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Our gardens are surely feeling neglected at the moment, so we’re briefly interrupting our goat shed construction to bring you a peek at our February garden.

It’s interesting to see how this year compares to last.  Some plants are behind this year, and others seem to be ahead.  The daffodils, for example, are blooming noticeably later this year.

Last February our daffodils were in bloom, this year they’re a little behind

Early rains in October suggested we were in for another soggy winter, but those rains gave way to an unseasonably dry, and cold, December and January.  So dry I found myself watering the garlic beds in the middle of winter after the garlic had sprouted.

February so far has gifted us with both a little much-needed rain, as well as some warm sunshine, and although the majority of the gardens are barely breaking dormancy, there are definitely a few signs of spring beginning to stir.

The Vegetable Beds

In the vegetable garden, a number of overwintered greens are really starting to come into their own.

After battling cabbage loopers last fall, now we have no holes in the leaves of our winter greens

The Kales and Komatsuna are growing well, as are the carrots, and the Romanesco plants are all heading up.

The Romanesco overwintered beautifully

The prize for the hardiest greens to over winter clearly goes to the Mizuna. After pulling back the row covers it was clear these Mizuna greens were taking over, and I’m sure I planted some carrots somewhere under there in the fall.

Monsterous Mizuna Greens! We’re clearly not eating them fast enough.

Best winter garden color goes to the Bull’s Blood beets, whose leaves have the most stunning, rich burgundy-red color.

Burgundy Bull’s Blood Beets

New for us this winter was Frisee, and there’s no question we’ll grow this in our future winter gardens as it’s performed especially well, despite the long run of 20-something degree mornings through most of December and January.

The toothy edged leaves of Frisee

Lurking in the greenhouse, some spring snap and shelling peas, that are both anxious to get outside.

Spring peas pending transplant

A transplanting task for this weekend, as I’m already behind.

The Herb Beds

The herb garden is starting to awaken too.  The garlic chives are already running amok, and the lemon thyme is beginning to bloom.  After a hard winter prune the Oregano is also springing back to life.

Oregano, along with thyme, will help to provide blooms for the bees from early spring through late summer

Our cold mornings this winter were a little hard on our culinary sage, but a quick trim of the dessicated foliage has stimulated some new growth.

Our culinary sage almost froze to the ground this winter

As this sage is going into its third year, we’ll likely start some new plants in the greenhouse this spring.

First to bloom in the herb garden is always Rosemary.  She’s a bit of a show off in the winter garden, which is why we’ve planted so many plants along our slopes, in the hopes of providing the honey bees with a little extra winter food on the warmer days.

The trailing rosemary started to bloom in December

Our French Tarragon drowned in all the rains last winter, so it was replanted in the spring.

We were surprised to see the French Tarragon survived the cold

This winter, despite the cold, it appears to have survived, and is starting to sprout.  Apparently it resents heavy rain more than the cold.

This weekend, schedule permitting, I’m hoping to get our cumin started for the year, a new addition to the herb beds this year.

The Orchard and Fruit Garden

Like last year, this year our Aprium ‘Flavor Delight’ is the first to bloom in the orchard, albeit a little later than last season.

Aprium ‘Flavor Delight’ is the first to bloom again this year

It’s the only fruit tree in bloom at the moment, although others are bursting with buds, but it’s putting on a spectacular early season show.  This time last year the Satsuma plum, and the Frost peach were also blooming by mid-February, but they’re not quite there yet this season.

The raspberries are still sleeping too, but the olallieberries are taking off quickly so we’re optimistic for summer fruits.

The Olallieberries are ahead of our other cane fruits

Rhubarb was new to the garden last spring, so we’re encouraged to see the first growth of the season, and looking forward to strawberry and rhubarb pies.

The rhubarb is a little slow this year too, likely due to the low rainfall this winter

Two new fruits to the garden this year are the Chilean Guava (Ugni molinae), and a Fernleaf Elderberry (Sambucus nigra laciniata).  We won both of these plants in a raffle at a local California Rare Fruit Growers meeting in December.  I’m not sure we would have chosen either of these varieties on our own, but it will be interesting to see how they do in the garden, and I’m sure our pollinators will enjoy both of them in bloom, and no doubt the birds will relish the berries too.

