Garden Notes : Benefits of the season
Deepest winter is the gardener's best time for classes and acquiring new information and techniques. Saturday, Jan. 31, from 10 am to 12 noon, the Polly Hill Arboretum and Susan Murphy, proprietor of Murphy Blueberry Farm in Chilmark, will host a hands-on workshop in the technique of pruning blueberries. Learn how proper pruning can stimulate growth to insure a bumper crop of berries on these native Vineyard shrubs. The workshop focuses on correct pruning techniques for both old mature plants and younger shrubs. Meet at the Murphy farm, dressed for the weather with your pruners, if you have them. For directions and to register call 508-693-9426. $24/$20 for PHA members.
Winter conferences in Massachusetts for the green industry and landscaping business community include New England Grows at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, February 4 through 6, and the Ecological Landscaping Association's annual Winter Conference and Eco-marketplace, February 27 through 28, at the MassMutual Center, Springfield. The educational conferences of the trade shows are a major source of continuing education and licensing credits for green industry professionals.
Photo by Susan Safford
The 3rd Annual Living Local Harvest Festival will be held October 2 and 3. Presented by Vineyard Energy Project, Island Grown Initiative, Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society, and the Vineyard Conservation Society, Living Local's mission is to enhance the quality of our lives and the vitality of our community by inspiring an Island-wide transition towards a more sustainable local economy. In the face of uncertain energy supplies and environmental change, we aim to nurture conservation of resources and local production of renewable energy, healthy food, and other necessities. Based on the success of last year, the event will be accepting applications for exhibitor and Farmer's Market space now. Please contact Nevette Previd at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and reservations.
We stopped feeding birdseed years ago when it became apparent that increasing numbers of squirrels and rats were elbowing out the birds and getting the lion's share of seed intended for them. The squirrels became adept at shaking or bumping the supposedly squirrel-proof feeders and practically emptying them at one go. A number of avian visitors are drawn to animal fat however. Despite the possibility of unintended beneficiaries, in winter we do hang suet in baskets and are rewarded by continual flutter of bird activity at these feeders.
Northern chickadees, downy and hairy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, tufted titmice, nuthatches, even cardinals - known for their seed-cracking beaks, come in waves all day long. Various sparrows and juncos peck at the specks that fall to the ground beneath the baskets. For those who did not know, chickens also belong in the above group of birds that enjoy animal fat. They are omnivores and like animal protein as well as worms and insect life, grains and vegetable-derived foods.
The recent newspaper coverage of improperly discarded deer carcasses in Edgartown reminds me of the deer carcass recycling of Joel Salatin, of pastured poultry fame, to enhance the nutrition of his laying flocks. On his Virginia farm (prime deer hunting terrain) the butchered carcasses are laid in the poultry yards where the chickens peck at them, acquiring valuable protein and minerals, and leaving skeletons "clean as a hound's tooth." Does doing this break any known laws?
Catalogues and flyers extolling enhancements for the garden continue to bombard the mailbox. Of interest is the rainwater harvesting system designed by Fiskars. If you have an unreliable well, mineralized water, or welcome the sustainable aspects of an off-meter watering supply, consider collecting rainwater. The Fiskars barrels feature one flattened side, to fit snugly up against the house wall. Other features include threaded spigots for hose connection; all components made of UV resistant materials; downspout diverter kits to handle overflow; and a three year limited warranty. rain-barrel.com.
The National Garden Bureau list of new varieties contains great stuff, too much to list here in its entirety. Their web site contains many images in an easy-to-view, slideshow format, new introductions, All America Selections, and many other interesting features. ngb.org.
The 2009 summer bulb catalogue of Brent and Becky's, the wonderful bulb specialists of Gloucester, Vir., brentandbeckysbulbs.com/ has arrived. These friendly folks supply just about anything a gardener could desire if it comes in bulb, tuber, or root form; everything in their catalogue is explicitly pictured in color and precisely named. It is a great resource for planning and sourcing concepts for your summer containers. Having enjoyed their dazzling displays of forced bulbs at the flower show for many years, purchased their products for my clients, and attended a workshop with Brent Heath at Polly Hill Arboretum, I was already partial to this business; but I was quite overcome with pleasure last fall when I received, totally unexpectedly, a weighty gift box collection of especially fragrant narcissus. Nice operation, indeed.
If you have appropriate space in an area with good light, try a cool weather vegetable planter. After filling a large container with free draining compost, sow beet, chard, carrot, radish, lettuce or other greens, evenly at the appropriate depth. Water in lightly and let it sit until germination occurs. Once seedlings have four true leaves, water sparingly and carefully and commence feeding with a dilute solution of fish or seaweed emulsion.
I am sprinkling seed of annual poppies over the snow covering my beds. These exquisite annuals dislike disturbance (true of poppies in general, the perennials are best increased by root cuttings) and are sown where they are to grow. Weed out the ones in the wrong places. Sweet peas should be sown soon, but I am still mulling over which strains of them I want to grow this year. There is a vast and delectable selection; I hope to find 'Ocean Foam.'