This morning I awoke to the reality of winter in the garden.  I had been so spoiled with our unseasonably warm weather that I was beginning to think the perennials were here to stay and not leave me lonely until spring.  But alas, last night’s temperature down in the 20’s put them to rest.  All that remains are the slithery dark weeping green leaves…plant carcasses. 

It seems like an appropriate time for this transition since it is the beginning of a new year and change is on the horizon.  Now that the holidays are over I can begin to really work on the major garden changes I have planned for this year.  While most people are thinking about their New Year’s resolutions on promises of losing weight or becoming a better person, I am thinking about resolutions for the garden.  What things will I do different in the garden this year? 

I already have plans to turn my perennial border in the back yard into a vegetable planting bed.  I’m tired of paying so much for produce and it’s such a sunny spot that it would be great for veggies.  Also, my husband has been begging for more vegetables in the garden for a long time. 

I was sick with a cold for a week, which gave me an excuse to sit for extended periods of time with my gardening books.  I’m now feeling pretty prepared for the obstacles that will come with vegetables.  One of my resolutions is to start the seeds in pots in my greenhouse as opposed to being lazy and starting them in the ground.  That way they have a better chance of survival. 

There are plans to dig out every weed in the back yard and plant Zoysia grass seed in the spring.  This will be a huge undertaking.  After the weeds are pulled I will amend the soil with mushroom compost then plant the seed and cover with straw to prevent the birds/wind to take away the seed.  It can take a long time for Zoysia seed to germinate, so patience will be key.  I would rather try it this way first before spending a fortune on sod.  I’m not a huge fan of grass whatsoever, but my dog needs some running space and the grass will keep the back yard from eroding away. 

In the front yard there will be many changes taking place and some have already got underway!  First we had to dig up the enormous Azalea bushes along the house.  No easy task.  Out of 10 we still have 2 left to dig out.  Each one takes so much energy that it’s impossible to do more than a few a day.  The last one we dug out weighed nearly 300 pounds! 

Also in this area was a massive border of monkey grass.  It took up about 40 feet in length and almost 3 feet in width.  It took me 3 days of digging to remove all of it.  After some weed pulling the 40 feet x 9 feet flower bed will be ready for some amending.  My husband has just received a new truck, so this weekend we will be christening it with a fresh load of horse manure!  After I have incorporated the manure, I will cover it with thick layer of mulch.  I will then let it sit all winter long with each rain preparing the soil for spring plantings.  I’m so excited!  In a few weeks I will be purchasing some Antique Roses for this bed.

 I wanted to mention while digging up the monkey grass I came upon an unexpected visitor…a snake.  I am deathly afraid of all snakes.  A poisonous snake was found in my home when I was a child.  However, as a gardener I know I am going to encounter them and they are in fact good for the garden.  At least that is what I tell myself, but every time I see one all logic goes out the window. 

So there I was standing up cutting back the azaleas and I looked over my shoulder to throw the debris and behold on my weeding knee pad was a baby brown snake.  He was just casually sitting there looking up at me.  I said, “Excuse me, but that is mine.  Can I have it back?”  He didn’t move.  He didn’t even stick his tongue out at me.  So I did what I always do when I find a snake, panic and call my husband on my cell phone.  There was no answer.  I ran a list in my head of my guy friends who I could call for instructions.  Then I realized that this snake was not that scary as it never struck at me or raced away in fear.  It was like he wanted to hang out.  Although, I really needed my weeding pad to finish my work, so I did what I see them do on TV.  I grabbed a stick (a long stick to keep him far away from me)  and proceeded to get him on the stick to relocate him.  At first he cooperated and I could feel the strength in his small body as he draped over the stick.  But he didn’t stay on and started to slither away, but directly towards the rest of the monkey grass I needed to dig!  So I’m going behind him with the stick to “shoo him away” and he gets annoyed by my persistent poking to keep moving.  Finally he disappears into the end of the monkey grass. 

Whenever I’ve just discovered a snake and it’s gone off somewhere that I’m unsure of, I will freak out at any noise I hear thinking it has returned.  I tried to dig while standing up, but I realized that eventually I would need to kneel to pull out the grass.  I did so, but very slowly and thoughtfully.  Watching to make sure I didn’t stick my gloved hand in a snake’s face.  I finished my work and did not see him again. 

Since this time I have learned that he was a Rough Earth Snake, which is apparently harmless (and eating my beloved earthworms!).  Their mouths are so small they can barely bite you.  I have decided to make a real effort to not be so afraid of snakes anymore.  These are my garden resolutions.  What things would you like to do different in your garden this year?