Garden Organic Food

Winter – A time of preparation and anticipation

Although I would not want to live where the winters started early and lasted long, I’m always glad for the six weeks (at least) of winter that we have here in Virginia.

As my garden and borders rest —- I too rest from outdoor chores when the weather is bad.

As my garden and borders build energy to prepare for the surge of growth that will come in the spring — I like to think of myself as building energy within to be ready for the coming season.

Winter is a time of preparation that will enable us  — if we use it properly — to be better prepared to meet the work ahead of us.

As I have used my fresh frozen peas, soups, stews, blueberries, strawberries, figs, tomato sauce, snap beans and peppers from the freezer this winter — my appreciation for my garden has continued to increase.

I look forward to the newness and youthful beauty of my spring garden. With much anticipation I look forward to the delicious taste of herbs, lettuces, greens, fruits, and vegetables from my soil.

With each passing year my cooking is more and more simplified because with good food you don’t need to do a lot.

I become more and more spoiled each season with the great bounty my garden provides. I can hardly bear the taste of greens, vegetables and fruits that I don’t grow.

I hope you have and are making your plans for your most successful season.  Spring will be upon us before we know it.


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  • Hello! We had a record high of 74 here in Missouri yesterday, just crazy but sure made me look hard at my raised tire beds. I have a cold compost bin- my original fenced garden square – where I toss my grass clippings, leaves and kitchen stuff. Mainly grass though. SO, I had shoveled several tub fulls to fill up some of the beds since they had settled down quite a ways and they are settled again, so I want to move some more into them. It isn’t very decomposed, but Im thinking since there are a few months yet to plant it might still be ok or do you think I would be better off adding some dirt or compost that is fully decomposed to finish them off?

    Thanks for the great information and articles, they are a treat.


  • I love the rest too. Mainly because I am sort of tired of all the outdoor work by the time winter hits. After having cold weather for several weeks, I find that the warmth of spring awakens the desire in me to get outside and start digging again.

    The only problem is that times flies by so much more quickly each year and those weeks off are fleeting!


  • Hi Alicia — I find that my decomposed kitchen scraps disappear in about two months. I don’t worry too much about the grass clipping and leaves.
    If that 74 degree weather keeps up — things will really decompose quickly!
    Good luck this year.

    Carol – you are so right — those weeks off are fleeting! We’ll enjoy them while we can.

  • In August, I was so glad that blueberry season was over. I never thought I’d say that I missed picking blueberries but I can’t wait to see those lovely blue beauties on the shrubs once again! In SC we have Rabbiteye varieties and my earliest ones already have blooms. Yay spring!

  • For us, preparation for this year’s gardening efforts required us to take hammers in hand and build a new chicken coop for our ever-ravenous chickens. Yes, they’re spoiled…I admit it, but they’ve been pretty much pets with wonderful benefits. They’re producing some of the best eggs I’ve ever had in my life, so they’re very much worth it.

    Except, we’ve discovered they love our vegetables (and flowers, and herbs, and bulbs, and anything else they can reach…sigh) as much as we do – and last year’s garden proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. I had two gorgeous, healthy zucchini plants that gave me exactly 5 zucchini all season…the chickens ate the rest before they ever reached jelly-bean size, and the same went for the cucumbers and even some of the beans & tomatoes. It was a gardening nightmare…LOL!

    Anyway, only 2 more chickens remain to be put up, as we finished the coop today, and caught the three friendliest hens and one of the roosters. Another rooster is in a pen by himself and the rooster still out is going to go live at a friend’s house…for good…before he becomes ‘Fred & Dumplings’! LOL!

  • I know the feeling Suzanne. Picking everyday for 8 weeks is plenty for me each year, but I’ll be to see it start once again.

  • Grace — that gardening nightmare that you went through last season made a great story! Thanks for sharing it.
    Chickens will ruin a garden — but with your coop finished — you’ll have a great year I’m sure. Then when all is said and done you can let those hens and rooster get at it. (And yes — one rooster is PLENTY!)

    I envy you the delicious eggs. It’s just about impossible to get a decent egg if you don’t have chickens. (And I don’t.)
    Good luck this year. You’ll be able to really enjoy it without the chickens to worry about.

  • Thanks, Theresa, and you’re welcome, too! Lucky for us, most of what the chickens ate (and/or scratched up) were things I planted later in the season, and we did very well with our beans, corn, squash, okra, and tomatoes, even through the worst of the drought.

