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Cold and Snow in my Small Kitchen Garden

No 2016 Seed Giveaway

Apologies to anyone looking for my annual seed giveaway. I’ll be out of commission during the critical weeks where I’d organize mailing lists, package and label seeds, and put together a mailing.

We experienced a very tame autumn and early winter. There was no measurable snow, and there were few days of winter cold. I was still working on season-end garden projects when, finally, cold and snow set in.

My last project was to put a rodent fence around my black raspberry patch. Critters have grazed there casually for months, and I wanted to stop the damage while more than half the canes were intact. I was working on the fence two weeks ago when I became ill and spent a week in the hospital.

Black raspberry brambles in snow

Building a fence around the black raspberries wasn’t a precision operation. I’ve pounded in 10 “posts” to hold 24” chicken wire. I need to add, perhaps, four more posts. Except for a grape vine at the front right corner of the frame, all the canes among the stakes are black raspberry brambles. Many at the far end have been gnawed to short sticks.

I received an unpleasant diagnosis: I have pancreatic cancer. Medical science says my tumor is removable, but it’s not going to be a fun experience. I have six more days before surgery, and I’m not excited about gardening in snow – just after I returned from the hospital, the epic storm that buried Washington D.C. buried my yard in about seven inches of powder. Unless the next few days are unseasonably warm, I won’t finish the fence and my first black raspberry crop will remain in jeopardy.

In any case, after a week of being a hospital patient, it was nice to get out in the snow and photograph some of last year’s projects. I’m looking forward to getting things going as I recover from surgery and begin chemotherapy. The blog may be even more quiet than usual for the coming month, but I’ll post again as soon as I’m able.

Caged blueberry bush

My blueberry bushes have had hard lives. Just when they started looking bushy, they spent too long out of cages and got pruned back to sticks by rodents. This season, several of them lived inside fairly generous cages and recovered a lot of ground. I don’t expect a big crop in 2016, but I’ve some hope they’ll bulk up this year and start feeding us well in 2017.

Caged quince trees

Last year I started quince trees from seeds. I nursed seedlings in planters until autumn, and then planted them in the yard. The two in this photo are intact because of the cages around them. Rodents chomped the third seedling down to the soil line; it’s not likely to grow back. I had devised a protective barrier using plastic nursery pots, but wind blew it away… I’m starting more quince seeds this winter with hope of replacing the eaten seedling in my yard.


I started cardoon indoors early last year. I didn’t treat it well, so the plants were tiny when I set them in the garden. Eventually, they flourished, but they never produced harvestable stalks and I assumed they’d die with the first frost of autumn. Several frosts and cold nights did little damage, so I decided to test the plants’ resolve…

Low hoop tunnel over cardoon

I haphazardly erected a low hoop tunnel over two cardoon plants. Just a few weeks later, temperatures plummeted; we had some nights in the teens. Given the plants’ hardiness until then, I hope the low hoop tunnel holds things closer to 30 degrees and my plants manage to shiver through alive.

Fig tree shelter

In fall of 2014, I erected a simple tent over two fig trees I’d planted on the south side of the house. Unfortunately, I didn’t erect the tent until we had had a very early, crazy deep freeze. The fig trees died back to the soil. This past fall, I got the tent up before any severe cold… I managed to stretch it over a rosemary plant as well. With luck, the tent will provide enough protection that my trees won’t have to grow back from the soil line this year.

Small Kitchen Garden – Cold and Snow in my Small Kitchen Garden

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6 Responses to “Cold and Snow in my Small Kitchen Garden”

  • Erin (@bbburrow):

    Hey Daniel – Thinking good thoughts for you here in Seattle. What a wild ride you’ve had these past few weeks. Here’s hoping the snow abates somewhat and that your fig trees and other fruits survive the storm. Wishing you all the best and hoping you are feeling five hundred and a gajillion percent better soon. Warm regards, Erin

  • beth miller:

    I love your postings, They always make me feel hopeful about gardening and life, So I will feel hopeful about you and health. Best wishes from a beach bum and gardener. Beth

  • Looks like you have a wonderful start!

  • I’ve been pouring over your Small Kitchen Garden site since my breast cancer diagnosis last year. I’m a bit of a garden maniac now, so I can grow my own healthy produce. So far so good. Organic Turmeric, Olive Oil, Black Pepper, Home Grown Kale, Spinach, Chard, and Garlic are my new best friends. Sending you warm wishes from the Sierra for a healthy recovery.

  • Cecily:

    I was just sauntering around the Web looking for info on container gardening for a presentation I’m doing in a couple of months and I happened on your site, and your note about your cancer. I wish you well. I hope all goes well. I always think that gardening is soothing and helpful for my health. I hope it gives you solace and healing as well. Good luck! I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you.rnCecily

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Erin – Thank you for visiting and for your kind words. Heading for surgery in about 12 hours… going to be a rough February.

    Beth – Thank you for your note. Being a beach bum sounds pretty darned good.

    Arthur – Not sure exactly what you mean… got a good start on the rodent fence around the black raspberries, but I won’t be able to finish it until March… I hope the rodents leave some canes so I get to munch a few berries this summer.

    Kathleen – I hope your cancer treatment hasn’t been too harrowing. It is pretty awesome to be able to grow your own food and reduce the unknowns in your diet.

    Cecily – Thank you for visiting; I hope you presentation goes well. I think gardening contributes to having positive disposition… I plan to be back out there in March to get the cold weather crops started. Nothing like that first lettuce harvest in early spring!

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