Monthly Archives: April 2011

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This time of year, more than ever, each of my plants gets its carefully allotted space. That’s because seedlings that will eventually be planted out in the garden have begun to overflow the greenhouse, which must also house grown-up lettuce, kale, celery, and other plants for eating right now. To economize best on space, I sow seeds in furrows in 4 by 6 inch seedling flats and prick out tiny seedlings a week or so after they sprout into individual cells in cell packs filled with potting soil. As temperatures warm and seedlings grow, seedlings in cell packs move outside and get acclimated to brighter sunshine, wind, and cooler

temperatures.

Who gets moved, and when, depends on the plant and the weather. Broccoli, kale, cabbage, and collard seedlings are cold-hardy and almost big enough to transplant. So they’ve been sitting on the table outside the greenhouse since earlier this month. …

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Winter cold is all too evident, right now. Or maybe it’s just that spring is later than usual. Here it is, the first week in April, and cornelian cherries (Cornus mas) have yet to bloom. Yet one reason I grow this tree is because its blossoms are among the first to awaken in spring. The stems are typically drenched in a profusion of small, yellow flowers in early spring, just after the middle of March, and blossoming goes on and on for weeks.

Everyone else is blossoming on time. Witchhazel has been in bloom for a few weeks, hellebores have opened, and buds seem ready and on time on forsythia, lilacs, and clove currants.

Cornelian cherry blossoms might have been killed by winter cold, although they’ve survived colder winters in the past. Teasing open one of the fat flower buds …

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Finally, after a couple of weeks of restraining myself, I’m sowing tomato seeds. Every bit of warm weather and bright sunshine made it harder to hold back, but the time has come.

The problem – if it could be called a problem – is that tomatoes grow pretty much like weeds. The seeds germinate quickly and the seedlings grow fast. So what typically happens is that seeds are sown too soon and the seedlings get too big for their pots before transplanting time. Too big, that is, unless you keep repotting them. Repotting becomes a space issue when you grow 50 or more tomato plants, as I do.

I grow my plants in my greenhouse but for anyone who raises tomato seedlings on a windowsill, plants seeded too early tend to get too leggy. It’s hard to grow nice, stocky seedlings in the limited light of even a sunny …

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Night temperatures are still usually dropping well below freezing, as they will for the next few weeks. No matter, because where I am, it’s like summer. Puer-r-r-r-to Rico! Here day temperatures hover in the low 80s, night temperatures in the 70s. Gentle breezes rustle the leaves of palm trees and make these temperatures even more comfortable.

It’s the dry season, especially here in the southeastern portion of the the island, with daily chances of thundershowers meaning nothing more than brief cloudbursts after which beaches, roads, plants – everything – dries quickly. Still, grasses in pastures have that bluish, dry look. Majestic mango trees weighed down with unripe fruit await wet weather in coming months to burst into flowers in preparation for another load of fruit.
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This winter’s low of minus 20° F. killed off the tops of my bamboo so …

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