This Elderberry (Sambucus nigra laciniata) is starting to push a lot of growth

Yesterday I spent some time potting up each of our M-111 apple root stocks, in preparation for grafting our scions.

We temporarily heeled the apple root stocks into a container with damp soil

We’ll wait until the root stocks show signs of bud swell before grafting, but if this spring-like weather continues, I suspect that won’t be far away.

In preparation for grafting, these M-111 root stocks are potted into their own containers

The Native Garden

In the native garden areas there are lots of signs of life.  All of the sages, especially Alan Chickering, Amethyst Bluff, and Shirley’s Creeper, have all looked fabulous throughout the season, despite a relative lack of rainfall.

Salvia leucophylla ‘Amethyst Bluff’

The California Poppy foliage is looking lush in the areas we’ve allowed them to grow. Unfortunately a number of plants were removed recently in the orchard, along with most of the Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii), and Goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata), in an effort to remove hiding places for Meadow Voles.

In just a few weeks the first California Poppies should be in bloom

I have a number of native deer grass plants (Muhlenbergia rigens) in the greenhouse that are anxious to be put in their permanent home.

Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens)

These are destined to keep the company of some Salvia clevelandii ‘Pozo Blue’, Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point’, and ‘Goodwin Creek’ lavender, among others.

Lavandula dentata ‘Goodwin Creek Gray’

If you remember, late last fall we tore up a large section of the front garden to repair a sink hole, so this spring we hope to convert our now moonscape-of-a-garden into something much more presentable.  More on that project soon.

Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’ on the upper slopes, where it’s a little warmer, is already beginning to bloom, and lower down near the orchard, this plant is almost ready to burst.

These Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’ buds are so close to opening

Ceanothus “Wheeler’s Canyon” was a new addition this winter.

The first hint of new growth on Ceanothus ‘Wheeler’s Canyon’

We’re growing a number of plants in front of an old guest house foundation in an attempt to obsure it, so we’re excited to see these new plants pushing some growth.

Just downslope is some Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans) that is growing quite fast, nearly as tall as me, so perhaps it’s in need of some pruning to help it shrub out more.

Native Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans)

Last year, as I had a lot of seed, we direct sowed California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) to control some surface soil erosion.  Perhaps the seed was all washed down the slope in our record rains, or eaten by birds?  Regardless, germination appeared to be a stunning 0%!  This year I elected to sow the seed in flats in the greenhouse, the same seed, from the same source (and a year older), and this time had germination rates over 90%!

Seedlings of California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)

I spent yesterday potting on these seedlings.  They’d germinated so well, they were very overcrowded!   I’m looking forward to eventually transplanting them outside.  Note to self, native buckwheat sprouts better in the greenhouse.

Our native Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum) also took off in the greenhouse, so I suspect we’ll see a lot of yellow blooms later in the season, I just need to figure out where to plant them all!

Seedlings of our native Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum)

Also new, and still in the greenhouse waiting to be planted out, a native Pipe Stem Clematis (Clematis lasiantha).  This will be an experiment as I’ve never tried to grow one here, but I think I have the perfect spot up slope of the orchard near a large oak.

This Pipe Stem Clematis (Clematis lasiantha) has suddenly started to take off

A new addition to the non-native garden area is this double-pleated Hellebore.

Double pleated Hellebore (Helleborus orientalis ‘Tutu’)

Yes, it’s true, I’ve finally succumbed, and added a Hellebore to the garden.  I have no idea how well it will grow here, but I’ve been coveting the Hellebore’s of others recently, so I decided to take the plunge.  I’m weak, what can I say?

Even the Hellebore ‘Tutu’ buds are beautiful

So overall there’s not much color in the garden at the moment, unless you count the beets, but the gardens are starting to stir for spring.

Despite my best intentions of getting the tomatoes sown this week, it hasn’t happened yet.  I feel like I’ve lost a week, or two, somewhere.  I did get the greenhouse organized yesterday though, so hopefully over this long weekend I can finally get the tomatoes sown!  However, as the first of our goat kids is due to be born next week…FIRST we need to get back to finishing the goat shed!