Garden Update ~ March 2015

One thing that’s reclaimed some of my blogging attention is gardening. In the past week, we’ve gone from complete snow cover …

Snowy Gnome

Snowy Gnome

… to nearly a complete melt, in all but the shadiest areas. Feeling rather winter wimpy, I had put off my intended “winter sowing” of medicinal herbs until “a nice 40 degree day,” thinking that would be an aberration. I figured, I’d sow all my medicinal herb seeds in milk jugs with drainage slits in the bottom, cover them with snow and let them do their winter freeze and thaw cycle:

Repurposed milk jugs for winter sowing

Repurposed milk jugs for winter sowing

You can see them above before I covered the seeds with snow and sealed up the mini-greenhouse with duct tape. This worked so well last year with the seven jugs I tried, yielding my first ever lavender grown from seed. Many self-sowing seeds require a chill period and/or the freeze-thaw cycle that cracks the seeds for proper germination. Trying to sow medicinal herbs indoors becomes somewhat complicated, as you need to put them in the freezer or fridge, keep track of how long and then still sometimes rub them with sandpaper in order to get them to germinate. With winter sowing, you mimic the conditions of Nature, just slightly warmer in the jug, and in a controlled environment so that you don’t pull out your intended plants as spring weeds! I planted 23 jugs in all, and they’re scattered around the yard, which now no longer has this much snow:

jugs

That one 40-degree day turned out not to be such a fluke, as we’ve had a steady increase in temps, supposedly up to 70-degrees today. I’m not entirely sure that these seeds will yield, but it looks like we’ve got some dips in the 20’s during the nights this week, so hopefully, I wasn’t too late this year. Messing around with soil, water and seeds in the teens just didn’t seem like much fun.

I don’t have a photo of my covered raised beds, mostly because they’re a horrible straw filled mess; however, we do have greens, garlic and shallots. Several spinach plants survived, as well as chard, kale, and even a very small lettuce plant, which I cannot believe. We had some double-digit negative temps this winter, so that lettuce earned its keep. We’ve also got some little claytonia sprouts, which I should harvest today, as they don’t like high temps.

All the wood mulched areas look quite barren at this time of year, but I noticed that some of the 50-100 daffodils I planted last year (can’t recall how many right now) have begun to poke through the mulch. We should have a much more cheerful spring this year than the past two! Today I need to continue yesterday’s task of cutting back perennials so that they get a fresh start this year. I usually leave them in fuller form in the winter, just so we have some interesting shapes. The birds also like some of their seeds, although we saw very, very few birds this year.

Indoors, the garden looks a bit more lively. You might remember that Mr. Meyer Lemon tree and Ms. Avocado were throwing fits about our grey winter with the sun at odd angles. Well, they’ve made it through, although it remains touch and go with the avocado, now residing on the front porch, where it gets more, yet still somewhat indirect light:

Avo tree March 2015

Almost all the leaves on top are new growth, but you can see that the tree has lost almost all of its leaves on the bottom and middle. I have some hope, because the entire trunk is full of new leaf buds, so we’ll see what happens as the temperatures warm. I will likely need to repot it, as I suspect it has root rot from me watering it at the rate I did outside. I thought our heat would dry it out, but apparently not. Then, I started watering it with some tea tree oil in the mix, which helped other plants in the past that got too wet on the roots. Apparently, the avocado does not get along with tea tree oil! My mom tells me that we had a producing avocado tree in our first house when I was a little girl, and that it grew so well she needed to get rid of it. That tells me it’s possible to grow an avocado tree in a northern climate, but next year I’ll likely need to find it a spot near the southern window and just shade it slightly with the lemon tree.

Speaking of Mr. Meyer Lemon, his leaves look pretty bad, but he does have about 7 nearly ripe lemons! You can see him here next to an almost blooming geranium:

Lemon tree March 2015

I saw Colette of Bealtaine Cottage’s lemon tree before and after photos, and that gives me hope that this guy will survive once I get him outdoors when the temperatures rise beyond risk of frost. Meanwhile, bravo! I didn’t know if these lemons would ripen. They might be bitter due to the tree’s condition, but since Meyer lemons are usually super sweet, perhaps they’ll still be palatable in a morning glass of water.

Last but not least, our “Christmas” cactus has decided to follow my schedule of “winter” sowing. For the first year, this beauty did not bloom anywhere near Christmas, but on the same day I broke out all the medicinal herbs I had meant to plant on Winter Solstice or Imbolc, I noticed the cactus had pushed out the beginnings of its hot pink buds:

Christmas cactus blooming in March

Nice to know we’re in tune, even if everything else is topsy turvy and unexpected. I mean, my lacinato kale didn’t make it through the winter, but my lettuce did????? In case this spring weather lasts, I did plant a bunch of leguminous cover crop edibles. Seeds are relatively cheap, so they’re an easy way to hedge bets when it comes to Indiana springs and unpredictable frosts. If it chills again, I’ll get those lovely medicinal herbs; if it stays warm, I’ve got a great headstart on small fava beans and peas. We shall see! In the meantime, I’ll be battling the pokeweed I let go to seed last year (doh!), trimming perennials and waiting to see if the poppy seeds I planted in snow will, in fact, spring forth as flowers.

Cheers and love!

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Linda on March 16, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Lettuce made it – but not lacinato kale? Go figure … Thanks for the update on your garden. Looking forward to getting home in a few weeks and getting some things started in our garden. In the meantime, enjoying blooming azaleas and other things down South.

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  2. Pretty strange. I did find some uncovered lacinato that I’d left for dead in the fall, which appears to be green and growing in the front bed. I guess all the snow from sidewalk shoveling kept it well insulated. Enjoy your time in each place!

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