We have less than ideal growing conditions, but I am convinced that there are ways we can improve our production and grow healthier plants each year. I'm also sure that most growers are quick to point out the flaws in their gardens. Rarely do you come across someone who says, "everything is perfect here!"
Some improvements to our farm this year include constructing temporary windbreak fences, building up beds, adding drainage ditches where we can, and planting some wet-site tolerant trees and shrubs into areas that we now know to be a bit damp.
The trees and shrubs, if selected properly, will contribute substantially to our production of greens and flowers in the future and will add additional wind protection for the flower beds. To provide new, young trees and shrubs with some protection while they grow in, they will be started on the "calm" side of some temporary fencing. (Fencing plan and shopping links coming soon to the blog, too!)
In selecting new trees and shrubs, I'm relying first on what I've observed in our area. In the past year, I've paid close attention to the plants growing on neighboring land and around our little valley.
Next, I recall conversations with master gardeners at our farmers' markets. Cornell University is very generous in bringing master gardeners to local markets where anyone can sit and chat about all things gardening.
And lastly, I look to guides like this one from Clemson University. A cross check of the appropriate growing zones for the plants listed here helps me identify any special varieties that I might be overlooking. This list is pretty amazing-- and it is a good reminder about all the options that are out there for growers with wet sites in warm or cold climates. On this list you'll find productive varieties for every season -- from spirea to winterberry. If you scroll down, you'll also see recommendations for ferns, ornamental grasses, ground cover, perennials and bulbs, and annuals. I just learned that the Northern Sea Oats I was planning to put in an annual bed should actually go in our perennial garden. They are hardy to zone 4. Score! If you have a location that is too dry, try this list (also from Clemson).
Anyhow- in terms of hedging and windbreaks for wet areas, here are some of the plants I hope to add this spring.
Heatherbun White Cedar: great for very wet areas, zones 3-8, 10ft tall by 4-5ft wide, turns intense plum color in winter. This will be the first defense, planted closest to the temporary fence.
Japanese Fantail Willow and Pussy Willow: Great winter interest and welcomed by many florists. These willows could become crops that we sell to designers in the winter months when the shrubs are pruned back.
Forsythia: Spring is late and summer is short here. This one might be mostly for me-- any early color is welcome at our place!
Bridal Wreath Spirea: This plant is prolific and common in front yards in this area. I wish I had some. It will make for beautiful additions to spring wedding work. For now (until mine grow in), I'll take my wallet and buckets and go make some more friends!
Dropmore Honeysuckle Vine: I have a little bit of an obsession with honeysuckle. Some see the invasive bush honeysuckle as a nuisance. To me, it is gold. The branches and greenery hold up beautifully in arrangements. They have the most adorable florets in the spring. They are readily available, and they are one of the very first plants to "green up" for the season. Now granted- I'm not going around propagating or trying to spread bush honeysuckle. It takes over. I cut it back. I started collecting other kinds of honeysuckle last year. The elusive "Kintzley's Ghost" variety and "Goldflame" were planted here on the farm. "Dropmore" seems too good to ignore, and could add that special "it factor" to coral-colored arrangements.
Have some good tips for wet or dry sites? Please share your notes in the comments below. Thank you for following along. Our little farm keeps growing and growing, and we're pleased that our farm notes might be of use to others.