos beat Atlanta in the Super Bowl. -15 ° this morning. Then it warmed to +20 °

Simple entries such as these bring me right back to where I was those years and help me remember plant variety names I struggle to remember.

The other competition gardeners feel might come from their “people” neighbors but certainly from the critters of the forests or wood lines that adjoin their property. You’ll have some better luck controlling animals than the weather but it can still be tricky. Every summer the two biggest concerns gardeners ask about when visiting our flower farm are deer and woodchucks. When you live in Vermont there are no shortages of either. Before we started to grow flowers on Route 2, I encircled the entire property in Tenax fence mounted onto 10 foot pressure treated 4X4’s. Back then the company was in Italy but now it’s here in the US. It is easy to find on lots of websites but remember to start with the tall stuff as deer really can jump. Some companies will pay the freight on the 300 foot rolls so shop around to learn how to put it up and what size you need. I cemented the 4X4’s in the ground so there was 8 feet above ground but there a number of variables involved in soil type, size of stones in your soil, wet swampy areas, etc. As for woodchucks I don’t want to get into Fish and Wildlife laws but there are some. I have relocated some woodchucks that I caught in Hav-a-hart traps baited with cantaloupe or watermelon. It works very well but read up on the process and be careful so when you’re finished you have fewer woodchucks but the same number of fingers….. AND  not a skunk!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where winter 2018 has made a serious start. Be well!

George Africa, Gail and Alex garden seasonally on Route 2 at Vermont Flower Farm just west of Marshfield Village. They are good at answering your questions!

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