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A winter morning in the garden

by | Jan 29, 2017

The covers protect the foliage from cold damage and deer grazing.

The Cool Flowers garden tucked in for below freezing nights.

A winter morning walk in my garden reveals so much. As I stroll, I find myself stopping, standing, and watching more than walking. This chilly morning there is no wind, so much is going on.

To the naked eye my place looks pretty barren compared to summer when it is popping with flowers everywhere. But close observation reveals that life in the garden is after all– pushing on in spite of winter.

I usually gravitate first on my walk to the area of the garden that is planted in Cool Flowers. This year appears that it is going to be a spectacular spring because of their favorable conditions this winter. I can’t help but to gaze in wonder–even after 19 years of growing hardy annuals I’m always surprised they don’t just  survive winter, but thrive.

This cold hardy cover crop will take off in spring and grow to over five feet tall.

Winter rye cover crop is doing its job protecting the soil through winter and providing for wildlife.

After pulling myself away because I’m sure my neighbors think I’m nuts just standing out there in the cold staring, I walk on to take note of the cover crop growing. The winter rye is only a few inches tall now, but will jump to five feet as soon as the warmth of spring comes. If I had planted it earlier in fall it would have grown more before winter but that’s OK because it has enough top growth to protect the soil and provide habitat for creatures.


I walk on between the cover cropped area and our native border. It’s hard to not get bumped into by a bird! Eastern bluebirds, robins, mockingbirds, finches, and a flock of flicker woodpeckers all jockeying for areas to hunt for insects and seed. It seems my dead wood piles are appreciated by all.

I come around to the wild area between our property and our neighbors. It’s about fifteen feet wide and one hundred feet long with tall mature trees and lots of under-story brush. It is crawling with life- birds, squirrels, and others I feel watching me, but I can’t see them.

I again stand and watch. The interaction between this wild area and my cover cropped garden area is busy. The bluebirds especially appreciate the high perches overlooking the open area.

What appears brown and dead sometimes has more than meets the eye.

As I start to go indoors to get on with Sunday morning, I turned and looked back and thought to myself–who knew? It just looks like a bunch of brown dead stuff out there–but dead it is not. A closer, slower walk will reveal much with most things in life.





Lisa Mason Ziegler is a commercial cut-flower farmer in Newport News, Virginia; she lectures and writes about organic and sustainable gardening. You can email Lisa at [email protected] , call her at 757-877-7159 or visit her website .

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