    I started harvesting from our garden in late March (lettuce) and had a final harvest of tomatoes the last week of October, with a great deal harvested in between, so I really can’t complain that the chickens ate everything, because they didn’t – they just proved to be much more destructive than I anticipated. I mean…did you know chickens love eating the new/baby leaves completely off of Elephant Ear plant stalks? Neither did I! LOL!

    However, for the record, they really, really DO cut down on bugs of all kinds, and that was a blessing considering I found the first deer tick (seed tick) of the year (2012) on me in mid-January! As far as my husband and I could tell, they never died back last winter at all and any trip into the yard meant checking for ticks every time we came back into the house. That is, until the chickens grew up enough to start patrolling the yard and, within a month, the tick problem was almost completely resolved – no more ticks.

    Oh, and before I forget to ask (again), what would you suggest I plant in the chicken’s lot for them to graze on? I’d like to go with some kind of green and grain mix that would mature at various times and provide them with a long harvest season their own.

  • Btw, I should have mentioned, I already have a good start with the clover and dandelions, along with several other wild plants, already growing in the lot. I also have a decent amount of Hopi Red Dye Amaranth seed and I thought I might direct sow some it amongst the wild flowers, where the chickens can’t as easily scratch.

  • Grace, I can’t be much help in recommending what would be good for your chickens. Clover and dandelions sound like a very good start.

    I don’t know how chickens would like them but magenta spreen and/or malabar might make good greens. Both are strong growers. Magenta spreen gets tall and big like a bush and reseeds prolifically. Malabar is a vine and just beautiful. And of course — you can eat them too.

    Just the fact that the chickens get rid of the ticks in the yard — makes them invaluable! They are indeed a great thing to have!

  • Thanks for the suggestions, Theresa. I had never heard of magenta spreen, so I looked it up and discovered I knew the plant already, I just didn’t know its name. It grows wild in this area and might already be here on the property, and I’ll keep an eye out for it as the season progresses. I can transplant it to their lot once I see where it’s coming up.

    As for the Malabar Spinach, I would not have thought of that as something to plant for the chickens, but I like the idea. Plus, it would serve as another food source for my own table, and that always makes me happy.

    I know it seems a bit odd to be asking you for advice on things to plant for my chickens, but I think you’ll agree the better their diet, the better their eggs, and my chickens are unfortunately going from a very large, un-fenced yard to a much smaller, fenced lot for their own protection and my sanity, so I’d plant some things to help make up for all they’re losing (in a sense).

    You’ve talked about ground covers and green fertilizers in some of your articles…think maybe some of them would make a good candidate? Maybe a Vetch or even some cowpeas?

    Also, have you ever heard of people back in the day adding marigold petals to their chicken feed to help add color to the yolks and, presumably, adding nutrients to their diet at the same time? My chickens adored those zucchini blossoms last year…a lot…sigh…;).

  • Grace, the wild version of magenta spreen is lambs quarter. Lambs quarter and magenta spreen (as you know) are both edible and are delicious as greens sauteed in garlic and olive oil — or fresh in salads. (Those lucky chickens!)

    And yes — I definitely agree — the better their diet — the better the eggs! Also, I’m aware of food effecting the color of their eggs. So marigold petals should be perfect if they like them.

    Again — I don’t know what chickens like but you could certainly try the vetch or cowpeas. Be warned about vetch though. Once you have it — you’ll probably have it forever. I planted it once — at our previous garden — at least 20 or more years ago. We’ve been at our present location for 15 years and I still have vetch come up in ALL my borders EVERY year!

  • Oh, I miss my chickens. I used to grow kale specially for mine, they loved it and I felt that it added extra goodness to the eggs. They can tear up a garden very quickly, but they are so worth it.

  • Lucky chickens, indeed, Theresa! I do try to spoil them. They are now fairly used to the new pen and the idea they’re confined, but I wouldn’t necessarily say the like it…LOL!

    I’ll keep vetch in mind, but will heed your advice. I do have a couple of spots it might do well, though, and I am fond of how it looks along fence rows.

    Sarah, I think my chickens love kale as much as I do. Thanks for the reminder, though…I am so excited by the thought of eating the kale I planted a few days ago, that I clean forgot the chickens might like it too. LOL!

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