Tea Talk: 2 watermelons, 3 tomatoes and 29 zinnias

It's time for some Tea Talk in the Garden! So much has happened since I last heard from Angie at the The Freckled Rose, my virtual letter exchange pen pal! Help yourself to the freshly brewed tea and (maybe even a fresh sweet or two!) and join the conversation in the comments section below. We're so happy to have you join us!

Dear Angie,

I'm officially finished with winter. With spring technically only a few days away, I'm pretty unhappy with the arrival of snow so late in the season. For a few weeks, the snowdrops and hellebores were appearing steadily in the back garden, but they are now covered in over a foot of snow from a storm earlier this week. Now, instead of hints of color dotting the brown landscape, there's a blanket of white that makes the garden resemble a black and white photograph, literally frozen in time.

Yet as I write this, the pansy seedlings and verbascum seedlings I started under my grow lights are green, lush and vibrant. The daffodils that I planted and kept in the fridge for 10 weeks are out on my kitchen counter and beginning to grow. I have a shoe organizer hanging off the door of my book room (also Max the house rabbit's room), where I've sorted seeds according to the week they need to be sown. I have a confession to make: I'm terribly behind. One of the things I have struggled with the most these past few months is budgeting gardening back into my busy schedule. There's always some task or activity clamoring for attention, and even though I value gardening very highly, sometimes it gets the slip. Luckily the last few months have been winter, so I haven't felt as guilty, but now with the growing season under way, I need to get moving!

Verbascum seedlings under grow lights.
There's always a lot to do at this time of year, and spring is my favorite season. I think it's due to the slowly emerging clues that winter will end and the garden will be filled with color again. Each year I still am surprised when the trees have suddenly leafed out.

What new seeds are you trying this year? After successfully growing watermelon last year, I have decided to try two new varieties: 'Rainbow Sherbet' and 'Doll Babies' from Renee's Garden*, who have graciously supplied me with courtesy seeds to try out this season. I also have decided on a new home for my vegetable plants: this year, they will be located along the front walkway of the house in pots. This is the spot where I usually plant annual flowers in my blue pottery, but this year I'm going to move the annuals and the blue pottery to other parts of the garden. I think this is a better location for the vegetables because they will still receive the sun they need in the front garden, will be a bit hidden from the road due to the tall perennial flowers I plant near the walkway (which will also attract pollinators!) and it will be easier to harvest veggies (or snack on cherry tomatoes on my way to the mailbox).

Speaking of tomatoes, I almost decided to forgo growing them altogether this year. Yes - you read that right! Have I lost my mind? A garden without tomatoes? That's like a summer without tank tops and flip flops! I've had a love/hate relationship with tomatoes for the last couple of years, and it's mostly due to being forced to grow them in pots because I don't have areas in the garden that are sunny enough to plant them in the ground. I've put a lot of work into growing them and then I don't end up with a lot to show for it. So I've decided to scale back on tomatoes this year, and instead of growing multiple varieties, I'm only allowing myself to try three. At most four. That's it. I swear.

I'll be upping the number of zinnias 
in the garden this year!
As I write this though, I technically have 29 different varieties of zinnia seeds I want to grow this year. Some are leftover packets from the last two years that I didn't get a chance to grow, and in my mind I have this beautiful vision of the front garden being covered in zinnia blooms. If it works, it will be amazing. If it doesn't ... well, let's not think that way!

One of my major garden goals this year involves making my garden more pollinator friendly. I already grow many different types of flowers, but now I want to focus on growing more host plants as well. This includes continuing to work on my milkweed patch (which I started last year) to host the monarch butterflies. I also want to create more "insect hotels" to encourage beneficial bugs in the garden. I'm also looking for more wildflowers to include in the garden (a topic touched upon during last year's National Pollinator Week.) In addition to being more selective about the plants I grow, I also want to continue to focus on the type of plants I already collect, specifically hellebores, peonies and daylilies.

I hope you are faring well with our Northeast winter, and I look forward to the photos of your garden you will be sharing soon on your website!

Talk to you soon!

To view previous letters in the Tea Talk series with Angie, click here.

* The watermelon seeds were provided as a courtesy by Renee's Garden.


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