Archive for May, 2011

May 27, 2011

Planting time!

Memorial weekend, garden calendar, garden notebook.  What do all of these things have in common?  It’s time to plant!

By now we should be in the clear as far as frosty nights are concerned, but the other key factor to seed germination and plant growth is warm soil.  Each seed needs certain conditions to grow, warm season crops and tender crops typically need the soil temp to be 60 – 85 degrees in order to germinate whereas cool season crops only need it to be around 40 degrees.  Granted we’ve had a crazy spring, (although growing up in Minnesota, I’m not really sure what a “normal” spring would look like!) but the soil temperatures over the last week or so have been hovering in the low to mid 60s in Central Minnesota, so it’s basically a green light to plant.  As the soil continues to warm, the seeds will germinate and the plants will begin to grow.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re doing container gardening is that the soil in the containers warms and cools more drastically than the soil in the ground.  What this means is that they truly benefit from a warm, sunny day now because the soil will warm faster, likewise later in the summer they will continue to warm faster, which is why some plants tend to wilt in pots.  The soil in containers will  also cool significantly faster as well.  This is part of the reason why container gardens typically need more attention than plants in the ground, but that’s another subject all together.

So, now’s the time to pop those warm season crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc. in the ground.    If you haven’t started your own seeds earlier in the season, buy seedlings or more mature plants from local plant sales or garden centers.  Warm season crops have a long growing period.  If you plant these from seed now, they won’t have enough time to grow and produce fruit before frost in the fall.

Now is also a good time to plant the tender crops like cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and squash.  These, unlike warm season crops can be planted by seed now.  To help them germinate more quickly, you can cover them with hot caps (a.k.a. Hot Kaps, Hotkaps) to help warm the soil and get them to germinate faster.  Remove the cap when they are  growing vigorously.

If you haven’t already done so, you can also plant: beans (bush, pole, dry, lima), beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, radishes, kohlrabi, lettuce (leaf and head), parsley, potatoes and sweet corn.

I wish you a happy holiday weekend and happy planting!

Kate

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May 12, 2011

… showers bring May flowers…

Today is another cold and rainy day in the Twin Cities, but for some reason it didn’t get me down.  Okay, maybe a little, while I fought the urge to hang out under a blanket and read a book instead of going to my son’s baseball game tonight.  But since they didn’t cancel the game and he was so anxious to play, I went. My jeans wicked water from the bottom to mid-calf and my socks were more like damp sponges, but I got to see my son’s first hit of the season so I couldn’t be happier.  He even got the “game ball” tonight.  No blanket or book could have been better than seeing the smile on his face.  It was a great end to a wet, grey day.

There are many things about rainy days that I love.  I love hearing the cars splash through the puddles.  I love listening to birds sing while they use the rain as their own personal shower.  I love watching rain drops slide across leaves and drip down to the ground below.  I love how the filtered sunlight changes the colors of everything outside.  I love how intense the yellow is on goldfinches and orioles.  I love that rainy days slow everything down.  It takes everything back a couple of notches.  Especially in the spring. Ever since the weather has begun to warm up I’ve felt a surge of energy.  Energy in the plants, animals, water, everywhere.  It’s like everything and everyone has been running in high gear. The rain gives me a chance to pause, reflect and catch my breath.

Rain seems to have the opposite effect on plants though.  Have you ever looked out the window while it’s raining and just observed?  Rain is like an instant energy source for plants.  Give them water and I swear you can watch them grow before your very eyes.  In the past couple of days I’ve watched my raspberries leaf out, buds start to pop on the grape vines and the pear trees go into full blossom.  The asparagus is now ripe for picking, Monarda is popping up everywhere and peonies and lilies are growing taller by the minute.  Tulips, daffodils, rhododendrons, azaleas, hyacinths and Forsythias are all in full bloom, as are the magnolias and some of the flowering crabs.  The best part is… there are so many sweet smells to go with it!

