Ruth, a recently retired English teacher, has lived most her adult life in San Jose, California, but relocated to Taylors, SC in May, 2011, to share her mother's golden years and to be near three sisters. Now she's excited to have a house with a yard 10 times the size of her property in California, and can't wait to get digging! Follow her blog to see how a recent transplant experiences gardening, both ornamental and vegetable, in the hot clay of South Carolina.

Recent Blog Posts

May 22
Blooms and Beds and Garden Buddies   (2 comments)

Apr 08
Cardinals, Crows and Thunder Snow.   (4 comments)

Jan 02
Minding the Future Garden as the Old Year Wanes   (3 comments)

Dec 30
Brimming Well of Winter and Goblets of Ice   (4 comments)

Dec 16
The Garden Green, Deep in December   (3 comments)

Nov 26
A Taste of Cold November   (3 comments)

Oct 28
In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the (Garden)..I’ll Be There   (4 comments)

Oct 11
Summer Garden Residents: The Original Earthlings   (4 comments)




The Garden Green, Deep in December
by Ruth Mason McElvain - posted 12/16/12

My garden in December does not burgeon with tomatoes and beans and peas and corn and cukes, morning glories, marigolds, squashes,  bees and bats.  Oh, do I have great memories of that welter of vegetation there in summer when the backyard was a thick green sward, not a crispy brown mat.

Even though the paperwhites out front are popping up unseasonably their surprising spring faces in the deep of December,

there are still wintry concerns, even so,  to manage in the backyard.  The bee bath,  by the east beds and windmill, needs filling, if not for the bees,

then for the birds.  Since I'm not using the table as I would for sitting outside as I did in summer, I've lifted this watering dish above ground and can watch birds bathe on cool mornings as they feed nearby.  I watch from my screen porch, sip coffee, and seethe about the neighbor a block behind me cutting a second driveway on his ample land behind my yard, as is his right.  But dang it, now I get to see his white truck and van in the thinner trees of winter.  I plan to move the crape myrtles sprawling out front under my cherry tree back along this fence to screen his cars from view a little.  I'll do that soon.  And give the table another coat of rustoleum.

I have other tasks to face.  Recently I heard a rusty squawking from the backyard sounding like some horror-movie soundbite.  Nothing  a little WD-40 coudn't fix on the cawing windmill.  It sadly needs rustoleum to cover peeling paint and welding soot, as well.  On my list of winter duties to get to.

I've taken cuttings from the angel trumpet out front and have them in water to root on my screen porch till spring.  The one in the backyard, I just let go bare legged, not cutting it back.  It's near the house and I'm experimenting to see how it survives the winter au natural.  These cuttings are my insurance in case it doesn't fare well.

Not that I don't also have an incredibly green garden still, here in December.  This is what was a tall three-sisters bed in summer, seen here a few weeks back now planted much lower, with collards on this end and turnips on the other.  (The foreground corners are milk thistle and yarrow.  I like to mix up my beds to call the pollinators as variously as I can.)


The pot liquor bounty has grown since that shot.  Turnips (left) and collards (right) make great pots of greens for winter eating

I've harvested the golden globe turnips twice already.  This latest load is about a half bushel.


with delicious roots to stud the hearty greens and pot liquor in a steaming bowlful.  Big Mama says fresh pork seasoning with turnips and smoked pork with collards.

Next harvest of greens will be a mix of turnips, the collards, and maybe some spinach (on the left) and mustard (right).  Oooh.  Just need cornbread, the newest recipe I've tried, my current favorite cornbread,  is Bobby's Moist and Delicious cornbread that he demonstrates online with his blue-eyed mama, Paula Deen.

I really admire how pretty the romaine lettuces are in the beds now.  Time for Caesar salad.  I've only pulled a leaf, so far, to munch when nearby. 

And coming soon are sweet crunchy carrots.  This one pulled recently is just a preview.  My sister enjoyed one yesterday four times this size.  I'm already planning to tuck a row of carrots in nearly every spring bed edge after tasting this little beauty.  I never get over the wonder I feel when plucking food outta my backyard dirt.

And my ever-hopeful legume-loving heart still anticipates fat pea pods to show up before things get too icy here.  Look at the peas closely and I think I may get a handful.  You agree?  Whatever the case, I'm loving my precious South Carolina: to see the wedgewood blue skies over the bare tree tops in my once-a-forest neighborhood, catching the winged ballet of brilliant red cardinals and herds of fat robins feeding in my backyard, to hear the black satin crows raucus outside, to smell the cold December freshness and pluck out a turnip, radish, carrot, still searching for a beet.  It's paradise to my long-home-starved soul now back where I should be.  The garden is my bountiful tutor.  She teaches me daily what mistakes to avoid, what successes to repeat, so next autumn for example I can harvest spaghetti squash and beets to roast.  To make earlier and wiser planting choices.  And she gives me mental room in winter to roam towards spring madness: the plans to draw for new beds and new crops to try, the seed catalogs to lure me, the nursery aisles to wander, online searches for organic boosters, seed potatoes and drip systems to install.   Arrrggghhh.   Ain't it GREAT!  I hella love my state of being.



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Carolyn Choi - 12/17/2012

I'm enjoying my small back deck garden full of veggies here in N.C. This is my first time to try them. We've had a few heavy frosts and I covered them but they've stood up well. It's amazing how fast the mustard and savoy cabbage is growing. I was able to clip some sage and thyme for the Thanksgiving dressing. I'm living in a rental but when I get my future home and garden here I will have a proper garden like yours. Thanks for keeping us informed about what does well and what doesn't. Your romaine lettuce is just beautiful. Hope you'll soon have peas to eat as well .
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Ruth Mason McElvain - 12/17/2012

Ohhh, thank you Carolyn, for another comment. I really want to put in sage and oregano. That's coming in my next posting. I saw some interesting veggies for patios on Park Seed or Burpee's online. Like corn! And cukes. And tomatoes all especially bred for a garden like yours. Take some pictures. I'm thrilled like you with the sturdy greens and SO IMPRESSED with the that gorgeous romaine.
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Carolyn Choi - 12/17/2012

Thanks, Ruth. I enjoyed reading your post. Here's a link to my blog post on my winter vegetable and herb garden :
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