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This was one of my prayers: for a parcel of land not so very large, which should have a garden and a spring of ever-flowing water near the house, and a bit of woodland as well as these.
The Roman poet Horace (c. 65 B.C.E.) thus expressed his craving for nature's beauty and for the simple life-a pastoral longing familiar to many modern citizens, be they suburbanites, city dwellers, or people safely ensconced in the rural landscape. Gardening connects the soul to the earth, and it's fun-a way to wind down from daily stresses and enjoy the pleasure of creating something both useful and beautiful. Gardens, like life, are stories of growth and change, of works in progress, of continuity in cycles. Many of my plants are gifts from gardening friends generous with seeds, cuttings, and divisions of their favorite varieties. In turn, when I divide a perennial, harvest herbs, or collect seeds, I share the wealth with my friends and neighbors.
Garden Almanac offers informative tips, garden advice, horticultural information, and a substantial chronological list of activities to help keep your garden beautiful and flourishing throughout the year, no matter what the level of your aspirations. Gardening novices will find the almanac useful as a learning tool; experienced gardeners will refer to the tasks as helpful reminders, and relish, perhaps, some new-found tips. This wealth of information is divided for easy access into four basic categories: The Whole Garden, Trees & Shrubs, Flowers & Grasses, and Fruits & Vegetables.
Though weather and location affect a gardener's timing of specific chores, there's still a universal rhythm to thegardener's year, a waxing and waning of activities indoors and out. In my garden, spring means mud. Summer is perfect-a succession of long, sunny days with cerulean skies. Breathtakingly clear autumns and seemingly endless, cold, gray-and-white winters complete the seasonal cycle.
I live in Zone 5 on Great Bay, an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean in New Hampshire, but most of the plants mentioned in this book are hardy in USDA Zones 3-6. Think carefully not only about the climate of your region, but about the microclimate of your own garden. For example, I can grow Zone 6 plants in a garden bed against the sunny south side of my house. The bed enjoys a double helping of warmth and sunshine; no trees obstruct the sunlight, which then is reflected back again off the pale yellow clapboards of my house.
I've written this book from the perspective of my particular latitude and longitude, but its timing can be adjusted to suit your zone. In colder climates, you'll need to perform many of the outdoor tasks a couple of weeks earlier in the fall, since the ground will freeze sooner. In warmer areas, you can take care of spring tasks earlier in the year and fall tasks later. Similarly, a cold spring can delay the performance of many tasks, while a particularly warm spring may speed them up.
The last frost date in spring and the first frost date in autumn determine the length of your growing season; the dates for your area, along with other gardening information, are available from your local Cooperative Extension Service. Established in 1914, the Cooperative Extension system is a public partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture and the land-grant universities authorized in 1862 and 1890. Part of the Extension's mission is to educate the public through research-based knowledge of agriculture and home economics. Local Extension agents are gold mines of information on horticulture in specific areas of the country.
Each chapter of this monthly almanac is illustrated with a flower arrangement from Twelve Months of Flowers, a seed catalogue and gardening book written by Robert Furber in 1730. Furber, an English nurseryman, used these botanically correct copper engravings to sell his plant materials; they were indexed with numbers and names to make studying the plates and placing orders more convenient. Although some of his plants may be unfamiliar to you, or may not be hardy in your garden, they offer a fascinating, aesthetically pleasing glimpse into garden history. Each month, we use these plates to inspire ideas for creating contemporary bouquets from your garden and florist shop.
Just as the cycles of various plants fluctuate throughout the year, so too do the cycles of various members of the animal kingdom. The more I garden, the more I see how plants, insects, birds, fish, animals, and humans interact in nature. In the garden, flora and fauna blend their rhythms and unite in a joyful whole. Bluebirds arrive in March, Japanese beetles by July, and monarch butterflies thrill me at summer's end. Welcoming-even inviting-some wildlife into your garden can dramatically enrich the gardening experience; accordingly, I have included some pertinent observations in this almanac.
Gardening is not only a science, it is an art. Each garden, and each gardener, is unique. Whether it's weeding, vegetable cultivation, or growing and arranging flowers, do the tasks you enjoy, work on those that enhance the areas of the garden that are important to you. If one day you find yourself in the garden, eager to work but with nothing to do, consult these pages for ideas. And if your job keeps you too busy to garden-don't despair! The garden will wait for you. You may need to change your plans by, for example, purchasing starter plants instead of growing plants from seed, but you will still enjoy a garden of beauty and delight.
Much of the advice and information in this book has been drawn from my experience as a home gardener, a garden writer, and a master gardener with the Rockingham County, New Hampshire, Cooperative Extension, where I was privy to the common and uncommon questions and concerns of new gardeners. May you learn from and adapt to your own use these trials and tribulations, experiments that have succeeded or failed, problems encountered and solved, and most of all, the love and pleasure of gardening.
Copyright © 2000 by Fair Street Productions