And The Season Begins . . .

 

St. Patty’s Day Passed; No Matter

Uh oh! St. Patrick’s Day was way passed and I hadn’t planted my peas. No matter. St. Patty’s Day is the right time to plant peas in Virginia, southern Missouri, and other similar climates, including, probably, Ireland.

Around here, in New York’s Hudson Valley, where the average date of the last killing frost is sometime in the latter half of May, April 1st is more like it. That’s the date that I shoot for, at least. Some springs, like the spring of 2017, earlier plantings would have done better. But you never know what bodes for the weather, so playing the averages is the best bet.

The problem with planting pea seeds too early is that the seeds will just sit and perhaps rot in cold soil. The problem with planting peas too late is that temperatures are too hot when the plants are supposed to be …

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Spring Inspires

Even Bob Got the Bug

As I write, daily high temperatures are in the 30s and snow is predicted. Nonetheless, just a few warm, sunny days and almost everyone is going to be inspired to garden. Or at least do something plantwise. Even my friend Bob.

Bob’s non-interest in gardening was demonstrated decades ago as I was starting my first very own garden at a house I was renting. Bob was there as I pushed my shovel into the clay soil of the lawn to turn over spadeful after spadeful. Bob watched peacefully lying beyond the proposed plot with his head propped up on his hands. (Not so another friend, Hans, who grabbed another shovel, and dug. Now that I think of it, perhaps I owned only two shovels.)

A crown of thorns (not Bob’s)

Bob’s current interest centers around one plant, a potted crown of thorns plant (Euphorbia milii). Crown of thorns …

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Peppers & Potting Soil

Concerned

You’d think that there’d be no reason for me to be concerned. After all, year after year I raise my own seedlings for the garden. Nonetheless, every day I take a look at the small tray of soil in which I had sowed eggplant and pepper seeds, waiting for little green sprouts to poke through the brown surface of the potting mix.

These plants are on a schedule. They get a start indoors — in a greenhouse now; under lights or in sunny windows in years past — so that they have enough time to start ripening their fruits by midsummer.

Italian Sweet peppers

Even an early-ripening pepper wouldn’t ripen its first fruits before October if seeds were sown directly in the garden once the soil had warmed enough for germination, which isn’t until the end of May around here.

Ingredients for Good Transplants

Not that raising transplants for the garden is difficult. All …

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Warm, Spring Weather is Coming

Poppies in Snow

Snow today (March 7) — a perfect time to plant seeds outdoors. Yes, really!
Obviously, not just any seed can be sown in snow. The ground is still frozen solid so I can’t easily cover seeds with soil. And cold temperatures are going to rot most seeds before the weather warms enough for them to germinate and grow.

I’m planting poppy seeds. It does seem harsh to sow a flower whose seeds are hardly finer than dust and whose petals are as delicate as fairy shawls. But early sowing is a must, because poppy seedlings thrive during the cool, moist weather of early spring. Covering the seeds with soil? No problem: Poppy seeds sprout best left uncovered. And because poppies don’t transplant well, their seeds are best sown right where the flowers are going to grow.

I’ll be sowing annual poppies, whose petals and leaves are more delicate than those …

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New Book by Lee!

A Book Is Born

            Finally, after all the hard work, I have in hand the first copies of my new book The Ever Curious Gardener: Using a Little Natural Science for a Much Better Garden. This book grew out of my long love affair with gardening—such a congenial confluence of colors, flavors, and aromas all seasoned with the weather, whatever pests happen to stop by that year—and the science behind it all!

            And the science behind it all is what this book is about. No, it’s not a comprehensive overview of botany and related sciences. It is some of the natural science that can be applied in the garden. Science may seem out of place in so bucolic an activity as gardening. After millions of years of evolution, seeds want to sprout, and plants want to grow, even in such diverse soils and climates as the Arctic tundra, the Arizona …

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This Bud’s for You

 

Swelling Buds

What an exciting time of year! After a spate of 50 plus degree temperatures, lawn grass — bare now although it could be buried a foot deep in snow by the time you read this — has turned a slightly more vibrant shade of green. Like a developing photographic film (remember film?), the balsam fir, arborvitae, and hemlock trees I’m looking at outside my window, have also greened up a bit more.

Going outside to peer more closely at trees and shrubs reveals the slightest swelling of their buds. Earlier in winter, no amount of warmth could have caused this. As a cold weather survival mechanism, hardy trees and shrubs are “smart” enough to know to stay dormant until warm weather signals that it’s safe for tender young sprouts and flowers to emerge.

These plants stay asleep until they’ve experienced a certain number of hours of cool temperatures, the amount varying …

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Here Kitty, Kitty

 

To a Cat’s Delight

How does your cat like your houseplants? I don’t mean how they look. I mean for nibbling, a bad habit of some cats. Bad for them and bad for you because eating certain houseplants could sicken a cat, or worse, and, at the very least, leave the houseplant ragged.

One way to woo a feline away from houseplants would be to provide a better alternative. Now what could that be? Duh! Catnip, Nepeta cataria, a member of the mint family, admittedly not the prettiest of houseplants but, hey, you’re growing this for your cat, not yourself. (Other Nepeta species, such as N. x faasssennii and N. racemes, are less enticing to cats even if they are more attractive to us.)

Catnip is very easy to grow outdoors, and can be grown indoors through winter. The main ingredient that could be lacking in winter is light; six or more hours …

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Happy Birthday Ficus

 

Another Year, Another Pruning and Re-potting

I’d like to say it was the birthday of my baby ficus except I don’t know when it was actually born. And since it was propagated by a cutting, not by me, and not from a seed, I’m not sure what “born” would actually mean. No matter, I’m having its biannual celebration marking its age and its growth.

Just for reference, baby ficus is a weeping fig tree (Ficus benjamina), a tree that with age and tropical growing conditions rapidly soars to similar majestic proportions as our sugar maples. That is, if unrestrained in its development.

Baby ficus (FIGH-kus) began life here as one of three small plants rooted together in a 3 inch pot and purchased from a discount store. (Weeping figs are common houseplants because of their beauty and ability to tolerate dry air and low light indoors.) Eight years later, it’s about 4 inches …

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