Reflecting on the November Garden
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As ambitious as my November list was, I managed to complete most of it, excluding a few things (a cold frame) and adding others while still spending a joyous Thanksgiving week with my family. I am thrilled with how the hardscapes and new beds are coming together and am starting to see a vision for the spring come to life in my mind. Also, the indoor garden is off to a great start, though I have much to do in December to get ready to season all our holiday dishes with fresh herbs.
Finishing the Hardscapes
The "cobbled" stone walkway was turning into a bit of mess as the rounded rocks rolled under foot. The solution of adding stepping stones in between the cobbled stones seems to be holding up well and I like the way it complements the boulder walkway to the front door. This pathway is one that protects the south-facing garden bed to the right from foot traffic so I wanted to get it right. I wanted something that subtly but clearly says, "Don't you dare step on and compact this soil I am trying to build you sweet children, mail persons, delivery drivers, and traveling sales people!" Still not sure how to communicate this to the deer, though they have been more scarce lately.
Finishing the North Facing Bed
What you cannot see in these before and after photos are the layers upon layers of organic material. After all of the boxes were flattened, I added a deep layer of mulch from our first round of tree trimming, then a deep layer of leaves raked from across the property, then a layer of compost. The ground feels spongy underfoot and will break down over the winter to create a great starter bed. In December I will add another layer of mulch and complete the layers under the deck.
I was able to split some yarrow and peonies and have planted them in this new bed; I am hopeful in the spring they will offer a nice border to the stairs and fence and I can plant some veggie plants in between.
Setting Up the Indoor Winter Herb and Greens Garden
Using my AeroGarden, I started six dill plants. Dill is a critical ingredient in our Swedish Yulbord, as we use it along with sugar and salt to cure our gravlox for three days in the refrigerator before Christmas Eve. What I love about the AeroGarden is that while we were away for ten days, these infant plants were taken care of with food and water and ready to transplant when we returned. I repotted them in a 16 x 3 planter perfect for a window sill to take advantage of the natural light from the windows. Between this and the floating shelves (pictured below) I installed beneath each window, I think I will have a good home for essential winter herbs.
After relocating the dill next to some existing flat-leaf parsley, the next six herbs went into the AeroGarden, for our winter enjoyment: English thyme, Greek oregano, and sweet basil.
If you recall, I inherited my sister's grow wall to set up in my garage to grow winter greens since it will not fit in her new home, the Sprinter van. She and I ventured out to the local hydroponics store to get some rock-wool and proceeded to plant bok choi, romaine, butter crunch lettuce, mescaline lettuce, arugula, spinach, cilantro, mache, and more. These are currently covered and germinating while my sister works in a nearby regional hospital for six nights. When she returns, we will add them to the hydroponic grow wall. Our garage is unheated so I expect the most success with cool season greens. We will keep you posted here with our progress.
Caring for the Indoor Fruit Trees and House Plants
Between August 2021and July 2022, we moved no less than four times. When we found our new home, I was enchanted by the tall southeast and southwest facing windows and mono vaulted ceiling; I had a singular vision to keep me going through all of these moves: indoor fruiting trees! As soon as we moved in I ordered a Haas avocado, a cold hearty avocado, a Meyer lemon, a key lime, and black mission fig.
Over the summer these small trees lived on the back deck, but they have since moved indoors and all of them have had various infestations of spider mites. In particular, the spider mites really like my citrus trees (key lime left, Meyer lemon right). I made an early mistake after reading that isopropyl alcohol would kill the mites and sprayed the Meyer lemon relentlessly. It indeed killed the mites but also nearly killed the plant.
I believe I have found the solution in neem oil mixed with tap water in a glass spray bottle. When we came home from Thanksgiving holiday, I noticed that the Meyer lemon had blossoms, no spider mites, and the leaves had rebounded from my unfortunate experiment with isopropyl alcohol!
I will offer updates in our next post about these blossoms and pollinating them so they bear fruit. Until then, may your dark December days be merry and bright with winter blooming amaryllis!