Spring

perfectly natural

I'm going to do a lot more gardening posts this year, along with just a few sewing and cooking ones, and hopefully an occasional poem.

But for an unofficial official start to the season, I just had to share this. Last Friday I planted some pepper seeds in little starter pods. They were in this plastic container, Pepperboxand today I noticed they were retaining too much moisture in it, so I moved them out.

Look what was left behind! Isn't it just the most? TinypepperbabyIn the first photo, it's along the back wall very slightly left of center.

Here is baby lettuce. Mesclun
I also have baby spring onions and some wee little chardlings. They got late starts, but they'll be just fine.


Seedlings and Friends

Some stuff I got going in the garden. Starting Sunday, the bell and hot peppers, eggplants, and remaining tomatoes in greenhouse can all stay outside full time. Some of the tomatoes are already living outside. All that remains then is to sow some cucumber seed, and hopefully a pumpkin or two. And of course there are cosmos and marigold seedlings out there, and I have some basil to plant with the tomatoes.

CabbageEarly Jersey Wakefield cabbages, two more in a different spot, and red and yellow onions.

CarrotsCarrots, not ready yet to be thinned. I think these are Danvers. I got free Purple Dragon seeds that I'll plant for autumn.

ChardlingsRainbow Swiss Chardlings. There are two more in with the sugar snap peas.

HotpeppersHot peppers from a seed mix. There are five here and six more already in pots.

Lettuce Buttercrunch, red and green leaf lettuce.

MustardTendergreen Mustard. It's said to taste like a mustard/spinach hybrid. I don't remember which kind I had last year.

PeasandleeksTwo varieties of peas, and leeks.

Saladrose Salad Rose radishes. They form a border between the onions and two varieties of snap bean seeds, which I just planted.

Squash One Black Beauty zucchini and two yellow crookneck squashes.

SugarsnapSugar Snap peas and a couple more chardlings.


Quiet anticipation

It's been spring for most of the month. We're expecting a cold spell tonight through Monday, then it all sets off again, colors and scents and tastes. I'd say I can't wait, but I can...because I don't really need to. I have seedlings to mist and plans to reshape and a battle with squirrels, rabbits and deer to prepare for.

Blueandyellow

Crabapple

Hyacinth

Brandywine

Limebasil

Ss100

Sanmarco

Plantroom

Cosmos


with March anticipation

For the more linear-minded readers: I'm talking about two different things here, intermingled. I'm a person who enjoys a certain amount of data, and working numbers, etc., but I also enjoy feeling the soil beneath my bare feet, and watching for signs of renewed life each spring. SedumDon't lose the forest for the trees. 

There are now roughly seven weeks until the frost-free date I go by, April 20. But let me back up. When I moved to New Jersey after six years in Michigan, I was excited to be in zone 7. Some people said I wasn’t, as the USDA Hardiness Zones hadn’t yet been updated, and if a chart says something, well, the chart must be right forever. Chart bedamned; it was easy to tell right off the bat how things would be. This meant for me mainly that rosemary would live through a winter outside. Now the newer zone guide from 2012 calls the areas I lived in 7(a,) because no matter how you wish to view the world, it's all warmer than it was when the old data was used. To be honest, I already grew everything in Mid-Michigan as though it was zone 6, not 5, and other gardeners there did the same. You don't need a chart to tell you everything is growing for nearly seven months instead of less than six, and that some of the plants aren't dying under the winter snow.* 

Now I’m back in zone 6. For refined delineations, just west of me, it’s 6b; the urban heat island of Cincinnati, similar to the areas I lived in NJ, except a little cooler in winter. Here a mile or two east, they call it 6a. This actually means little to me other than not expecting rosemary to last in the ground all winter, so I pot it and bring it in. It's very rarely below zero, but the cold we do get is sustained longer.* And most outdoor planting starts about two weeks later. My in-ground herbs perform the same each year, lasting much farther into the year than I’m told to expect, coming back earlier in the spring in the same manner, but I don’t plant tender annuals earlier because of that, for a couple reasons. Abovetable

