Friday, March 05, 2021


 Here's an article I wrote for North Star Monthly last fall. Gardening thoughts, whenever they appear, serve as reminders to good garden design, care and maintenance.



It’s a noisy, gloomy morning here at our house on the mountain above Peacham Pond. Last night’s storm brought another .92” of rain accompanied by gusts of wind that have now “tapered” to 11 mph. The electricity is still flickering now and again so someplace there’s probably a tree across a power line. The weather folks just said that the temperature will only rise into the mid forties today and then by tonight it will be below freezing. That’s sufficient notice that we have a couple more weeks to clean up our gardens as snow will probably be here by early November.


I have visited various gardening departments in a variety of stores this week and have noticed there are plenty of spring bulbs still for sale. I have always felt these bags of bulbs were good investments for the home gardener because for $12-$15 you can get about 40 bulbs of good size. Everything from those nice blues of the  muscari and scilla to hundreds of varieties of narcissus, hyacinths, crocus and tulips that come in lots of colors. These don’t take long to plant and the jobs seems very worthwhile come spring when the snow finally melts and your gardens color up. Personally, we plant a few tulips every fall, knowing full well that deer love them and the blooms may or not be enjoyed for more than one day.


If you grow hydrangeas, either any of the paniculatas or the arborescens, they can be pruned in fall or spring. We try to get ours pruned in the fall and this year we were lucky to have friend Jody come by and volunteer to prune the 50 or so we have lining parts of the farm perimeter. She likes pruning and does a great job.


Raking gardens and blowing, vacuuming or shredding leaves is another fall chore. We usually leave this until the last thing we do and sometimes it’s early spring before we finish the task. All our leaves go into a compost pile made simply from a 50 foot piece of old snow fence and half a dozen fence poles. We use this exclusively for leaves and advise not to add leaves from oaks, butternuts or walnuts—any leaf that might contain tannic acid. We try to keep this compost pile clean of any plant materials which might have viruses. “Tree leaves only” will provide a nice addition to your spring gardens either worked into the soil or layered an inch or so deep between perennials on top of the gardens.


Fall is a good time to plan for spring. I was fortunate to find a source for 2-3 year old cow manure and bought 9 yards in September and just had 6 more yards delivered and three more yards coming. Covid 19 turned many folks into first time gardeners and the supply of garden amendments about dried up. Planning ahead is suggested!


This is a great time to build raised beds for next year if you never got that far this summer. In this area, Fontaine’s Sawmill in East Montpelier and P&R Lumber in Wolcott usually have hemlock cut any way you want from board sizes to 6” X 6”  timbers. Hemlock holds up well and lasts for many years. If you want to use your own trees and have any tamarack (or hemlock) on your property, portable sawmills can be hired to cut what you want. Tamaracks/larch are the only conifer where the needles turn yellow and fall off this time of year. They are a great garden accent and have a history of being used for boats and bridges because the wood does not rot. The current problem is there’s a new bark beetle that is destroying them as far north as Pennsylvania and I have read that they will have reached into Canada within four years. If this is true we will have lost another useful tree so consider it now. Under no circumstances use any pressure treated lumber. Although arsenic isn’t used anymore to prevent rotting, any chemicals just don’t mix well with fruit  and vegetables you want to grow.


As a final thought, order your seeds soon so you are not disappointed. Millions of people began gardening this past summer because Covid 19 kept people home. I expect that shortages will probably be greater by spring 2021 as more people want to garden. As you put together an order be sure that what you are purchasing will grow in the area you have in mind and will mature to flowering or fruiting before the end of the season. Learn what temperature zone you garden in and buy seeds you can use. Most catalogs tell the number of seeds per package or per ounce and there’s a big difference between seeds for verbena bonariensis, digitalis, or cleome versus cukes, squash or sunflowers. If you are looking to try fingerling potatoes, plan ahead as they have become very popular and sources are quickly dried up. No matter what you plant, we know you’ll have fun. Questions? Email us at The farm is closed until April but we’re still available to answer questions and sell gift certificates. We’re updating our website now and it should be finished by February. If all else fails, give us a call at 802-426-3505.





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