Gray Day Gardening

Mr. MM and I are itching to get out in the garden and get to work but we know we have to wait a few more weeks before we even start our garden prep.  In lieu of digging in the dirt, I’m sitting here digging around the internet doing garden research.

Want to know what hardiness zone you are in?  Check out the USDA’s website.  Manayunk is located in zone 7a.

USDA's PA Plant Hardiness Map.

USDA’s PA Plant Hardiness Map.

The USDA released this Plant Hardiness Zone Map in 2012.  What I find interesting is that when we moved into our house in 2009, our zone was 6 per the USDA.  The Morris Arboretum’s website has an interesting article on this change to our hardiness zone.

Last year we planted a small rosemary ‘bush’.  He was so small, I can hardly call him a bush.  Well, it looks like he didn’t survive the winter.  As you probably know, this winter was unusually brutal and long for our zone.

This year we’ll be looking for either ‘Arp’ rosemary or ‘Hill Hardy’ also known as ‘Madelene’  rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis cv.)  both of which are winter hardy through zone 6.  From what I’ve read, the ‘Hill Hardy’/’Madelene’ seems to be the more hardy of the two.  Both should be planted sheltered from winter winds and in a sunny spot.  Placing large rocks around the rosemary will provide thermal mass during the winter.  They like sandy soil so we’ll add sand to the soil adjacent to the bush and use sand for its mulch.  We use alot of rosemary in our cooking so it would be nice to have a bush that will be with us for the long haul.

Potted Rosemary.

Potted Rosemary.

I’m on the fence about whether to plant directly in the garden or find a nice terra cotta pot (short and gracious in diameter) to fill with a mix of potting soil and sand.  This way, the rosemary could be moved onto the porch near the house during the winter.

The other ‘bush’ we’re interested in is lavender.  I suspect it’s because of my romantic image of lavender fields in Provence.  Looks like ‘Sawyers’ lavender might be our plant.  Dark blue flowers on silver foliage.  Although lavender prefers warm sunny weather, this hybrid supposedly holds up in cool wet weather.  Various sites claim that its easy to grow, fragrant and adapts to most sites.  It can be cut back heavily in March / April if needed.

Lavender in Provence.

Lavender in Provence.

Our biggest challenge is that our neighbors have a mature oak tree that shades our garden.  Although it’s a beautiful tree, we have very limited ‘full sun’ space.  Most of our garden is in partial shade to full shade.  I’ve been in denial about our lack of sun and torture myself with our mass murdering of sun loving plants.

I found this nice plant encyclopedia at the Better Homes and Garden website.  Typed in our zip code and our shade condition.  81 results.  Maybe I’ll be able to accept our shady garden with some of these beautiful plants?

I can’t wait to make our an annual pilgrimage to Groff’s Plant Farm!  They carry both rosemary species and the lavender species.  The first time we went to Groff’s we didn’t know that they do not take credit cards.  After a couple hours meandering through their nursery we rolled up with two wagons filled with plants only to find that we couldn’t pay and there were no ATMs anywhere near by.  I was shocked when they let us take the plants with us with the promise of mailing them a check!  Amazing!  We mailed our check right away.

Hopefully we’ll be able to start our garden prep in a few weeks.  Cleaning up the winter mess.  Turning over the soil and mixing in compost.  We’re lucky that we live in the City of Philadelphia as residents can pick up free organic compost at The Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center in West Fairmount Park.  The recycling center is open on Saturdays starting in April which marks the start of garden prep for us.