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.
I promised myself to be tougher with self-sown seedlings this year. Last year we returned from vacation to discover plenty of tomato seedlings in the vegetable garden. They were very healthy too, so I dug some up and either gave them to colleagues or replanted them in my neighbor’s garden. I let some of them grow and that posted a big problem. They took over the garden. I have a solid plan this year: only the seedlings I started in the house will have their space in the garden.
I settled with twelve seedlings for each tomato: Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple, White Tomesol, Rose, Aunt Gertie’s Gold and grape tomatoes. They came up four days after I put them in the coconut planting medium. I waited for the tomatoes to produce true leaves, the second set of leaves, before I put them in individual pots. I know there will be seedlings from our compost corner and I use them so I didn’t start any cherry tomatoes.
The chili peppers have taken a little bit longer to germinate. I’m growing a few more varieties this year: Bhut Jolokia, Congo Trinidad, Chocolate Habanero, Caribbean Red, Sikkim chili, Lemon Drop, Purira, Punjab, Nepalese Bell (a colleague gave me fresh seeds), Karen (Golden Triangle tribe)chili, Bird Dropping (smallest Thai chili), medium Thai chili, and Long Thai chili. They are very slow to grow since I didn’t use a heating pad this year and the only light they get is through the living room bay window.
If I’m home on the day the temperature has gone up above 60°F, I would take them outside to get real sunlight and harden them up a bit. I hope to be able to put them in the garden in the middle of the month.
I had just come home from work at around 9:00 p.m. The weather advisory freaked me out…. frost warning! Shouldn’t I be freaked? It was 60 or 70 degree during the day a few days ago and night time temperatures have been in the upper 40’s. I had put some of the seedlings in the ground, the ones that are hardy enough to deal with 40 degrees at night. Some of them are even happy with a little cold like the little Sugarsnap peas. They were fine until tonight.
The wind has been howling all day and seem to pick up even more at night. The cold front is moving in from Canada and the temperature may drop to below 30 degrees. We were out with our jackets on and we still felt the chill. The poor seedlings need jackets!
Yes, at 9 p.m, we were out there with heavy duty garbage bags to cover rows of peppers, celery and sugar snap peas and weigh them down with firewood logs and stones. The Moonflowers that were just about to reach the trellis went in hiding under tall plastic soup containers that I have been collecting. Hopefully, they will not freeze to death.
We walked around the yard with a flashlight to make sure that we didn’t forget anyone. We took the solar fountains in as well, just in case. It’s better to be safe than sorry since they will freeze only once and not work again after that.
This is love. Love makes you crazy. Love makes you care. And, sometimes it seems it seems a little obsessive. But, I don’t mind being called “crazy” because I couldn’t let these little guys freeze to death out there.
Well, there is a way to reason this. I will have to wait a few more weeks before I can eat them, if I let them die. How’s that? It’s a good enough reason to brave the cold at 9 p.m. with a flashlight to cover them up. Oh, I will have to free them for sunlight tomorrow morning before I go to work too.