First, the soil is rarely ready to be worked until at least the second week of April. April is so agonizing! I stick a thermometer in the ground and watch the soil slooowwwwlllyy rise to above 50 [10] degrees (today, the pots are at 42 [5.5] and the ground is 40 [4.5]) as it also slowly begins turning workable, for putting in carrots, chard, and green beans. This is significantly different from New Jersey, where the soil is very sandy, and warms much faster in spring, though it is not tillable much sooner. The heavier clay-infused soil here is slow to warm, and I grow so impatient waiting for it, I have taken to more and more container gardening each year. I can start a couple weeks earlier that way with some of the things I grow. But that method usually requires more water.

The other reason is that nights here definitely stay cooler for longer into spring, even when the days are very warm. Peppers, in particular, need warm nights in order to grow well. I have three sweet/bell pepper seedlings already going, and planted six from a hot pepper mix and two peperoncinis yesterday, so they might need time in the little plastic greenhouse before beginning life outside sometime in May.

So anyway. Soil temperature and arability, and night air temperatures are my true keys to starting out well in the garden. Based on previous years, I’ve marked my wall calendar with expected tasks I can get done through March and April, and am getting the greenhouse ready for interim housing.

But that’s all data-based stuff,* and what I’m really doing is watching for signs of renewed life outside. Lemon balm appears first, then parsley and mint. I’m hoping to have success with peas this year; never do seem to get many peas, but when the parsley rises, the planting of peas and onions will inaugurate my season of outside pleasures. Newseedlings

PS: Easter dinner in many places has traditionally featured lamb with peas and pearl onions, and mint sauce. Early potatoes with new parsley, perhaps. The tradition is because that’s the fresh stuff available right at the beginning of spring. It’s neat to think about, though I’ve tended to live in areas where an autumn-cured ham was the end of winter holiday tradition instead, on the table with the new stuff just appearing. Isn’t nature awesome? Primrose

Another PS: Sometimes I dream of living in zone 8. I’d breathe better in winter. But I’d have to give up the Cincy Symphony, Jungle Jim’s, and the awesome Mt. Washington St. Vincent de Paul for it. Would I be willing to? …well, yeah. Near water; I like the nature of people who are friends with the sea. But that's drifting back in time to another topic altogether.

*For people who want more details on USDA chart drawbacks: Snow insulates the ground and also helps soil renewal, so some very cold places actually have warmer and richer soil than you might imagine, and stuff grows marvelously there in summer. In some places, the temperature range is so extreme, what grows well can't be predicted by how things go in January. To name two drawbacks to a chart based on low annual temperatures. Planttable

Lemonbalm


The second half of winter is sooo long

Seeds I started a few days ago are coming up nicely. Actually, one of the SS 100s (cherry tomatoes) took off like a rocket overnight, and already needs to be directly under a plant bulb. I wrote to a Master Gardener at the OSU extension office to ask a couple questions about this.

I have seeds arriving shortly from Jung, as well, and I plan to buy only one plant this year from a garden center; a Mr. Stripey or one of the pink Germans. Neither of these produce a whole lot of fruit, but I love them so.  

MixedflowersThis is a pile of mixed annual flowers. It was kind of an experiment. Soon I'll decide what to do with them next.

Eggcartons

Leggyss100

Purplebasil


Bean Popping Day! (the first)

Okay, sort of the second, but really the first.

I love bean popping day! Did you ever plant beans? They do literally, in the literal sense of that word, pop out of the ground after only a few days, and a whole bunch of them do it at once. Like, I had four or five this morning, then eighteen at 3:30, and 26 at 4:30. I planted 48, three different varieties, which is silly, but there we are.

These pictures, I gotta figure a thing out. They have netting over them because of birds, and the phone wanted to focus on that instead of the bean. Anyway.

Woundedbutnotdead

Purpleduo

Purpleup

Waxopening

Waxrevealed

Waxunfurled

Purpleopen