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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Crocuses Bless the Garden in Late Winter

When Carol returned home on Friday and looked out the back door at the garden, she gasped audibly.  Were those crocuses blooming already on February 5th?

She flung open the door and rushed across the patio to the lawn.  Yes, those were crocuses blooming.

In the fading light of the day, she took pictures of the buds and marveled at how early the blooms were.

The next day, Carol's first thoughts upon waking were of the crocuses in the lawn. She hoped for a sunny day and within hours, her hopes were realized. The sun was shining.

Soon enough, the crocuses began to open.

In Carol's mind, they were opened one by one by tiny garden fairies running from one bloom to the next.  They tickled each bloom open and then stood back to admire their work.

The first show of spring was well underway.

Carol waiting patiently before going out to see the blooms. She didn't want to interrupt the garden fairies in their work of opening each flower.

By mid-afternoon, Carol could wait no more.  She opened the back door, making a bit of extra noise  to alert the garden fairies of her presence, and made her way to the lawn.

So many crocus blooms.

She walked along and began to count the blooms.  1, 2, 3.... 76, 77, 78... 210, 211, 212... all the way to 382.

382 open crocus blooms on February 6th.

Carol was delighted, but in her delight she began to sense how quickly spring can arrive. Was she ready? She hadn't ordered her seeds yet. She should do that now. Was this the entire crocus show? Carol knew there were thousands of other crocuses in the lawn, and reminded herself this was not the end of the show, it was the beginning.

She wondered, "If there are 382 crocus blooms now, how many blooms will pass through this garden before the end of the season?"

The answer, she decided, was more than she'd ever be able to count. And she knew then how blessed she was to be a gardener, how blessed she was to still feel the excitement each spring when the first of the crocuses bloom.

Then she went back inside and began to dream of May.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

February, the longest month of winter for gardeners

Snowdrop blooms in the sun
I think gardeners might have a bit of a warped sense of time.

We think that February is the longest month of the year.  It is four weeks, plus an extra day this year, of nearly interminable waiting for March.

Now, I do know that for some gardeners, the beginning of March is really their beginning of spring.  For me, though, it is really March 17th.

March 17th is when, with great ceremony, I march (pun alert!) out to the vegetable garden and sow a row of peas.

The ceremony part involves me sticking a soil thermometer in the ground to verify that the soil temperature is over 40F and then standing there with my hands on my hips, surveying the blank canvas of the vegetable garden.

I look from one raised bed to the next and remember how the garden was laid out last season, then figure out where the tomatoes are going to go. After I've done that, I pick another bed, and sow seeds for peas.

But that's still many weeks from now. Winter weeks. Long weeks. Waiting weeks. February weeks. The longest month of winter.

But once we are through February... hang on. Spring goes quick!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Why I'm a No Show for the Kale, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Broccoli Club

Kale is a popular vegetable these days. Everywhere you go, people are clucking about how good it is for you. I see it in salads in restaurants and who doesn't like a little kale mixed in with their smoothies?

Cabbage and broccoli? Close cousins of kale, they are quite good for you, too. Oh and don't forget one of the best of the family, cauliflower. I do love cauliflower.

They are all cole crops, as some old-timers refer to them.  No, not cool crops, though they do grow best in cool weather, but cole crops. And they are good for you.

But have you ever grown them in your vegetable garden?

I have. At least, I've attempted to grow cabbage and broccoli.  And let me tell you, they are a magnet for cabbageworms, those little green caterpillars that eat anything "cole" in your garden.

I don't care how good of a gardener you are, if you plant kale, cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli, soon enough, lovely little white cabbage butterflies show up.

At first you think how sweet it is to see lovely little white butterflies flitting from cabbage to broccoli, from broccoli to kale, and then swooping over to the cauliflower.  But then those white butterflies lay eggs around the base of the cole crops and those tiny little eggs hatch into little green worms and then before you can say the gardener's cuss word, frass, those little green worms are eating your cole crops.

It happens every year.  By the way, those white butterflies weren't always here in North America flitting about our cole crops. They are actually from Europe and somehow found there way over to this side of the pond in the mid 1800s.

Growing cole crops hasn't been the same since then.

So what should you do to get rid of the little green worms, the cabbageworms?

Well, back in the day, my dad used to dust a little something-something on the plants to kill the cabbageworms.  But even doing that, I remember we still had to soak the broccoli in salt water and skim off the cabbageworms as they floated up to the surface.  Then we'd still pick ever so carefully through the cooked broccoli, just in case one of those cabbageworms actually ended up being boiled to death and showed up on our dinner plate. And there was always one unlucky worm and one unlucky kid.

Sounds delicious, doesn't it?

If you insist on growing cole crops, you can cover them with row covers to keep the white cabbage butterflies from finding them and laying eggs at the base of the plants. I don't find row covers to be particularly attractive but if you are intent on growing cole crops, row covers are a good option.

You can also watch the cole crops for the first signs of cabbageworms and then hand pick them off  and feed them to the birds.  I guarantee, though, you'll never find them all.

Or you can do what I do and that is don't show up for the Kale, Cabbage, Cauliflower, and Broccoli Club.

That's right. I don't grow kale, cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli in my garden because I don't want to mess with the cabbageworms.  Does that make me a coward? Perhaps, though the worms don't scare me. I think it just shows I'm a smart gardener who has decided to get her protein from something other then cooked cabbageworms.

Though, if it adds a little extra protein in my smoothie? Maybe I will try to grow some kale. I'll need some row covers...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another week closer to spring

Camellia 'April Remembered'
Hang in there, Camellia!

You just got through another week of winter which means you are a week closer to spring.  It was a cold week, but I'm feeling pretty good about your chances of surviving it.

Your leaves look green and your buds actually look a little plumper than a few weeks ago.  We did get some snow and it got pretty cold there for awhile, but you still look good.

Hang in there, Camellia!

I'm hopeful and I will continue to believe in you and your chances of blooming. I've never faltered in my belief in you.

I have no other choice, having brought you to this cold climate.  But I did so only after doing some homework and then choosing you, the hardiest of the hardy, from all the others.

Hang in there, Camellia.

You are my hope for spring.