Archive for April, 2011

April 18, 2011

Sometimes it snows in April… but the seeds keep growing

It’s April 18th, and we have a Winter Storm Watch.  Really?  Seriously?!?  Unfortunately, yes.  They’re predicting 6 inches of snow or more.

“This is a problem” my 6-year old son said, “because it’s Spring…. and it’s a Winter Storm Watch…”  I concur.  This is a problem.  Mostly for my spirit, but some plants and flowers are getting nipped as well.  Hopefully the snow over this past weekend and the weather we’re going to have over the next few days won’t set us back too much. I really hope the forecast is wrong.

I started my spring clean-up when it was in the 60s a or so week ago.  This weekend I had hoped to do more, including getting my cool crops planted in my veggie garden.  Unfortunately, the cold dampened my spirits a little and I didn’t get out there.  Oh, well. That’s what spring in Minnesota is like.  Next week I’m forecasting 80.

Regardless of the weather outside, if you’ve already planted seeds inside, they should be clipping along pretty well.  If you’re growing under plant lights make sure to keep the lights low (not touching the plants,  but close to them) to prevent them from getting leggy.  I usually keep a fan running too. It keeps the air circulating which helps strengthen the seedlings (mimicking wind) and also prevents damping-off.  If you’re not familiar with this term, damping-off is when one of a variety of fungi infect the seed or seedling, sometimes preventing germination, or after the seed has sprouted, it weakens the plant at the point where the plant touches the soil which eventually causes the plant to rot and fall over.  If this happens to you, try not to get too discouraged.  It happens.

Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture: the life cycle of plants.  A plant’s goal in life is to reproduce.  It’s that simple.  The seed germinates, the plant grows, produces flowers to entice pollination in order to produce fruit/seeds.

Every type of seed needs certain conditions to germinate.  When we start seedlings inside we add heat mats, plant lights, fans, etc. to recreate the perfect environment for germination and growth.  However, we need to keep in mind that the reason plants produce so many seeds is because the plants “know” that not every seed is going to germinate, and of the seeds that germinate, not all of them will survive and of those that survive, not all of them will live long enough, or have the right conditions to produce more fruit and more seeds (reproduce).  Since seeds are the future generation of the plant, and there are many things that could go wrong along the way, plants will typically produce a lot of seeds.  It’s kind of like plant reproduction insurance.

What this means is not every seed you sow will germinate.  Some of your seedlings may die.  Some of your plants may die due to weather or animal damage.  The strong plants will survive and produce fruit.  So, if you happen to lose some along the way, hard as it may be, do not get discouraged. This is all a part of the larger plan.  Things happen, nurture what you can and let the rest be.

Now where did I put that snow shovel?


April 14, 2011

A few of my favorite things…

This morning brought a song to my mind – with my own twist.



Raindrops on roses and crocus in springtime
Dew drops on grass blades and colorful sunrise
Daffodils smiling and reaching for sun
These are the things that start spring days of fun

Bright colored pansies and crisp morning breezes
Trees that are budding and my dog when she sneezes
Robins and finches and cardinals that sing
These are a few of my favorite things

Tulips and “Rhodies” and Redbuds and Lilacs
Sweet smells of blossoms and going on long walks
Hearing the music of chimes gently ring
These are a few of my favorite things

When the frost bites
When the wind chills
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad!!!

~ Adaptation of “My Favorite Things” from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music

April 13, 2011

Mother Nature

Yesterday was a beautiful day.  Fortunately I work from home, so instead of taking a break and staring out the window wishing I could be outside like I used to do, I now grab my cup of coffee and head out.  I’m not out long, just a few minutes. Just long enough to take a breath of fresh air, feel the warmth of the sun on my face and watch the birds dancing around from tree to tree.  Ahhh…. funny how just a few minutes outside can feel like someone plugged me into a charger.  I feel refreshed, and ready to continue on.

I often wonder why more businesses don’t have a (non-smoking) patio or even a small deck, giving people the option to recharge outside.  I think they would find productivity would increase.  It’s amazing what that connection to the outdoors can do for you.

After my son got home from school we had snack in the back yard followed by a walk with our dog.  We walked over to the small lake by our house, sometimes chatting, sometimes running and playing, but mostly just observing.  About halfway around the lake, he turned to me and said, “Mom, isn’t it nice to see Mother Nature again?”.  All I could do was smile.  I thought about asking him what he meant by that so I could hear him describe it, or explaining that she’s always here, but I knew what he meant.  I didn’t need to.  I just responded with, “It sure is.”

As we continued our walk he pointed out the green shoots where the cattails are coming up and laughed hysterically as he watched ducks skid across the water as they landed on the lake.  Then he noticed garbage that had blown into the water.  He couldn’t comprehend why people would leave garbage.  Then, almost as if on cue, a couple walked past us.  My son had been watching them like a hawk.  After they passed he turned and in a disapproving tone said, “that guy littered”.  I asked how he knew,  if he saw him do it (because if he did, I had missed it).  His response was, “Not today.  Another day, when I was walking with my dad, I saw him throw his cigarette into the lake.” I was amazed that he remembered someone from a previous walk, he obviously made a bad first impression with my son!   I love that he’s still so innocent and truly thinks littering is one of the most horrible things you can do besides using bad words. I also love that he has already learned to appreciate the value Mother Nature has to offer us.

I’m proud that at such a young age he already “gets it”.


April 12, 2011

Spring containers with culinary appeal

The snow is finally gone, the grass is just beginning to green up, but color is still lacking from our landscape in Minnesota.

All of our front entry spaces would love a little pop of color.  Many people put pots or planters on or near their entry in the summer, but I really enjoy changing them out seasonally.  Believe it or not, it’s not too early to plant some spring flowers.  Although there isn’t a huge selection yet, Pansies, contrary to their name, are cold tolerant and able to handle the last little blasts of cold we might get.   I know, Pansies are nothing out of the ordinary, it seems you either really like them, or really dislike them.  I like them.  They make me smile, partially because they look like little monkey faces and monkeys make me laugh.

Anyway, I’m typically not fond of using just one type of plant in a container so I’m always looking for ways to “jazz up” my containers by adding color, or texture, or something a little fun or out of the ordinary.  If you’re partial to flowers, you can use Pansies, Tulips, Daffodils (whose faces follow the sun which can either be fun or frustrating depending on your personality), moss, ferns (perennial, not indoor varieties) branches such as Pussy Willow, Curly Willow or Birch.  If you can find Ornamental Cabbage or Kale, it always adds nice texture too.  If you’re looking for an alternative, another nice option is to use lettuce. If you plant a variety of them, such as green leaf, red leaf, oak leaf, etc., it can really be quite pretty. Add Pansies to the pot for a cheerful salad on the steps!

IMPORTANT: Pansy flowers are edible and make for great color on salads, but make absolutely sure they have not been treated with herbicides or pesticides before you even consider eating them! The plants most nurseries and big box retailers carry will most likely have been treated.  Make sure to look for “edible pansies” from an organic grower or grow your own from (organic) seeds.  Just remember – don’t use conventional fertilizer on them after you plant them!

If you don’t have any luck finding edible pansies but want to surprise your Easter guests with them in a salad, most coops or natural food stores will carry edible pansies near the fresh herbs.