Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Spring? Hello...anybody home?


This spring weather, if you can call it that, is driving me a little crazy.  We are looking at low, single digit highs around here which, for my friends in the US, translates to temps in the 30's & 40's.  I've managed to get in a couple of hours when the mercury crept into the upper end of that range but my time outside was cut short by bouts of rain.

1st task of the season is removing the protective layer of straw from the beds

In addition to clearing the straw off some of the beds, I also started to tackle the overgrown bed I spoke about last time.  I found a couple of larger buckthorn trees at the back of the bed that need a chainsaw to cut down - which is work for warmer weather - and, to my despair, they were both female trees with a TON of dreaded black berries.

Buckthorn Berries

Yikes.  When I volunteered to help with buckthorn removal in an old growth forest just north of us, one of the things they said is that, much like not letting weeds go to flower, you should concentrate on removing the female trees first to prevent the spread of those berries.  Unfortunately, I hadn't even thought to check otherwise I would have made the time and removed them long ago.

As is often the case when spring is delayed and outdoor tasks have to wait, my gardening itch is scratched by what is happening inside.  The top shelf of the grow stand is packed, the onions are on the 2nd shelf and the third shelf has just been called to service. Even though the onions don't take up the entire shelf, they are on a 12 hour light schedule so they get one level to themselves.  It all works out as by the time I need the extra space (in a couple of weeks), they will be on their way outside.

Under the grow lights

Coleus ('Palisandra')

Lemon Basil beside chitting potatoes

Browallia ('Marine Bells')

While most things are doing well, there have been a few disappointments.

I've had a germination issue with the Chocolate Mint coleus - not one came up & I don't have any seed left (it's one of those varieties where you only get 10 or so seeds in a packet & I used up half of them last year).  Fortunately, I have a couple of Chocolate Mint plants from last season that I potted up and was able to - rather miraculously - overwinter in our family room window.

Last year's Chocolate Mint coleus will find it's way back to the garden this year.

It's rather exciting that I was able to get them through the winter.  I'll be taking some cuttings this week and hopefully transform the two into many.

The rock-hard seed coats of Love-in-a-Puff are also giving me a "hard" time 😉 with only one germinating - I'm trying to pre-germinate a few more that I've both scarified & soaked so we'll see how that goes.

When it comes to the edibles, everything is coming along fairly well, although there have been a couple of casualties in the pepper tray.  The peppers, as a whole, are doing fine with the exception of one variety - Carmen.  All four seedlings struggled and, in fact, two completely succumbed.

Notice the difference between Carmen
(on the right, 2nd from the bottom) & all the other varieties?

I have 32 pots of peppers under the lights and since Carmen is the only one with issues, it's safe to say that the culprit is the seed.  In a way, I'm not overly surprised as I haven't had the best experience with a few other items received from that particular seed house (which shall remain nameless), including receiving the wrong seeds ('Orange Blaze' peppers instead of 'Orange Blossom' tomatoes) and a completely dead haskap "shrub", which was more like a twig.

Carmen Seedlings a few weeks ago - the two on the left are the ones that have held on.
I've since put the two on the right out of their misery.

I'm holding onto the remaining two seedlings, even though they are runts, as Carmen is such a great producer but I'm not holding my breath.  Luckily, I have a few extra seedlings among the other varieties, just in case they don't make it.

Outside we had another casualty.  Something (I'm thinking long ears and twitchy nose), has once again chewed through a few of the drip lines.

This bed suffered the most damage with 3 of the 4 lines damaged
including one that was hacked into several pieces

Last year, a few of the lines in Area #2 were chewed up; this time round, all the damage was on the hilltop.  Looking on the bright side, the damage was limited to 5 lines (or maybe 6 - can't recall off the top of my head right now) out of the 24 that were exposed in that area.  Also, only one line was chewed in multiple spots, the remaining lines were only chewed at the end, so those can be trimmed and re-attached with a connector.

The ones that are only nipped off at the edge are an easy repair

Still, I'm annoyed and will have to figure out what I can do to prevent this type of damage in the future.

Now if only the weather would turn - the warmest day in the coming week will only hit 5C/41F.  The long range forecast indicates that we will be getting more seasonal temperatures by next Friday.  But we all know how accurate these long range forecasts are....not.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

22 comments:

  1. The temperatures here are set to rise this week, though we're also forecast dull days and rain, still, it's better than snow which some areas close by had this weekend. It's a good job you've got those grow lights which can be pressed into action at this time of year otherwise you'd be having quite a late start with your low temperatures. I know those pesky bunnies can do such a lot of damage to crops but I never thought about them chewing through drip lines, that's so annoying. I'm not sure what you could do to prevent that.

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    1. This weather is most definitely depressing, even if you don't garden. When the sun comes out, it's amazing how our mood is transformed! I am most definitely thankful for the grow lights - even if I did have a spot inside with a lot of windows for seeds, sunny days have been few and far between this year.

      As for the rabbits, luckily they only seem to damage the lines during the winter (I'm guessing there are much tastier options in the summer!). Covering the lines with chickenwire at the end of the season is one option that I'm considering.

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  2. We are having similar weather problems and the ground is so wet that I don’t know how long it will take to be plantable. You seem to have plenty starting to grow. We just have a couple of grow lights which will soon need firing up for action,

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    1. Seems as if spring is dull, rainy and cold this year, regardless of which side of the Atlantic you are on. I really don't have a good spot to grow seedlings (no greenhouse either!), esp. in the quantity that I need, so the lights are more a necessity than a luxury.

