The Winter Garden

January is a busy month for vegetable gardening in San Diego, and our garden has been no exception. I spent most of December grieving the loss of my mother, browsing seed catalogs and avoiding blogging. But now, Todd and I are in full gear getting a new garden going.

As I may have mentioned, I spend approximately all of my time trying to figure out how to keep rodents out of my vegetable patches. One brilliant moment of insight led me to create a new garden steps from the dog door. Rodents don’t seem to like to hang out where our two dogs go in and out all day and often at night. We still have our other garden (now called the flower garden). We’re turning that into a cut flower garden. So Luke’s bay window will now look out into beds of dahlias, sunflowers and zinnias.

Back to the winter garden. Everything was going beautifully until I fertilized the newly planted seedlings with fish fertilizer. Our dogs love smelly things–the stinkier the better–and fish fertilizer smells awful (but it’s organic and works quickly). The morning after fertilizing I went out to the garden to find big paw prints and evidence of trampled tender broccoli, cauliflower, kale and lettuce leaves. Our solution: a beautiful picket fence around the garden, so I can close it up and keep pups out when I fertilize. It’s also creating a sense of my own private little space, like the secret garden in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book of the same name.

Here are some photos of what we’ve been working on, which includes seedling transplants (seed starting is working)! You can’t see the picket fence yet in these photos but I’ll share updates when it’s done.

I’m proud to say I created these raised beds myself. I used cornerstone pieces from Home Depot (very affordable) and wood for the sides. Each side is 12 inches tall. I also laid down plastic poultry fencing beneath the beds. This keeps gophers from burrowing their way into the garden from the bottom up. I can tell it’s working because they’re popping up everywhere but the raised beds.
snow peas
Our snow peas (right) are starting to bloom now. I over-trellised this, not realizing that these are bush peas (meaning they don’t need a big climbing support). I think I’ll leave the trellis skeleton there for summer beans. To the left of the peas are radishes and some sort of brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli). I did label my seedlings but the rain washed off what I had printed, so these are mystery veggies until they get a bit bigger.
nemesia and bacopa
To make the winter garden even more enjoyable I planted flowers in containers. The pink flowers on the left are snapdragons. On the right, the taller and dustier pink flowers are nemesia. In front are white bacopa.
Here I have more nemesia planted in a container, as well as some verbena. You can also see some romaine lettuce growing in the shallow pot next to another brassica. The romaine will be ready in a couple of weeks, which will give the mystery brassica (cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli) more room to grow. In the bed I have one of my little friendly gnomes, who’s hiding behind a marigold grown from seed. That bed also contains broccoli and pansies. In the background you’ll see an old trough/stock tank. This had been hidden on the far side of the property for some time, as the bottom is rusted out and no longer useful for our horse and goats. But it’s perfect for the garden!

I’m already enjoying this little garden so much. As you can see from the photo above, I’ve taken to raking the pathways in a little zen meditation. I wish everyone could have a little space like this, to have their own garden.