A garden is the best alternative therapy.

I’m grateful that this winter has been moist.  I haven’t had to collect rainwater, and I haven’t had to worry about watering my plants at all.  Unlike this past summer …

Mother Nature cared for my backyard plants despite my neglect.  I didn’t mulch them.  I didn’t cover them when temperatures bottomed out this winter.  I lost a couple plants here and there, but I’m surprised at the overall conditions and I’m excited about the possibility of more fresh, home-grown veggies on our dinner table!

Lettuce/Parsley Beds

We’ve enjoyed a few salads over the past couple of months, but I’ve basically let them develop into heads that I can cut down later.  I hope to be able to do so over the next month so I can sow another round before the cool weather is gone.  As you can see, the lettuce beds are perked up and loving the cooler nights and sunny days this past week.  The parsley loved the cold weather – I had to give it a bit of a haircut to remove some overgrowth that was tangled up, but it’s still healthy as can be.  It’s nice to go out and be able to pull a clump of fresh parsley for dinner anytime we want.

Lettuce bed and parsley

Second lettuce bed

Buttercrunch variety

Red Sail variety

Carrots

Besides me sneaking a few carrots here and there, we enjoyed our first carrot harvest several days ago.   I pulled up about a dozen of them and we steamed them with some green beans and served them alongside some chicken sauteed with fresh herbs.  They were delicious.  I must have another hundred carrots going in the box and they’ll be ready at different times.  I don’t remember which variety is which anymore – one is Danver’s half-long and the other is Big Top.  They’re good in my belly just the same.

I still have time to plant more seeds, so I’ll probably drop a few more in the open spaces.  They seem to be pretty easy to grow and they’re healthy, so why not?!  Carrots are a staple around here – we go through a couple bags a week.  These are unlike any we buy at the grocery store, though!

Carrot bed

Up close base of the carrots show some good roots developing! YUM!

Spinach

The spinach has been so slow to grow it is a wonder that it is still even trying!   The plants I have are well over their “days to maturation”.  And it seems like they’re just now really starting to develop those long, wide, crinkly greens I love so much.  I fertilized them well and I’m going to keep my eye on them.  I’ve started more seeds as well, hoping to get them in the ground while the weather is still cool.  Perhaps I’ll enjoy a spinach harvest one of these days …

The first spinach bed

A close up of the spinach

The second spinach bed and the one that looks the best ...

Another close up

The third spinach bed

Broccoli

The Calabrese broccoli is doing well.  It survived the coldest weather with just a little curling of leaves.  Only a couple leaves were lost.  I’ve got some well-established plants and now they are flowering!  That is wonderful news, because I’ve had my reservations about this crop.   Broccoli is another staple crop around here.  We just love it with one of our favorite dishes, lemon-dill chicken.  A lightly-steamed head of broccoli tastes divine drenched in a buttery chardonnay sauce with dill, lemon and scallions.

The broccoli bed

close up of the largest plant

and a close up of the flower that is developing

The mints

The spearmint and peppermint are living up to their reputation of being prolific plants.  These clones were stuck in the ground last fall and are well are their way to filling up the area I’ve given them.  I must say that the spearmint is far more prolific.  The peppermint struggles and needs some coaxing.  I’d like to find some stevia plants and put them in with the mints.  That way I can go out and pick several leaves of each and make a wonderful sweet tea that’s wonderful for the digestive system.  Perhaps I’ll add a few more varieties this Spring, like applemint or lemon mint.

This is the mint bed I planted last fall.

a closer image of the spearmint - these are clones

Wildflowers

The wildflower bed is teeming with life right now.  Out of all of the bluebonnets I planted, however, I only spotted one.  Hopefully I’m missing some.  Otherwise, it may not be until next year when some of them get around to blooming.  Bluebonnets have a notoriously low germination rate.  The is Mother Nature trying to ensure future generations of those lovely blue bonnets, but for an impatient gardener, it is a little frustrating.  I tried sandpapering them, soaking them, cutting them … only one is growing.  Out of hundreds of seeds, it’s like a .25% germination rate!

Anyway, I hope the other flowers make up for it come Spring.

Part of the wildflower bed along the back fence

and another close up

another close up of the wildflowers

The only bluebonnet I could spot ...

Oh and hey, what’s this?  I found several of these growing up among the wildflowers.  They look an awful lot like carrot greens.  I wonder if I’ve got some wild carrot seeds growing in the wildflower bed.  If so, that’s great, I’ll let them flower and go to seed for next year as well.  Wild carrots attract the caterpillars of swallowtail butterflies and Blue Jays, who like to build nests from carrot greens.  Supposedly, carrot greens contain a natural antiseptic and jays know this.  Weaving it into their nest makes a more sanitary incubator for their young …

Could this be a wild carrot growing in the wildflowers?

Are you sure?

The Herb Garden

And last, but not least, what started it all, the herb garden.  It’s a little under the weather right now, but I expect it to just explode when Spring rolls around.    The sage looks really rough, as does one of the thyme plants.  I already have three more thyme that I bought late last fall at discount.   I want to get a few more chive plants and a couple basil plants and it will be ready to go again.

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