Wednesday, February 24, 2021

February Snow and Sorting Seeds

Astolat Farm, February 2021

My blog became a teenager this week. I started my first post with a picture of our house, February 21, 2008. There was no snow in the picture that day. This year, however, we were in a three-day snow storm when the month began, and it seems to have snowed every day since.

Some highlights of the month: the rest of my seeds arrived, I had a lovely Valentine's Day, I finished planning my spring vegetable and cutting gardens, and I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count again. I'll start with the seeds. (Those of you who have been following this blog for the past 13 years can just scroll down to the bird and snow pictures as I write much the same every year. Sorry.)


I followed my usual procedure for sorting seeds and planning the new season's kitchen garden. For those who don't know me, I have a fenced-in kitchen garden with picket fencing on two sides and pasture fencing on the remaining two sides. (I wish the picket fence went all the way around, but we cannot afford it.) The area is approximately 35 feet x 37 feet. The focal point of my kitchen garden is my potting shed, which has an acrylic glass roof and cold frames on the south side. In the kitchen garden we constructed four raised beds 8 feet x 4 feet each and several grow-boxes. A 'lasagna' bed along the picket fence is my cutting garden. I grow my vegetables and herbs in raised beds for several reasons: they provide better drainage, I can more easily control the growing medium, they heat up faster in spring (important in the short-growing season of the Pocono Mountains), and they are not effected by toxins from the walnut tree in the vicinity. Also, when the soil is shin level, weeding and harvesting is less hard on the back. My kitchen garden is located in an area of full sun.


The Kitchen Garden and Potting Shed

There are four planning steps.

Step 1: I begin by separating the seed packets into flowers and vegetables. I then divide them into 'start indoors' and 'direct sow.' These directions are on the seed packet. For example, larger seeds such as beans and corn, do best if you sow them directly into the garden.

I utilize the dining-room table to begin the sorting process.  (Note the miniature rose and the unusual 'hedgehog' card that Duane gave me for Valentine's Day)


Step 2: I plan to start seeds indoors so they are at the correct stage of development to move outside after the last frost. On average the last frost in the Poconos is May 23 (the Poconos has a frost-free growing season of around 123 days -- not very long, is it?) If the seed packet says 'Start seeds indoors 4-8 weeks prior to the last frost of spring' I count back on the calendar to April 7 as the date to start them indoors.  I use index cards to separate the seed packets by date, arranging them in a wooden trug that I bought many years ago from Home Goods.

I'll be starting my first seeds indoors on March 1.


Step 3: I put the seed-starting and direct-sowing dates on a calendar dedicated to this purpose. I will use this calendar for making notes on germination, potting on, frosts, what worked and what didn't, etc. 


I'm almost ready to start sowing!
Step 4: The last job is to plan where the vegetables and flowers will be located in the kitchen garden. I try to group vegetables of the same family together then follow a four-year rotation. I rotate the crops to avoid diseases. The long bed on the right of the diagram is my cutting garden.


The diagram of my kitchen garden is more or less to scale.

So now I am ready to sow; I'll be starting broccoli indoors on March 1st. How are you doing with your spring planning?

The Great Backyard Bird Count did not bring any unusual birds into my garden, but I really enjoyed lots of juncos, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers, sparrows, cardinals, and a pair of wrens that continue to provide us with endless entertainment.

The hairy woodpecker. He has a longer beak than the downy woodpecker. Both visited for GBBC.
A white-breasted nuthatch

One of two Carolina wrens that visit the back porch every day

 Of course, the squirrels always spoil the fun by scaring away the birds. They look for ways to climb onto the bird feeder that hangs on the porch.  One of them thought he could jump from the top of the jug nesting box there, but it was too far.

The squirrel is eying the seeds in the bird feeder hanging nearby.

I don't leave the house often when its cold and icy, but ventured into the garden yesterday to take a few pictures.  I mentioned last time that there are usually some signs of spring by now: the first snowdrop blooms, lots of hellebore buds, and the green shoots of daffodils and of other spring bulbs. I can only trust that Mother Nature is working her magic under the two feet, or so, of snow that remains, and that when it finally melts away, all those glories will be revealed. I have to reassure myself that the snow is providing my plants with a protective blanket from the severe cold. I am trying very hard not to complain because I am not experiencing anything as devastating as that of our Texas friends. As I pray for them, I thank God for my warm home, electricity, and abundant water whenever I turn on the faucet.

