Before the Last Frost (2 Weeks)

by - March 23, 2018

We have only two more weeks before the statistical last frost date! In previous years I had put out tomato plants by this time and was desperately attempting to protect them from frost by either covering them or digging them back up. I didn't make that mistake this year, thankfully as we are in a spell of night temps below freezing. There was ice in the bird fountain this morning. Instead of putting out spring and summer veggies, I've tried to fill open spots in the seed trays where veggies didn't germinate as well as re-potting the tomatillos and watermelon sprouts.



Garden Edits

I've also been busy moving trees and shrubs around the yard. My nearly daily rhythm is watch an episode of a British gardening show on Netflix, give my yard the side eye, go out and dig stuff up and move it around. I actually love physical labor in the yard. It seems ridiculous to move established plants, but when I look out the window and see alignment off or see that a plant is blocking the view of another, I jump into action. I've been learning a lot from these garden shows - Big Dreams Small Spaces and Love Your Garden - both what makes a garden cohesive and balanced and what inspires me. I love English Cottage gardens and would love our predominantly grass lawn to be filled with layers of plants and winding paths. I'm keeping the lawn for the kids for now, but I'm slowly filling out the periphery with shrubs and under story vegetation. In my enthusiasm for having a lushly planted yard, I've made several garden purchases this week.

There are a couple small plant nurseries on Etsy that I love browsing and have shopped from. Last year I bought a pair of bare root American Elderberries from Critter Cove Farm and a few native perennials from Bluff View Nursery. The elderberries are looking good this spring as are a pair of black raspberries. Some of the more sensitive shade perennials didn't take, likely due to poor siting and roaming chickens. This week I placed an order for more shade perennials from Bluff View Nursery - wild ginger (Asarum caudatum )goldenseal, hydrastis canadensisRattlesnake Plantain(Goodyera pubescens), and a hardy fern collection (christmas, lady, hay scent). While I've been tempted to find more hostas, I'm trying to be more conscientious of selecting native varieties and those which will benefit native insects and birds. I currently have Chinese Wild Ginger (asarum splendens), which I bought from a seller at the Farmer's Market last year. While he did have some natives, many to my ear sounded like natives but would then be a non-native variety. For instance, elderberry is native to North Carolina, but Sambucus canadensis is American elderberry


American Elderberry

While sometimes the native species aren't the prettiest to my eyes, they make a difference to the local wildlife. I have plenty of non-natives, and I don't want to make a religious practice of this, but going forward I want to check for native alternatives when I'm looking to fill an area. Doing a quick search on http://www.ncwildflower.org/ can help keep me in check when I'm throwing myself to the wind of impulse buys at the Farmer's Market. Back to the Critter Cove Farm elderberry purchase, I appreciated that she took the time to educate shoppers that two different native varieties were paired together (York and Nova) to promote best pollination. I've found that there are some sellers who truly love educating others. They geek out on plants, and I love that. Often times at the Farmer's Market there's a big difference between getting face-to-face time with the grower versus their second-cousin's neighbor who is filling in for a weekend shift. The same is true at the plant nurseries. The regulars are usually amazing and full of sage advice, and the seasonal staff are happy to point you to those people.


Chinese Wild Ginger

On Rocky Ground

Not only am I moving plants around, but yesterday I spend an hour or two moving rocks around. Over the 11 years we've been in this house, we have dug up a lot of rocks in the yard. When we put in the fire pit, I started using those rocks to create a border. The border has never sat quite right with me, and after another episode of "Love Your Garden", I decided to try to integrate the rocks back into the landscape to make a rock garden where I was already perennial flowers and ornamental grasses. It has a long way to go, and with many of the plants just coming out of dormancy, it takes a bit of imagination for what it will become, but already I love the softened look. Since Joe is in land development, I've mentioned that I'd happily receive any rocks on site that were being cleared. The space needs a few larger rock/boulders for visual diversity.



Growing Memories


As I've shared before, I love making the rounds in local garden centers for deals. While running an errand to pick up Krazy Glue to seal up my finger which I sliced open while cutting back ornamental grasses, I found pink and white Dogwood trees at the Garner Walmart on clearance for $7-$10. We already have a couple dogwoods in the backyard, and they will likely always be a favorite of mine. I have a vivid memory of swinging from a large dogwood during a yard sale we hosted when I was about 7 years old. I'm sure my boys will have vivid memories of climbing up our largest dogwood to get to the roof of the shed. Often I gravitate towards plants which are bound up in my own memories and remind me of specific places and people. Muscari, azaleas and mimosa similarly remind me of my first childhood home. My youngest has been asking for a mimosa tree, so I may try and make that happen for him. I like to think of using these special plants as growing memories. They ground me and connect me to my past, which can enrich the feeling of "home". I also love having plants started from the cuttings of a family member's plant. I have a button bush (at least I think it is that) just beginning to bloom from a plant at my parents' mountain house, a butterfly bush started by my brother from one of his plants, a jade that has been past through many friends, a crown of thorns from either my dad's or my grandma's plant.

We think this is a button bush but don't really know.

Tasks for this week


  • Doing your own garden edits. Since our nights are still freezing, hold off on planting the tender veggies outside but don't be afraid to work on your borders in the yard. 
  • There are plenty of other herbs and vegetables that you can begin transplanting such as rosemary, lavender, thyme, potatoes and hardy greens like Swiss chard. While Lowe's may have carts of basil,  tomatoes, and peppers hold off on these for now. Peppers my survive at low temps, but they may later fail to set fruit. Wait until it warms.
  • If you haven't yet, clear weeds off the top of your garden beds and add a new layer of compost. 

What to plant


You can directly seed the following outdoors - all types of lettuces and Swiss Chard.

Indoors, you can keep seeding veggies and wildflowers that don't require stratification (cold winter period).

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