We came back from our vacation to a sharp drop in temperature. Our friends told us that while we were gone the temperature had gone up to the 60°F for a couple of days and mostly hovered above 50°F for the rest of that period. I can see the result of warm temperatures in our garden. Roses, hydrangeas, tree peonies started to bud. The silver maple in the front yard has blossomed. The crocuses and snowdrops are blooming.
Then two days after we came back, the temperature dropped again, combined with a high wind that resulted in a wind chill below 0°F. Last night the temperature was in a teens and today it is barely above freezing. It’s de ja vu of last spring. Plants started budding only to get frost burn. We didn’t have any hydrangeas last year for this reason and the first round of roses looked awful.
I don’t even know how the honeybees are. They’ve been so quiet, no sign of dead bees in front of the hives. We weren’t here when the temperature soared up to see if they were out cleansing. They’ve been too quiet for my liking and I have no way of checking on them. It’s either too cold or too windy to open the hives up for inspection. To be on the safe side, I have ordered one more package of bees to be delivered in May.
Though it will not be a promising spring, I still look forward to it. It’s time for me to start tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings and prep tropical plants in the basement for a warm and less seesaw temperature outside. In a little bit over a month the seedlings should be able to set their roots in the garden and tropical plants will enjoy real sunlight. And, hopefully, the hives will have survived another winter.
It’s been only three months when I last saw flowers in our garden but it seems a very long time ago. The longing get worse when I see flowers in other bloggers gardens that are still blooming or spring flowers that have already come up. Wishing that we lived in a warmer climate usually grips us at this time of year. But gardening and beekeeping in extreme weather is a fun challenge and keeps me on my toes. Good planning and timing is pretty crucial. I have never been obsessed with checking weather this much in my life. So many people I know wake up in the morning and check Facebook, Twitter, Email, even Snapchat, …I check the weather.
Finally, winter has released her grip in my neighborhood. It has been warmer most days now: above 30°F and some days above 50°F. Early spring plants are responding accordingly.
And, my longing turns to itchiness. Itching to get my hands in the dirt, get my arms scratched by the rose bushes, get bitten by insects, get natural vitamin D and end my day with aches and pain BUT happy and fulfilled.
There are still a few feet of snow in the garden and the temperature remains below the freezing point. There’s no sign of spring in sight aside from a few confused American Goldfinches that have started to molt early. We chiseled a path around the house but not much else. House bound, pretty much.
Reading books and plant catalogs keep me busy in winter. With plant and seed catalogs coming in non-stop, they have been keeping me going like a kid in a candy store. With limited space, I will only add one or two new plants a year. Since I started keeping honeybees four years ago, the first reason for selecting a new plant is whether it’s good for the bees and fragrance comes in second.
This winter I found an interesting book while searching for plants for bees; Garden Plants for Honey Beesby PeterLindtner. The great thing about this book is that it provides a variety of plants that bloom month by month, starting from February. The book also provides information on the level of pollen and nectar each plant provides, from (*) as the least and (*****) as the most. So, I keep going back and forth between plant catalogs and this book to make a decision for what to add this spring.
My friend, Andy, has given me an advance copy of The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, & PipsConquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human Historyby Thor Hanson. It comes with a package of pea seeds. I’m not sure I will plant them since there is no indication that the seeds are organic. The book is a fun read though. I’ve learned a lot about chili pepper. I’ve been growing a wide variety of chili peppers for years and just realized how little I know about their biology and evolution until I read this book. I also learned that the coffee plant has developed a delicate caffeine balance to repel various types of insects and at the same time lures in pollinators that ‘lined up likemorning commuters at their favorite espresso stand’. It gave me the idea to try using coffee as a natural insecticide in my garden. The book won’t be in stores until April though.
Yes, late winter is the time for me to start seedlings. Side stepped to the subject of books and lost track while I writing this post. I will have to start my tomato and chili pepper seedlings this week otherwise they will not have enough time to mature and bear fruit. I will add Japanese Shishito, a very mild pepper and Indigo Cherry Drops tomato to the vegetable list. A variety of Helleborus will be added to the flower list for early spring flowering for bees. I can hardly wait to get my hands dirty.