The red twig dogwood is a multi-stemmed shrub with outstanding coral-red branches.

A small hole in Froggy Pond allows the fish to get oxygen -- there is a heater there. Froggy is almost entirely buried under the snow

Froggy doesn't look too happy, does he?
I wonder which creature made the tracks under the walnut tree?

The goats grew lovely, thick coats to keep them warm through this unexpectedly snowy month.

I think the three goats are as tired of the snow as I am.

From left to right: Doodles (at the back), Bilbo, and Taz


Today was special in two ways: the thaw began and I got my second COVID vaccination!

I am linking with Sarah in Dorset, England at Down by the Sea for a peep over her garden gate at her February garden. I'm sure she will have some blooms already-- giving me hope that mine wont be far behind. 

Stay safe and well dear friends. 


Pamela x


My potting shed this month

I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited! 

I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Your photos are beautiful. Thank you for sharing these. Spring is less than a month away, so let's hope that we won't have a longer winter. One of my favourite times is seeing the plants just barely pushing their way up -- a sign that the worst of the cold, snowy months is over. Thanks again.

  2. The pictures of your farm in the snow are quite beautiful, especially the one of the red twig dogwood in the snow. Such accumulation certainly puts our two to three inches in the shade, although those two to three inches brought everything to a halt here.

    My winter bird watching has been brightened by Purple Finches. We've had an irruption of the birds to this area where we generally either don't see them or see only a few during winter. They've visited my feeders by the dozens this winter.

  3. It looks like you've been busy my gardening friend. Your winter views of the potting shed, gardens and wildlife are beautiful and I love following along with the planning of your kitchen garden. I love the photo of Doodles, Bilbo, and Taz too! Stay safe and well and spring will be here before we know it!

  4. I enjoyed looking at pictures of your snowy garden. It looks much the same as mine, higher up on the Pocono plateau. My plans for this season include rhubarb, a bean teepee, and converting a small area of lawn into a no-mow area. I've been watching the birds and just by luck, saw a few wild turkeys. Maybe turkeys made those tracks in your yard.

  5. I think I will copy your idea of organizing your seeds so you remember to start them. I always seem to miss something and discover it in the cabinet in the fall.

    Your garden is beautiful, even in the snow.

  6. I love your potting shed. I organize my seeds in a similar manner. Great you have drawn out a map and planned your garden.

  7. Oh look how organized you are with your pretty garden and garden shed.
    I have several packs of flower seeds to plant somewhere, I only have 2 small flower beds however I do have room to make another one, only my yard man in the past has mowed down flowers one year my Hydrangeas !!!!!!!!!he got a talking to.
    I'll be back to check in on your flower beds

  8. The red dogwood in the snow is a spectacular sight.
    Brava on the double vaccination ... waiting hopefully here, maybe April, or May.

  9. February brought three weeks of snow and cold, but that was about it for winter this year. The snow stayed all that time, which isn’t quite normal for us. But I was grateful that it protected my plants during the cold. Our vegetable garden planning isn’t quite so detailed as yours, but ours is smaller. I do make a sketch to tell me where everything goes.

  10. Hi Pamela, Hope your spring bulbs will soon appear and the heavy snow hasn't caused too much damage. Your seed sowing plan looks fantastic. I like your special holder for them too! Thank you for taking part in Through the Garden Gate again. Sarah x

  11. Soon, soon. Each day the sun burns off a little more, even if it doesn't seem warm enough to melt anything. Hopefully by next week you'll see some progress!
    I would guess that here in the valley about half the garden is snow-free. Lets hope it stays that way...
    I love that gloriously blue sky!

  12. The snow does look beautiful but it can just last too long when you want to be getting on with the garden. I hope that March warms up a bit for you so that you're able to get on with your seed sowing. Wonderful photos of the birds, as usual.

  13. I LOVE the cold frame by your shed. As others have said that red dogwood against the snow is stunning but one dune back from Lake Michigan, within city limits, there are roving bands of deer...lots of them. Do deer eat your dogwood?