In the dead of winter

If there ever was a day to plan the coming season’s garden, that day is today: 18 degrees Fahrenheit and the beginning of a major winter storm, with 3 inches of fresh snow on the ground already. So here goes.

In the perennial beds, my major goal this year will be to cut back some of the more, shall we say, enthusiastic plants and introduce some additional species, with the overall objective being greater diversity. For example, in one bed Rudbeckia subtomentosa, sweet black-eyed Susan, is crowding out other plants; in another bed, the culprit is bergamot (Monarda fistulosa):

No effects of heat stress on prairie plants.

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Both of these are lovely plants–but I have too many of them, and they’re tall plants growing too close to the fronts of their respective beds. So I will dig some out, give them away, and plant lower-growing perennials and grasses to rebalance the plots. The plants I plan to order include prairie dropseed (a grass, Sporobolus heterolepsis), vervain (Verbena stricta), dotted mint (Monarda punctata), lanceleaf and rose coreopsis (C. lanceolata and C. rosea), harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), and nodding pink onion (Allium cernuum). Some of these are new to my garden, some are proven favorites.

I will order most of my plants from Prairie Nursery, a mail-order nursery in Wisconsin that specializes in pure species of native plants. I have ordered from them many times over the years and have found both their plants and their shipping methods to be very high quality. They will start shipping for the season in mid-April, but if you order now, you will get free shipping.

In the shrub beds, the major need is pruning, and this weather will prevent it. We did major pruning last winter, but many multistemmed  shrubs require yearly maintenance to keep them healthy and to prevent them from growing too large for a small garden.With luck, we’ll have some storm-free days between now and mid-February to get the pruning done.

I plan to approach the vegetable garden differently this coming year than in the past. As I have mentioned here, I have a plot in the Glen Rock Community Garden, and while I am very happy to be included there and have met and learned from some great gardeners over the past three seasons, some members are not as vigilant as they should be about removing diseased plants. As a result, the garden becomes full of pests and diseases by late summer, and harvests suffer. To  combat these problems, I plan to concentrate on early and late crops, primarily greens of various types; herbs such as parsley and dill that the rabbits destroy in my garden (the community garden is well fenced in); quick-harvesting crops like peas and, perhaps, one sowing of green beans. I’ll grow my tomatoes at home to avoid all the blights that affect the garden.

I’m looking forward to the first taste of mesclun and mustard greens, typically sown in March and ready around May 1:

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