Friday, January 11, 2013

Winter Garden Inspections

A garden may SEEM to sleep during the winter, but something is always happening out there. Even if a blanket of snow has covered it. Growing slows down tremendously, but life does remain as it quietly observes shorter days and longer nights.

A warm fire seems much more inviting than trudging around in the snow with below freezing temps, but if one will bundle up and brave the elements, it's actually quite invigorating. And if you live someplace where daylight hours are exceptionally short, you need every bit of Vitamin D from the sun you can possible absorb!

Believe me... I know. With the sun only beginning to rise over the eastern mountain at Sweetwater Farm around 8:45 in the morning in the deepest part of winter, and then setting behind the western mountain around 2:45, by February I've been known to have a substantial case of cabin fever if I don't get outside enough.

But back to the garden... doing daily inspection is a REALLY wise habit to develop. I confess, I don't do it every day, but I try to get out there often because stuff happens.

Wind whips through and pulls off covers that I thought were secure or snow causes a collapse...

Wild animals attempt to break and enter...

The snow is great for discovering who your unwanted visitors might be! Certainly a good reason to keep a lock on coop doors.

My hive nearly met it's demise, but thankfully, a garden inspection saved it. Before this snow, the ground had become so soft from the rain that the pipe footings were sinking into the soil on one side. It had nearly toppled over! I didn't even take time to get a photo... I just rushed in, got my husband to quickly construct a platform (that I had put off getting done), and four of us went out to the yard and strapped the hive well before slipping it up on the new stand. You can barely see it underneath the snow poking through. A couple of bricks were added for stability and since this photo, I've surrounded the hive with hay bales on 3 sides up to the top.

A very quick inspection on a warm day revealed the hive was still alive with plenty of sugar on the candy board. I'm really hoping these girls make it!

One other thing I often check are tree branches. When we get a wet snow, the load can be so heavy that branches on evergreens can break, so I take a stick and walk around the property knocking the snow off.

If you have a drip system or some kind of plumbing and you haven't drained the pipes (because you have animals that need water or something like that), be sure to check for signs of broken lines. Extra soggy ground, pooling or running water, or large amounts of ice that indicate a leak where water has frozen is a good indication that something's amiss.

Just think... only 67 more days until Spring is officially here (March 20, 2013), so hang in there... we can do this!


  1. While you are having weather that is proper for the season, we are having a 74-78 Degree weekend in Alabama! I'm going to use the warm days to finish building the raised beds, turn the empty beds and sow some more lettuce under my mini-tunnels (which have been pulled back for the rain and heat! Thank you for sharing the lovely photos of your place!

  2. It's not snowing in Golden Hills ,but we have had freezing weather. The past few morning we have gone out to find the chicken's water frozen.

  3. Its freezing rain here very late this afternoon and then I was getting supper ready at 4:30 pm and it was a small blizzard outside. Roads are very bad now. I am not going anywhere.
    I have been up-ing my D as I have been suffering from seasonal droops, I am putting the elder parents on it to, as they are droopy also. I hate this time of winter, the sun disappears quickly and its just not great outside. I am suffering from garden disease. :{
    I did an inspection of my garden ghetto buckets and everything looks ok. I was trying to get my cold frame out and its locked in ice and there's no way to dislodge it. Guess its February before that can get out. I did not expect ice where I had it under the porch.
    Thank you for sharing your homestead tour.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  4. Gosh, your reminder is so true! I try to smack off heavy snowfall on delicate branches. I have to check the chicken water at least twice a day or it will freeze up. I have to adjust covers and check to make sure the wild birds have food too. I've been bad about going out often, but now I will up my excursions!

  5. Hooray the bees are alive! So glad you were able to get them up onto a new platform. I feel as though we are living parallel lives! My daughter and I after our last wet heavy snowfall had to help the tree branches too from the weight of the snow on the ever greens. Thank you for the tour! Your photos are beautiful!~Melissa

  6. So much to think about going on in your yard. I might need to make a trip around mine now that the snow has melted. It's in the 60's here and feels like spring - temporarily at least. It's the January thaw, time for the bees to make a cleansing trip before they have to settle back in for the duration of winter. So glad the weather has accommodated their potty needs and given us a taste of spring. Even saw a couple of brave dandelions blooming, which is a first for January.

  7. Thank you for all the great information. I love living on a homestead however never growing up on one I do not know all the things that go into it.

  8. This is a great post! I was out the other day doing some inspecting myself. :)

  9. Wow! I worry a lot about my bees in the winter time, but in comparison, our Northern California winter is NOTHING! My bees can still catch a warm, sunny break even on most of the coldest days (like right now...). I'm super hopeful that my ladies make it through this winter (their first), and I hope yours do, too!

  10. Wow, I can't believe you guys have snow already, and it was 70* here today, lol!! That's just crazy. Although I really hate cold weather, when it's warm through the winter I'm always super tempted to get a jump start on my Spring garden. And then sure enough, in April it snows and everything is killed, lol! Glad you were able to save the hive from falling over. Yikes!

  11. Do I ever hear you on the sun situation. We live in a canyon without direct sun from mid-November to mid-February. Our temps have been below 0 for over a week. Getting out in natural light is important, thank God for the livestock that requires daily attention.

  12. Oh I'm glad your bee's are okay! I cannot wait until Spring. I love winter but I also love (maybe a little tiny bit more..) going out into the garden on a nice spring day and digging around in the dirt planting anything I can get my hands on. Thanks for the countdown to Spring! :)

  13. I am happy as well that you were able to save your bees. I know how easy it is to put things off outside when the weather is cold. Here in Minnesota, the weather changes so frequently that each day brings its challenges along with something new to be grateful for. Thank you for your open thoughts and feelings about your life. It is encouraging to read about you and your family's life.

  14. Hey, Amy!
    We just moved (again) this December, so no gardens to be checkin' on. But one of my favorite things about the winter gardens I used to have was the herbs that I would find still fresh and green under all the snow we would get. Sage and thyme were my favorite winter finds!
    I am looking forward to at least getting some herbs in the ground this spring...

  15. Amy,
    I have to say I fell in love with your blog in 2010! Since then I've been inspired to volunteer with my school's organic farm. We just started a blog and would love for you to check it out and give us any tips on a successful blog!


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