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Freshly dug potatoes from your ­garden will spoil you

      Visiting Provence, France, many years ago, I was overwhelmed by the potatoes in the farmers markets. I saw so many beautiful varieties of potatoes, including bright red ones, soft pink ones, dark blue, lavender, yellow and all shades of brown. As well as colors, potatoes come in many shapes, including petite tubular potatoes known as fingerlings. Today you can find many of these different varieties in most grocery stores.

Growing of the green will add cheer to damp, cold March 

      I remember as a kid sitting in a field of clover searching for one with lucky four leaves. Finding one never failed to make me feel like I was about to come upon a pot of gold.      To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day horticulturally, you can grow the traditional shamrock plant, Oxalis regnelli, which usually is found in grocery stores and nurseries around this time of year. Its bright-green color and white flowers are cheery on damp, cold March days.

Get actively involved in growing a healthy organic vegetable garden 

     When I started writing this column, my challenge to everyone: reach for the Blue Zone and live a happier, longer life. Part of Blue Zone living entails growing your own food organically, without the use of chemicals harmful to you and to the environment. By doing so, you’ll better understand the intricacies of nature and the role good gardening practices play in protecting our planet. It means being more astute in your observations in your garden and building up your soil. You need to feed your soil to have your garden feed you.

Starting from seed can transform your vegetable garden

     Early March is a great time to start your tomato seeds. It will make you feel like spring isn’t too far away. Tomato seeds need 70- to 75-degree temperatures, shallow planting (one-eighth-inch deep) to germinate and sunlight once they’re up. After they get their second set of true leaves, you can transplant them to larger containers.

Start seeds now for early cool-weather vegetables and flowers 

      Opening my mailbox this time of year results in armloads of colorful seed catalogs. My head gets dizzy with visions of flowers and vegetables swirling before me as a new growing season looms.

Create wild places, and wildlife will come

      My home is on the edge of a forest with many old oaks and tall loblolly pines. There are also many native shrubs and perennials in a hundred-year flood plain. Beaver Creek meanders through the flood plain before running into Severn Run, which becomes the headwaters of the Severn River.       Our land is preserved in the Maryland Environmental Trust. An occasional reward is getting to see some unexpected wildlife.

For Valentine’s Day, make a tussie-mussie filled with floral meaning

     Roses are red, dilly dilly, lavender is blue, dilly dilly, but a tussie-mussie made just for you is very special.       Tight little circular nosegays were extremely popular in Victorian days. They were made in the language of flowers with each sprig having a specific meaning such as love, good luck or condolence.

There’s nothing funny about the health benefits of eating fungi

      A bowl of creamy mushroom soup is a great soother in winter’s cold. Mushrooms are good for your immune system as well as for flavor. They help to strengthen your body against colds, flu and more.

Begin your garden now

     In my first column, I challenged you to live a Blue Zone-type of life. One of the main attributes of Blue Zone living is to have a garden that can supply you with fresh vegetables free of pesticides. If you don’t already have a vegetable garden, now is the time to put some thought into it.       First, decide where you’re going to put it and what you want to grow.

Learn what you want now for spring planting

      Feeding our winter bird population is a pleasant chore. It’s a treat to observe birds close up in feeders. One of the nicest feeders I have enjoyed was a clear plexiglass one that stuck to the outside of my kitchen window. As I washed dishes, I could really observe winter birds closely, especially Christmas-card cardinals.