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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Despite Snow and Ice

On this long-awaited sunny Sunday morning, I headed straight for the garden. I was expecting muck, wet snow, and ice -- but what the garden had to offer exceeded all expectations.

Look who doesn't mind a little snow and ice!

I am pretty sure the shoot emerging straight from the ice is French sorrel, which will undoubtedly be one of the first salad greens from the garden this year. It is growing in the center of the Aspen Hotbed, the warmest seat in the house. I can't think of what factors other than warm toes would cause sorrel to rise out of the ice like this. Yeah, hugelkultur -- I think it's working! 

One of the more hotly debated potential benefits of hugelkultur seems to be the idea of a longer growing season due to heat generated by decomposing wood. This Aspen Hotbed has lots of large diameter aspen in it, but also contains a massive load of horse manure to keep things warm. Apparently manure was used successfully to heat veggie beds in France hundreds of years ago, when the streets were filled with horse-drawn carriages generating more manure than people knew what to do with. The combination of large wood and manure in my Aspen Hotbed seems to be an effective strategy for our climate.

More sorrel as well as Johnny jump-ups.  

I discovered some mystery shoots in the first Aspen Bed, which has plenty of aspen buried beneath the ground, but only a modest amount of manure.

I'm hoping this might be celery, which I planted at the end of last summer. It didn't germinate then, but perhaps it is germinating now!

More potential celery... (?)

The strawberries don't mind a little snow at all!

The grape hyacinths are greening up under their bed of willow leaves.

These raspberries are growing in the Alderwood Bed, and again it seems that having warm feet must be making a difference. If your raspberries are sending out green leaves despite having snow on the ground, please let me know in the comments below! I'm curious about how common or unusual this might be.

Either beets or rainbow Swiss chard has overwintered! I think these are beets but I'm not 100% sure. Time will tell. Either way, I see sautéed greens in my future.

Of course the catnip is always one of the first plants to green up...

...but how about marjoram? This one is growing in the Blueberry Spruce Bed.

This Swiss chard sits near the top of my Sunday morning miracles list. It overwintered in a bed that is caged around the perimeter with hardware cloth fencing, lined with a combination of fabric, grass mats, and clear plastic. However, there is no roof on the cage, so I did not expect anything to overwinter. We had some very cold snaps in early winter, too! Maybe it doesn't take as much protection as I had thought...

My garden fabric hoophouse collapsed under the snow, but lo and behold, there seems to be green showing through the reemay! I couldn't check underneath to see if it really is alive, because the garden fabric is thoroughly frozen to the ground on all sides, under snow and ice. I'll just have to wait for things to thaw. If I'm lucky, it will be rainbow Swiss chard from last summer!

What a feast for the eyes... lush green against white snow. I realize that we would have a better summer if we'd had a better winter, and that we need our snowpack to feed our streams more gradually, and that spring in February in North Central WA could spell bad news in a variety of ways. That being said, I am going to make the most of it, and soak up the magic of plants alive and growing in the garden! It's reason to celebrate; I can't feel any other way.


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