Posted by: paulbassler | April 7, 2013

Growing in the Four Seasons

After living in the tropics for nearly forty years I got used to growing my gardens all year long. With a rainy season and a dry season, it was easy to grow most any warm-weather crop nine months of the year. The remaining three months were just too rainy for most crops, but there were a number of plants that could survive. Hot peppers were one of my favorites, but eggplant was also popular during those rainy months.
Living in Oregon these past couple of years, I have really been enjoying the four seasons. It’s as if nature is always in motion, drifting from one season to the next. In an attempt to learn how to grow flowers and food throughout the ever-changing seasons, I planted a wide variety of fruit trees, herbs and annuals last year in my greenhouse. I really wanted to see how the 20 degree and 30 degree temperatures during the winter would impact the growing process. I learned a great deal this past year, and I learned that there is still much to learn.
The first thing I had to learn when planting fruit trees from seed was the need to cold stratify the seeds. Obviously in the tropics, this is not needed. I started by bagging up the various varieties of apple seeds I purchased in moist peat moss and put them in the refrigerator. Most of the varieties began to sprout within a couple of weeks. Some varieties took a couple of months. I tried stratifying some thornless blackberry seeds, and I tried planting some directly in the ground. That was in September. The seeds I put in the fridge never did sprout, but the ones I planted in the ground began to sprout in early February.
Most everything I planted, both flowers and food plants, survived the cold weather well. It’s as if they go dormant during the cold months and start waking up when the weather warms. It’s April now and everything is growing with reckless abandon. Nature is really amazing. Outside the greenhouse, all of nature is doing the same thing. After sitting dormant for the past few months, everything is coming alive. It’s really amazing to see the whole world waking up as each day passes. And yet, after everything comes back to full bloom, full foliage, the next season begins to creep in. The leaves begin to slowly fall. The landscape begins to look more barren. Before you know it, there is snow everywhere. It’s never-ending and a beautiful thing to watch, and it’s fun to be a part of that process in my greenhouse.
I’ve also noticed there is a lot more insect activity during the spring. For months during the winter I haven’t seen any bugs. But now, they’re everywhere. I can only guess that they too go dormant during the winter and start to come alive when the weather warms. In the tropics, the bugs are always there.
Growing a successful garden in the four seasons is much like preparing a meal. When you cook a meal, say a chicken dinner, there is a tight schedule you have to keep in order for everything to be ready at the same time. If you’re going to have mashed potato, you have to start the potatoes first. Then a bit later you put the chicken in the oven. Sometime later, you put your vegetables on the stove. In your garden, you have to start preparing your soil first, stratify some of your seeds weeks or months in advance, plant your vegetables on a rotating schedule so everything doesn’t grow to fruition at the same time. Fertilizing and pest management have to be scheduled. Your compost pile has to be ready when needed. Everything has to be scheduled to coordinate with the ever-changing environment. It takes a lot more planning to grow in the four seasons then it does in the tropics. Perhaps like so many I will one day take the four seasons for granted. For now, I am really appreciating the ever-changing face of our natural environment.

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