Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter in the Garden



It was a very pleasant Sunday, breezy but temperatures in the mid-50F range. We visited Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Boylston. There was not much to see outside in the gardens, just some snow drops and crocus. Their gardens look pretty much like my own, weary of this winter but showing signs of the new growth that will soon turn everything from this drab grey-brown to green.




This morning I made a quick trip to see the garden. I was hoping to find the beds free of snow and indeed they were. A thermometer stuck in the pea bed showed a temperature of 48F and the soil was completely defrosted all the way to the bottom of the bed. So pea planting looks like a possibility next weekend, about three weeks later than planned.




I brushed some of the mulch off the garlic bed so it can warm up faster. Green sprouts can be seen everywhere in the bed and they look pretty healthy. Unfortunately, it appears most of the shallots either heaved or rotted. I am not sure if any will actually survive and grow. This was a fairly costly experiment, but it does free up the space for something else.




My brassicas and lettuces are doing great under the grow light and should be ready to go in the garden in a few weeks. The boisterous seedlings at the bottom are the Win-Win Choi. After seven days, I have a few tomato seeds finally deciding to sprout. Peppers and eggplant are still idling away on the heat mat, taking their good old time. Meanwhile, the onion pots are spending time outside in the sun on days with daytime temperatures in the fifties.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring Will Prevail

Well, I tried being all perky and optimistic, which is not my real personality, I assure you. Unfortunately, my performance was unconvincing to the gods and did not bring Spring any earlier. The garden is still covered with snow and the ground is too cold and wet to plant peas. But there is hope. This last storm went south of us and all we saw were a few flurries this morning. The sun continues to increase in strength and starting Friday, we are supposed to have at least a week of 50F temperatures. That should dispatch most of the snow, except the enormous plow bank at the end of my driveway.



My Meyer lemon is greatly enjoying the rays of the stronger sun reflected off the snow I didn’t bother to shovel off the deck. It is now approaching full bloom and looks happy, despite the loss of a few leaves this winter.



My lettuces and brassicas have sprouted and are doing fine under the grow light. The L-shaped set of barren blocks on the right were seeded with cilantro, but I finally realized that cilantro does poorly as starts and needs to be direct sown. So those cubes have been re-purposed and now have seeds for Orange Fantasia and Pink Flamingo chards, which may take a while to germinate.


I chose not to change the planting schedule for tomatoes and peppers,  so I have tomato and pepper seeds started in 3/4” cubes on the heat mat. When they germinate and develop their first set of true leaves, I will up-pot them to 2 inch soil cubes. I think once we get past this cycle of storms, spring will come quickly and we will be planting tomatoes by Memorial Day as usual.

Monday, March 18, 2013

AT Least It’s Spring Inside



Nothing is being harvested from the garden these days. At least the snow has melted off all but one of the raised beds. The beds covered with straw have the garlic and shallots, which are starting to poke up. The bed with the blocks next to it is the designated bed for the peas and fava beans. I poked an instant reading thermometer through the crust and it was 40F/5C degrees. A couple of inches down it was still frozen. I need it to be 50F for the peas, so I may have to adjust the planting schedule and push off planting the peas for at least another week. I did not stay here long, it was 29F/-2C with a stiff breeze blowing.



Back home there is some green under the grow lamp. The onions are doing nicely in their pots and have had their tops trimmed. I guess I could consider that a harvest. Today was seed starting day for the lettuce, brassicas and the Ping Tung eggplant. I have a set of soil block makers now so I got to play with them for the first time.


I used Johnny’s 512 mix. The trick was to get it properly moist. Too little and the blocks fall apart. Too much and they slide apart or stick in the block maker. I used the 1.5” maker and once I got the hang of it, I made 11 rows of 5, which pretty much filled up the tray.




After seeding the blocks, I used fine vermiculite to cover the seeds and misted the tops. I have a map of the blocks and also marked a legend along the tray with masking tape and a permanent marker. The blocks are now covered with a dome and sitting on the heat mat. Nothing like the smell of warm rubber from the mat to say Spring is on its way.




To see what’s going in with other gardens, head over to Daphne's Dandelions, our hostess for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Milk And Honey Mousse Cake



My daughter, Kate, had her 23rd birthday last Tuesday. We went to Ixtapa Cantina in Lunenburg to celebrate. The food was excellent, the Margaritas tasty, but desserts were the usual Mexican  restaurant fare: flan, fried ice cream, and sopapillas. No problem, because we had a birthday cake waiting at home.

Kate wanted something different for a cake and she is a tough critic. On my way home from an appointment in Concord, I drove past Idylwilde Farms, a farm stand in Acton, Massachusetts. They had a Milk and Honey Mousse Cake which was so darn cute I had to get it. The cake was made from vanilla cake layers with a chocolate mousse filling made with rum and honey. The cake was covered with a chocolate ganache frosting and decorated with honey bees. The wings were made from slivered almonds. Everyone loved the cake and it made a sweet ending to a pleasant evening.

Friday, March 8, 2013

OK, OK, it’s not quite spring



All the signs seemed promising so I declared Spring! last week. Now winter storm Saturn is slamming southern New England. Here in central Massachusetts, the 4-8 inch forecast is now 10-14 inches. We closed the tax office today so I did not have to commute to work. My updated planting schedule has me planting peas and fava beans in the soil on March 24, just 16 days from now. Right now, I would need a snow cat to get to my garden in the Bolton community gardens. But a week or two of 50 degree weather will do wonders and it is supposed to be that on Saturday. So I have not given up on spring yet.



My onion seedlings under the grow lamp above are definitely a sign of spring. I finally got my Red wing seed from Pinetree (actually, they substituted Red Bull) and it has sprouted (pot on the left). The Rossa Lunga di Tropea (center) and Copra are doing great and almost need a haircut. Next weekend I am scheduled to start my brassicas and eggplant on the heat mat. I will be using my newly acquired soil blockers for the first time, so it should be interesting. I will be able to get my hands in “real soil” (Johnny’s 512) for the first time this season. Spring is definitely here and I will not allow my spirits to be dampened by 2 feet of frozen mashed potatoes.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Declare It’s Spring!



I am looking out the window and I can see patches of bare ground (ignore those occasional snow flakes  you see falling, they are winter’s last attempt to intimidate us). My Meyer Lemon has decided to blossom.  Just one blossom, but it is a start! My onion seeds have sprouted and are under the grow light. I actually saw the sun several times last week. Daylight Savings Time is next weekend.  In just a few weeks I will be starting broccoli, pepper and tomato seeds. Sure sounds like spring to me, so I declare winter is over. Thank goodness, it was not the worst winter we have seen but certainly was not a convivial, Santa Claus type of winter. Good riddance and welcome spring.


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