Every year, after Christmas is all put away, I welcome January by taking inventory of my seed stock and pouring through seed catalogs and then planning out my garden!
Gardening is in my blood. Both of my parents grew up on farms, and even now my Uncle Leopold's farm, Ferme Couture, is still run by his grandson (6th generation to farm this land!) up in my dad's hometown in Quebec, Canada. Growing up in Canada we had a HUGE garden, with my brother and I each having our our section to plant and tend whatever we chose. Any weekend visit to a nearby uncle's massive garden meant we were out helping to harvest the freshest veggies and sweet strawberries, or collecting eggs from the hen house, or playing in the barn with our cousins. Our pantry was filled with preserved fruit jams and it was wonderful. When we moved back to the states we had a much smaller, extremely tidy suburban garden for tomatoes, cucumbers and greens, and somehow weeds dared not grow there. My own garden has more weeds than I can pull. I'm VERY good at growing weeds!
|Morning Glories are so pretty until they choke out everything else!|
I've been gardening here in East Hampton for more than 20 years now! Perennials, fruits, vines, veggies, you name it, I've probably grown it (including cucamelon.) I'm such a gardening nerd that I keep a gardening journal, listing initial wish lists for when we bought the house, to outlining gardening projects over the years, planting lists with favorite varieties, and notes on what the deer ate and what grows well where! I have notes on favorite gardening with children books, like Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots, which I must have borrowed from my local library half a dozen times when the kids were little. My planting notebook even has plans for a small orchard behind the carriage house. My grandparents had an orchard on the family farm where my dad grew up (one of my cousins owns it now...so nice that it's still in the family!) and I always loved it. That property is and was a magical place that stretched on beyond what you could see.
Last Spring I had not planned on a garden in 2020 because we were supposed to be away for the Summer, picking up our son in France, and traveling through June & July. When those plans were dashed, I discovered that my husband had purged my seed stock after mice got into it. It was late in the season to replace some of my favorite varieties, but I made do with what I could find, and I tried something new - I sprouted alfalfa sprouts for the first time!
Then my dearest cousin who owns the amazing garden center, Atlantic Garden Center, in Raleigh, NC, sent me what was left of his onion sets and some other supplies! In the end I did fill the garden and the terrace planters with veggies, fruits & herbs, and was able to share. That's always the nice thing about gardening...the sharing part.
|Yes, we have grapes!|
In a year of Covid, many of us likened our gardens to Victory Gardens. I found myself out there every morning, which was a really calm way to start the day, in a frightening reality that was happening all around us. There is definitely something therapeutic about digging in the dirt and working with your hands. I also learned an important lesson about always wearing gloves, as I must have touched a weed that I was either very allergic to, or something got under my skin, because going into Spring 2021 I still have a mysterious, painful skin condition along a few fingers that we are attempting to treat with only limited success.
|First day of organizing and planting the terrace 2020. Garden fence repairs in the background were one of many projects for the year.|
Fast forward to January 2021 (which, wow, hasn't this been a horrific start to the year?) We have held off on rebooking our cancelled trip so far, and while I have a glimmer of hope that there might be some travel, I am ready to browse seeds! My favorite resource for seeds is High Mowing Organic Seeds out of Vermont. What am I ordering early before they sell out this year? Vates Kale and the DMR salad blend are at the top of my list, along with peas, some gorgeous purple beans, flat-leaf parsley, thyme, and dill. I have a decent supply of leftover seeds from last year (yes, you can still plant them, only the germination rate might be lower.) Sometime around March I'll start seeds with the kids if they're still willing, and on St. Patrick's Day, we plant peas because a dear neighbor who was a great gardener (and a fellow Frenchie!) said it was good luck! Hart's Seeds in Wethersfield, CT puts out this helpful seed starting/planting calendar for those of us in Connecticut.
I am also a big supporter of our local garden center, Paul's and Sandy's Too. I get most of my fresh plants from them, with the exception of supporting a few local farm stand growers and the Hartford Farmer's Market, because there have been times where I've bought basil or other herbs entirely in Italian (I did my study abroad in Italy, did you know?)
|I grow a few varieties of lavender and harvest twice each season.|
I absolutely love growing herbs. I always have basil, 2-3 kinds of thyme, chives, flat-leaf parsley, dill, lavender, sage, rosemary, mint, and tarragon when I think of it. Now that we have a kitten I'm considering catnip. Every year I fill my terrace to overflowing with pots (I keep adding a few more each year!) and fill them with herbs & flowers. Some years I have color themes (blue white & red for the year Julien went on exchange to France, red & white in memory of my dad, all pink for Charlotte's 1st birthday, etc.) In 2020 I gave up almost all of the flowers with the exception of hanging baskets, nasturtiums, marigolds, and something purple to contract them, to grow food on the terrace in addition to my garden space, because I wanted to grow as much of our own food as possible. Our amazing neighbors kept us supplied with fresh eggs, and we ate a lot of omelettes with fresh herbs and side salads over the summer!
|Growing food on the terrace is so convenient!|
There are perennials fruits, veggies & herbs that I grow too! From rhubarb, to grapes and asparagus, to the raspberry bushes I begged my husband NOT to plant far back in the yard (I don't go back there) to the lavenders, kale, chives, sage & thyme that winter over. I would like to replant the strawberry beds, but I lost that battle to the chipmunks who come and take a bit out of each berry) and the blueberry bushes that I failed by not feeding them enough. I've grown colorful veggies for the kids, like purple carrots and vibrant purple beans and blue potatoes. For years I had to plant double the peas I thought I would need because my little one would eat her way through the row. Fresh peas right off the plant were her favorite!
|She was so little!|
|My neighbors find it hilarious that my husband installed a mailbox in our garden. He says it's for keeping garden hand tools and supplies. Flag's up...we've got mail!|
|At least 10 years ago...playing in the runner bean tent and climbing the tulip tree that sprang up and had to be removed.|
Stay safe my friends!