Monday, May 3, 2010

Calm After the Storm

Five days ago:  Snowstorm.  Yesterday, 80+ degrees.  My bones say that winter is over.  So.... 

Potatoes in today.

Onion bulbs in today. 

Basil sprouting in the greenhouse.

Phlox and PJM rhody starting to bloom.

Tomatoes VERY happy in the greenhouse.  

And it looks like I'll be picking an asparagus in the next day or two. 

Really, now.  Why does this all make me feel so content? 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Melt Down

We ended up with around 15-18 inches of wet, heavy snow.  Lots of big, broken white pine branches on the lawn.  A big, uprooted white pine itself across the driveway.  Bent birches.  And a power outage for about 15 hours. 

Today, sun is shining.  Thermometer reads 47.  Snow is melting fast.  Thankfully, the temps throughout the storm never dipped below 30 degrees, so the fruit trees shouldn't suffer any damage. 

I can't seem to think of any upside to it all.  More water for Lake Champlain, maybe?  Mother Nature reminding us that it's not yet time to plant?  Pruning for the white pines?  Time to stay inside and do laundry? 

By Saturday, in the high 70s, it surely will all be forgotten.  Bring on the pansies. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Day the Birds Were Quiet

I didn't hear many songbirds chirping this morning when I walked out to get the paper.  Why?  It was snowing big wet, heavy flakes.  Yesterday, we admired the new lambs and piglets while hiking in 67-degree weather at Shelburne Farms.  Today, we're homebound with at least six inches piled up outside.  

Worried about what this means for the apple blossoms, of course.  Just knocked a bunch of snow off the peonies. 

I'm not really surprised by the snow, but I am surprised by the amount.  It will be gone by the weekend--60s forecasted for Friday and possible 80s on Saturday.  But still...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ferns Unfurling and Other Spring Surprises

I took the photo above a few weeks ago--proof that heat mats make a big difference in Zone 4 seed starting. Last year, I struggled with a cold greenhouse and lack of family support for my seedlings; this year, with seed mats and no travels, I've never had such seedling luck: 34 thriving tomatoes, 8 hollyhocks, and 2 hot peppers. Yesterday, I added peas and basil to the program. 

We've had a tricky spring.  During Easter, temps rose into the 80s, which caused many plants to sprout prematurely.  We've also already had a fair share of days in the 60s, so our apple farmers are on pins and needles, as they're planning for trees to bloom 2-3 weeks earlier than normal.  And snow in May is not out of the question...

Of apples, I've sprayed my old tree with hort oil before the bloom.  I've also rescued five trees from a friend's yard, where they were living in bog-like conditions.  I think three of the trees will make it; one lost most of it's roots during the replant, and one seems like it's dead already.  Nevertheless, they're now in a drier place with a little fertilizer and compost, so we'll see if they can pull through. 

I mowed the backyard on April 24th.  Early?  I think so.  It smelled nice, though.  

I surprisingly saved two rose bushes through the winter.  I usually grow roses as annuals in a couple pots flanking my garage.  This year, I took the plants out of the pots and put them in the vegetable garden for the winter.  Lo and behold, they're sprouting. 

I noticed purple asparagus peeking through for the first time yesterday. 

The garlic is already about 8 inches high. 



Peonies and bleeding heart growing tall. 

A vegetable garden full of weeds.

And during a hike yesterday along a river, trout lilies, purple trilium, and ferns unfurling. 

This is what grows on April 26th, 2010, in my Zone 4.  

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yesterday, March 28, I moved the tomato and hollyhock seedlings to the greenhouse. On sunny days, it's warmer in there than in my house. On dreary days, not so much. But they'll sit on heating mats under florescent lights until the time comes for planting.

No action from peppers and other flowers. Once again, I suspect old seeds may be the problem.

I also planted lettuce in my hydroponic growing system. Pics to come if/when something grows.

Weather report: Steady rain, 49 degrees.

Sprout report: Garlic and peonies are pushing through. Lots of buds on the peach tree.

Sap report: We visited a sugarmaker over the weekend who said he expects to make about 2/3 the syrup he made last year.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Seed Soaking

The seed soaking process is a keeper. Seven hollyhocks and 23 tomatoes seeds have responded beautifully to soaking and planting. The hollyhocks took about four days to sprout; the tomatoes, six or so. I started the seeds indoors on March 7, and I'll be moving the sprouts to heated mats in the greenhouse in the next couple of days.

No luck (yet) with peppers, columbine, morning glory, and coleus. I usually don't have much luck with these seeds though, so no surprises here.

Another benefit of seed soaking: Many of my seeds packets I've had around the house for who knows how long. During the soak, about three cups of seeds turned to mush--a solid clue that the seeds were old...

Our March has been a mild one. Maple sap has been running strong for a couple weeks now. Day temps are inching up into the upper 40s and 50s. (Will wore shorts to school today.) Night temps aren't quite cold enough to make the syrup farmers ecstatic, but I think they're still having a stellar season.

Husband let the hens out of their coop yesterday for the first time in 2010. They seemed pretty happy pecking around the yard, and even found their favorite dirt hole--dry--near the woods in which to take a bath. I think three chicks are in the plan this spring.

Finally, this morning, I tossed two greenhouse mags in the recycle bin, reminding myself that I just don't need any new plants. Except for maybe a cherry tree, a weeping something or 'nother, or a Japanese maple (if I can find one for Zone 4).

Happy spring! Still waiting to see a robin!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring Planning

Seed catalogs are piling up on my desk, waiting to be circled and tagged. The greenhouse is covered in a layer of snow this morning, waiting for a few hours of sunlight. And I'm buried in scarves for Special Olympians, the big spring school fundraiser, another day off school for the kids, and any number of other things that distract me from spring planning.

Next weekend. That's when it will start to happen. March 6 is tax-free day in Vermont, so I'm planning to order apple trees from a local nursery during their pre-season sale. I'm also determined to see if I can grow those apples without pesticides. A tall order, from what I understand about apple growing.

While I'm at the nursery, I will pick up a bag of growing medium in which to start my seeds. Last year, I had good luck sprouting tomatoes, but no luck with flowers or peppers. This year, I'm going to add a new step to the process: soaking the seeds. In a "Starting From Seed" special edition magazine by the publisher of Fine Gardening, an article claims that a "good overnight soaking is all many seeds need to begin growing." I've never done this, but it makes complete sense; gives the seeds a little embryonic push. No longer than 24 hours, though, or the seeds may rot, advises the author.

So from a snowy place, where 30-degree days and the trusty calendar are promising the spring that will come, I diligently begin another Zone 4 season...