Tag Archives: heirloom seeds

‘No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.’

As drab February drags on, my thoughts turn to the shimmering promise of spring. Glorious days lie before me, filled with promise of the riches to come here in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, I call ‘the Shire.’

“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.” ~Ruth Stout (Me too!)

spring flowers in the Shenandoah Valley

Seeds are ordered and hoarded–I have enough for a meadow–but can’t commence in my little greenhouse until the deep freeze passes. It’s only solar heated. I don’t start anything in there before March. Cruel frosts can strike us into mid-May, even later, so no tender seedlings go into the ground until the ‘Corn Planting’ moon is past, as some Algonquin tribes referred to it. Frosts often coincide with a full moon. Outside, hardy plant seeds go in the garden as soon as it’s dry enough. Not likely before March. Many lovely heirloom flowers, and some vegetables, reseed themselves freely. As do the weeds. Hardiest of the lot.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ~Anne Bradstreet (True, Anne, but we’d rather not.)

Farm garden with horse and buggy going by1

(Mounds of rhubarb in our garden with piles of compost and buggy going past.)

Each year, I declare THIS will be the best garden ever! I’m an optimist. Whatever comes, there will be bounty and beauty despite adversity, bugs, and blight. Daughter Elise and I are researching and rethinking which organic gardening methods and aides are best. We’re big into companion planting and expanding on that theme. Also using lots of compost. If anyone has any great ideas about battling the squash vine borer, that also attacks our beloved pumpkins, please speak up. It’s enemy number one. The hoard of squash bugs are enemy number two. We’ll be planting many more herbs and flowers in among the vegetables to attract the good bugs and repel the bad, plus trying floating row covers, and an insecticidal oil from Gardens Alive. I like their products and use various ones. I will report in and let you know how we fare with our schemes and dreams.

Spring 2015

(Snowdrops in bloom from last year. In bud now)

“Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.” ~Ellis Peters

“I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?” ~Edward Giobbi

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day. ~W. Earl Hall

Early spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

(The Shenandoah Valley–image by my mom)

“The naked earth is warm with Spring,

And with green grass and bursting trees

Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,

And quivers in the sunny breeze.”
~Julian Grenfell

“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.” ~Mark Twain


(Images by Elise Trissel unless otherwise noted)

Is It Still January?

2 Heirloom Seeds packages on antique table resized

A most uninspiring month. So I’ve combed through wintry quotes and nah–let’s think spring. Time to peruse my burgeoning stack of seed/plant catalogs and ponder what to plant where, after sorting through the seed saved from last year–of course. Many heirloom varieties reseed themselves outside with no help from me, but a number get their start in my little greenhouse. It’s a happy place, but chilly, as it depends solely on the sun for warmth. I can plug in a space heater, rather costly to run, so don’t much. Built against a hill on the side of the barn near the dairy, the greenhouse is barricaded from bitter northeast winds. That leaves wicked westerly blows and general chilliness.

Beth in solar greenhouse

When the temperature consistently hovers above 20 or so at night, I’ll get out in the heating mats that go beneath the pots. Some are improvised from yogurt/cottage cheese containers filled with Pro-Mix, my favorite soiless potting medium, and my chosen seeds. Bottom heat aids germination in such a cool greenhouse. I also start tuberous begonias and other bulbs. Most anything that appeals to me. The hardy seeds are planted first.

(Pics of seeds and me in the greenhouse from last season taken by daughter Elise. She and the grandbabies are my garden assistants. She’s the biggest help by far, but some of the little people try hard.)

watering in the greenhouse

Years ago, hubby dug back into an unused concrete receptacle that once contained cow manure, located in the bank the greenhouse is built against. His goal: to create a dark root cellar. Turns out the sides and ceiling leak, so we have what we term ‘the grouch pond’ after Oscar the Grouch of Sesame Street fame. The kids thought the unintended pond would appeal to him. Oscar likes broccoli and liver flavored ice cream and lives in a garbage can, so why not? I’ve tried gold-fish in the grouch pond, and the occasional frog hops up from the large farm pond in the meadow, and I’ve added water plants. Some of the plants survived. It needs new fish.

Grandbaby Chloe in my flower bed

We’ve started vegetable gardens around the greenhouse in the last few years and found tomatoes and pumpkins thrive there. Some vigorous vines trail up over the greenhouse and the bank. Orange globes appear in unlikely places, which is part of the fun for zealous pumpkin fans such as we. This year we shall have the best pumpkins, the loveliest, most fragrant herbs and flowers, the tastiest vegetables, and sweetest berries. EVER. Our own mini Eden.

I actually believe this and work toward accomplishing it every year. Amazing, really, how undaunted I am. My gardening triumphs keep me going, and the less than stellar results of my efforts fade into the background during the long winter months. Snowy blasts, icy rain, and endless mud combine to bury any discouraging recollections. All are blotted out. Only the glory shines bright, beckoning me to strive once again for the best gardening season ever.

shirley poppiesThe many seed and plant companies I patronize count on this near religious fervor to keep me and countless other gardeners coming back with new orders each year. The worse the winter, the more orders I zap their way. Last year, I was so demented during the long winter, I sent off a LOT. In return, I received box after box from UPS deliveries in the spring. Where to tuck all this bounty in was a challenge. But now, I wonder, what if I seed the entire front yard in wild flowers? How glorious that would be. Sigh. Dream.

I have some vague memory of weeds and quack grass contending with whatever I plant, but in my mind’s eye I see only the wonder of it all.

(Images of Shirley Poppies and my grandbaby Chloe smelling flowers in the garden taken by Elise.)