The rain has also made my lawn bloom, literally.  Since I don’t use chemicals and haven’t focused much time on weed control, there is a nice crop of dandelions and creeping charlie in my yard.  We inherited these with the house when we bought it and I honestly haven’t devoted much time to getting rid of them. However, there’s a part of me that thinks of these “weeds” as a gift.  I know, you probably think I’m crazy but the most beautiful time of the year in my backyard is right now.  Resting within the lush green grass is a sea of purple creeping charlie blossoms combined with bright yellow dandelions and splashes of white and lavender violets. If everything is timed just right, in a few days the pink petals from the flowering crab will begin to fall and add yet another color to the mix.  It truly is beautiful.

I promise to provide pictures to prove it!

What have the spring showers brought you?

Kate

May 11, 2011

Grab your gloves. It’s (nearly) time to plant!

Wait for it, wait for it…  Go!

The “Average Last Frost Date” for the Twin Cities, Minnesota is May 15th.  Exactly what does that mean to gardeners?  It means planting time…. sort of.

Average last frost date means just that.  It’s an average.  Some years our last frost is earlier, some years later.  (I think last year it was in January.) Granted yesterday was more like a hot summer day in August with temps reaching 90+ degrees and thunder storms and tornadoes last night, but it is Minnesota.  (Remember last week?  We had snow.)  The weather the rest of this week and moving into this weekend is forecasted to be more like a “normal” upper mid-western spring.  Since I left my crystal ball at the bowling alley the last time I was there and meteorologists don’t forecast out that far, we’re not sure what next couple of weeks will look like weather-wise, so go ahead and plant, with caution.

If you’re putting in veggies or annuals, keep in mind that you need to be watching the night-time lows.  If it looks like temps are going to drop down into the mid- to low-30s be prepared to cover your plants and if temps get really low, possibly lose a couple.  The other thing to keep in mind is that warm season crops, such as tomatoes, will not benefit from being planted early and actually will just “sit there” until the soil is warm and the weather is right. Perennials on the other hand, can be planted without much concern.  The worst thing that can happen to most of them is a really, really cold snap can damage their buds and cause them to drop some of their flowers.

So, if you have the hankering like I do.  Go ahead and plant, but have some old bed sheets handy, “just in case”.

Now, get out there and get dirty!

Kate

May 6, 2011

Plant sales and Living Green!

Can you feel it?  It’s like a buzzing, fluttering, whooshing sort of feeling.  It’s everywhere!  Spring is FINALLY here in Minnesota and the energy is amazing.  The sun is shining and we’re supposed to have a near 70 degree day.  This week I got 3 new issues of gardening magazines, 3 plants and seeds for my Children’s Garden arrived and plant sales are everywhere!  I love it, I love it, I love it!

Much as I’d like to keep it a secret, I have to put a shout out to the HTC Plant Sale located at the Hennepin Technical College Brooklyn Park Campus. Although there are many plant sales out there, this one is close to my heart. Not only because I went to school there, but also because the plants being sold are grown and cared for by the Landscape and Horticulture students.  Deb Kvamme, one of the instructors, is one of the most passionate plant people I’ve ever met, so she makes the sale very fun.  They always have the standard bedding plants, veggies and herbs, but if you get there early enough, you’re guaranteed to find something unique as well.  There are 3 greenhouses bursting with plants and the sale is run like a well oiled machine.  It’s worth the drive.  The sale runs May 5th, 6th and 7th from 9am – 7pm.  Go!  You won’t be disappointed!

Another plant sale “must do” this weekend is the Friends School Plant Sale held at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds Grandstand.  If you’ve never been there, it’s GI-NOR-MOUS.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They even produce their own catalog with plants that are available at the sale.  View it online, it’s an impressive list to say the least!  The Friends School sale runs Friday, May 7, from 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Saturday, May 8, from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, May 9, from 12:00 noon – 4:00 pm. Sunday is discount day.

While you’re at the fair grounds visit the Living Green Expo.  There you can learn about how to live a more mindful, sustainable life.  There are seminars and vendors with everything from gardening and composting, to cooking, to solar, wind and water, to energy savings, to rain gardens and permaculture and even organic lawn care just to name a few.  The Living Green Expo runs Saturday, May 7th from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Sunday May 8th from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Do you have a favorite sale I didn’t list?  Let everyone know!

Not in the Twin Cities?  Check your local paper or garden club for sales, grab a friend and go!

Enjoy all things green this weekend!

Kate