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  3. I feel guilty telling you that it was 78 degrees here yesterday (while it snowed in NY). The weather has been crazy around North America. I struggle starting seeds. I think the space in my basement isn't warm enough. I have a space heater, lights and heat mat but still not much success. I'm better direct sowing but then of course it's much longer before I can harvest. I hope your weather turns around soon so that you can get outside GARDENING!

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    1. Oh, you should feel guilty Karin!! ;) I would definitely do more direct sowing if our season was longer, especially as hardening off is not one of my favourite tasks. I have my fingers crossed that spring will arrive sooner rather than later although that dang long range forecast now shows rain for 4 days in a row once the weather turns - we can't seem to catch a break this year!

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  4. I would be going absolutely bonkers if I couldn't get outside and garden by now. My heat mats are on and getting lots of use for germinating new plants, but with my mild climate I've found that as soon as I see green the babies can go outside during the day so I retired my light setup a few years ago. It means schlepping plants in and out and in and out... And I have the heat mats just sitting on the floor so the cats demand that enough space is left open for them for lounging. The cats are old so I make the plants share the space.

    The weather seems to be weird everywhere this year. There's yet one more atmospheric river taking aim at us later this week with a potential for record breaking rainfall (for April). That should nudge the rainfall totals closers to the annual average so I'm not complaining, oh maybe just a little, I want to garden.

    I wonder if your Carmen seeds were infected with something?

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    1. I'm thinking the same thing about the Carmen seeds - I'll have to look back but I think that I also had issues last year with this variety when seeding. Well, this is the last of the seed and I'm definitely NOT getting it from the same source (nor am I getting anything else from them!).

      We had a rain warning last night - considering that the ground is wet enough around here, that is definitely not what we need - which is some dry weather and warmer temps please!

      I would love to be able to simply place my seedlings outside once they pop up. I don't mind the schlepping, it's the whole timing issue (i.e. 1 hour the first day, 2 hours the next, etc.) that drives me crazy when hardening off plants.

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  5. Your weather sounds very similar to ours. I've never been this frustrated in April before (that I can remember, anyway). It's so cold and drippy that I don't even want to walk or hike outside. Anyway, eventually it will pass. You'll be ready for the outdoor gardening when it's time, because of all your amazing seed-starting! I'm impressed with your overwintering Coleus--I've never tried to keep them over the winter. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. If I can overwinter coleus, anybody can!! I really loved the Chocolate Mint variety from last year and knew that I only had a few seeds left in the packet, so thought, why not? Looks like it payed off more than I expected as I would be without otherwise.

      Yes, this weather is just - as you very aptly put it the other day - blech! :)

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  6. I am sorry that naughty rabbit has ruined your soaker hose. I am impatiently waiting for garden weather also but you sure have a lot of seeds started! Good for you! Nancy

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    1. Thanks Nancy :) I always try to remember to look on the bright side - Mr. Ears could have done a lot more damage, so I'm thankful for that!

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  7. This weather is driving me crazy also. And as for rabbits - you know my opinion on that topic!

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    1. The wind chill tonight is going to be -12C/10F! I'm thinking Mother Nature mixed up February and April (remember that bizarre warm spell?)!

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  8. That's too bad about the Carmen seed, it's one of my favorites also. And I'm impressed with your overwintered coleus, I always kill mine when I try to keep them going. I'm not familiar with the buckthorn tree but after a bit of research it seems to be a big pest! It's banned here in a lot of areas.

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    1. I'm surprised that I've been able to keep the coleus going - I did let it dry out a *bit* too much a few times but it was a trooper and recovered once I remembered to water it :)

      Yes, buckthorn is hugely detrimental and getting rid of it is difficult as it grows like a literal weed and suckers like crazy. You literally can't kill it no matter how many times you cut it to the ground so it's down to either chemicals or starving it of sunlight, the latter being the route we are trying.

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  9. You do a great job starting your flowers along with the vegetable plants. I've started Echinacea this year and they keep dying as new ones germinate.

    Ugh buckthorns, they make so many babies. We had to cut down many of them at our old place. We ended up having to hire a stump grinder to stop them from coming back.

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    1. Most of our buckthorns are relatively skinny - usually 2-3" - so we are going with covering the stumps with black plastic, which worked really well on a very persistent willow. And good luck with the Echinacea!

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  10. If the weather is warmer here in SW Indiana, it's not by much. Yesterday we got a dusting of snow and this morning it was 22F. Your seedlings are looking great. I'm guessing you keep the onions on a 12 hour light cycle so they don't get fooled into thinking the long days of summer are here? I try to get mine into the cold frame ASAP for that reason. Buckthorn must be the same kind of problem that invasive multiflora rose is around here, but at least the birds like the rose hips. Doesn't sound like buckthorn has any redeeming qualities.

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    1. Yup - I keep the onions on their own shelf with a 12 hour schedule. Normally their monopolizing a shelf wouldn't be a big deal as they are one of the first to go outside, but this year it may be an issue. Placing them in a cold frame is a great idea - haven't gotten around to building one yet, so I have a feeling that I'll be doing a lot of in and out once I absolutely need that shelf. You're right - buckthorn has no redeeming qualities that I'm aware of. One of these day's I'd like to do a bit of research, just to see it's origin, history, and whether it ended up here intentionally or the seed hitched a ride in some soil.

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  11. My niece in Boston MA has several times hunkered down for predicted bad weather and then found herself on the beach in sunshine - the weather is very frivolous this year! But, as an optimist, you know bad weather won't last, as jaw clenchingly frustrating as it is as the moment. I hope things have improved a bit by now - including the bunny situation. Chicken wire sounds like a good solution.

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    1. It is raining right now & the next few days are not looking promising when it comes to temperatures BUT this afternoon, it's supposed to be partly sunny and 15C! I'm already in my gardening clothes with a very long to-do list in hand :)

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