Snow, Ice, and Strawberry Dreaming

Some people love winter. They say things like, “Snow! Sweaters! Hot chocolate!” and smile. I’m not one of those people. I don’t own the proper clothing — it seems crazy to buy expensive boots that I might need for one week out of an entire year. No. I’m a thin-blooded southerner who handles heat far better than cold!

For me, the absolute worst part of winter is February. The majority of this week in Chattanooga the temperature is unlikely to rise above freezing. At my house there is a thin blanket of snow on the ground. The few, sad flower stalks leftover from last year in my garden are coated in ice. The little pond is frozen over.

icy garden

What is a gardener to do?

Plan, of course. And dream. I’m using part of this week to draw a map of the berry patch my family will build this summer. We have blueberry bushes, wild raspberries and blackberries to tame, and we are ordering strawberry plants. We will have a much larger garden this year than usual so there is quite a lot of planning to do. This forced “thinking time” is probably a good idea!

Eventually, we hope to be able to offer a “U-Pick” berry option, so we are trying to think about the future as well as the upcoming season. With all of that in mind, I’m going to plant the strawberries in gutters. I will set three foot tall posts every ten feet or so, drill holes in the gutters for drainage, and attach them to the posts.

Then, I will fill the gutters with soil and strawberry plants. The benefits of this system are that weed control will be much easier, no bending to pick berries will be required, and it will be easy to snip the runners.

There are drawbacks, as well. Watering will be an absolute requirement. There are several irrigation systems that could work, and I will be investigating them this summer. One intriguing design I’ve looked at included a second set of gutters running beneath the one with the plants in it. The bottom gutter would be filled with water with some sort of mechanism that would allow the roots to wick up water.

Strawberries themselves are a promise of spring. Already, we are getting some pretty good Californian strawberries in the grocery stores. That alone is enough to give me hope that the ice, snow, and freezing temperatures will soon be gone!

Here are some places you can learn more about growing strawberries in gutters, if you are interested:


The Final Toll of the Killing Winter in Dava’s Garden

It was a rough winter. I didn’t realize just exactly how bad it was for my garden until the last couple of weeks. Here’s the final list of victims:

  • rosemary (this one hurts the most)
  • brugmansia
  • ALL of the strawberries
  • 2 varieties of canna lilies

Canna Carnival - purchased at the Green Thumbs Galore Driveway sale in spring 2013.

Canna Carnival – purchased at the Green Thumbs Galore Driveway sale in spring 2013.

  • a fancy orange coneflower
  • a cream and pink colored rose

I bought it at a grocery store for $2.

I bought it at a grocery store for $2.

  • columbine

A gift from Belle, 3-4 years ago.

A gift from Belle, 3-4 years ago.

  • 2 succulents

Of those, I didn’t fully expect the brugmansia or one of the succulents to make it. The columbine, rosemary, rose, and about half the strawberry plants were very well established, so it was surprising they didn’t make it. From what I understand rosemary plants across the region were hit hard.

Plants come and go — I’ve had some that survived for several years, then suddenly, inexplicably died, so I’m not mourning the loss of these too terribly much. This is the first year I’ve lost quite so many to cold weather, though.

Next year, if conditions are brutal again, I may have to implement Belle’s leaf blankets!

Along with the many garden losses, there were some surprising survivors, too:

  • hostas, even though there was a late-season frost
  • all of the daylilies
  • a gorgeous penstamon, which is about twice or three times bigger than last year!


  • all of the native purple coneflowers, which are about to explode into bloom!

coneflower buds

  • the English wallflower, which smells so nice
  • a baby hydrangea
  • some tender, newly planted sage


  • the grapes, which were moved in the very early spring

grapesThere were many other survivors as well, but these (especially the sage!) surprised me partly because they all seemed to really take off this spring. Another survivor was my peony, which didn’t bloom, but does have healthy, strong-looking foliage.

Did you suffer losses due to the cold? Were there any super-tough survivors?