Posts tagged ‘plant light stands’

March 20, 2013

16 Things to Do Now to Make it Feel Like Spring

It’s here!  It’s here!  Spring is here!

Yes, I know, you wouldn’t know it if you were to walk out your front door in Minnesota today.  In fact, you might think it were the middle of January.  I awoke this morning to the weather update of wah-wah, wah-wah, wah, wah with an -18 degree windchill.  Yikes!

If you look at Facebook at all today you’ll see a lot of whining, particularly here in Minnesota.  Unfortunately all of the meteorologists have been touting the weather we had this week last year at 70 and 80 degrees above zero making all of the complaining even worse.  The problem is, last year was NOT THE NORM.  The norm this time of the year in Minnesota is 35 to 40 degrees, which while a high of 18 today isn’t exactly tropical, if you compare it to being 20 degrees off the norm instead of 60 degrees off a record, it’s a little easier to chew.

Weather aside, or maybe because of the weather, I thought it was about time we all got excited for spring so I came up with a few things you can do to get by until the weather catches up with our eagerness.  Some of these things are specific to the Twin Cities area, but similar events are happening across the country.

  1. Force branches. Cut branches off of spring blooming trees and shrubs that need pruning, bring them in and put them in water.  In a few days you’ll have spring inside regardless of the weather outside. Learn more about which kinds of trees and shrubs and how-to here.
  2. Plant an indoor bulb garden.  Many nurseries and garden centers are now carrying bulb gardens that you can watch grow, or better yet, buy bulbs and make your own.
  3. Plan your garden.  Grab plans, pictures and notes from your garden journal and plot out your plan for this season.
  4. Build a plant stand with grow lights and start seeds indoors.
  5. Plant edible spring planters.
  6. Buy yourself some cut flowers.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, even $5 can bring a nice burst of color and a smile to your face.
  7. Go to a flower show.  Macy’s Flower Show is traveling the country.  Check here to see when they’ll be in a city near you.
  8. Make a fairy garden. Need inspiration?  The MN Landscape Arboretum is hosting Tiny Treasures: Fairies and Gnomes through March 31st.
  9. Visit a Farmer’s Market!  This Saturday, March 23, 2013, the Bachman’s on Lyndale will be hosting Fresh From the Freeze the Kingfield and Fulton Farmers Markets in the Greenhouse from 9am – 2pm.  There will be music, entertainment, beer, wine and hard cider too.  A vendor list is posted on their site.
  10. Looking to add some spring to your home?  Check out the Bachman’s Spring Ideas House 2013 from April 4th – April 28th.
  11. Visit the Como Park Conservatory. Can’t get there?  Check out the 360 degree view of The Sunken Gardens and The Palm Dome.
  12. Get baby chicks! Our chickens have brought so much sunshine and joy to some of the coldest days.  Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply has chicks arriving on a weekly basis.  Order yours now. (I also know of a possible source if you’re local, contact me and I’ll connect you.) You can build your coop while they grow!  Not ready for your own?  Stop by and visit them.
  13. Start a windowsill garden.
  14. Plant grass in egg shells or a basket.  You’ll be ready for Easter.
  15. Take a trip down South.  No, actually I don’t mean on a plane or in a car.  Grab your jacket, don your hat, slip on those boots and head to the South side of your house, apartment building, what have you.  The South side of buildings gets the best sun and typically retains heat making that area a little micro-climate where the ground thaws early and plants emerge first.  A friend told me just yesterday that her tulips are “up” (poking through the ground) on the South side of her house.  Take a trip and report back on what you find!
  16. Feed the birds!  According to the birds spring is definitely here.  Don’t believe me?  Shut everything off, radio, TV, your kids 😉 and listen.  The birds a singing their sweet little heads off.  Want to hear them more clearly?  Hang a feeder in your yard (or fill-up that empty one), they’ll be singing songs of glory for you!

If all else fails, call me!  I’d be happy to chat about and help you plan your yard and garden for the upcoming season!

Happy Spring everyone!

Kate

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March 9, 2012

Gearing up for starting seeds

“It’s 17 and sunny.”  the morning show host said brightly.  Did I hear him right?  Yikes!  Wasn’t it 55 yesterday?  No, wait, that was Tuesday, or was it Monday?  Oh, well.  Tomorrow is supposed to be in the 50s and looks like 60 is coming a couple of days after that.  But, basketball tournaments haven’t started yet so there’s still time for one more blizzard.

To some this may sound insane, but to those of us who live here, it’s simply called Minnesota.

Bright, sunny mornings make me smile and honestly, I prefer the 10 – 20 range more than the 20s and 30s.  Why? Because when we get into the 30s and get snow-melt the air is damp and as we say in Minnesota “it’s not the cold so much, it’s the dampness, it cuts right through ya”.  Despite the chill in the air I’m so excited to get the garden going.  In March?  Sure!  Okay, technically not outside, although you can sow seeds in snow, I’ve yet to experiment with that and this year is not the year to try considering we’ve been looking at brown grass far more than a white blanket of snow.

Snow or no snow though, it’s almost time to get seeds started inside.  Do you have everything you need?  A sunny window?  Plant Lights?  Seeds?  Seed trays?  Growing medium (soil)? Early March is a good time to get all of these things ready to go: plant lights set up, seeds ordered and delivered, garden calendar and garden journal ready.

Most warm season plants need to be started inside about 6-8 weeks prior to the average last frost.  In our area, that’s anytime between March 20th and April 3rd.  So if you haven’t gotten your supplies together, now’s the time to do it!

Seed catalogs typically start coming in the mail in January.  When they start filling my mailbox, my heart picks up a little speed, a smile crosses my face.  I immediately transport myself from a cold winter day to a warm sunny day in the middle of August, out in the garden with everything at its peak…. picking sun-ripened tomatoes, smelling the scent of basil and thyme as I brush against them on my stroll through the back yard.   And the raspberries!  Hanging there, just waiting to be plucked from their canes and popped into my mouth where the sweet burst of flavor sends tingles of happiness down to my toes.  But alas… it’s not August, it’s March.  But I can dream and so can you.  After all, it’s these dreams, these visions of perfection that get us in the spirit of gardening even when Mother Nature isn’t ready for us to play the soil just yet.

Back to seed catalogs.  If you haven’t ordered seeds… Do. It. NOW!  When perusing catalogs though and making those final decisions, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  First, make sure the plants you select are suitable for your climate, and by climate, I mean cold hardiness zone.  Minnesota used to range from zone 4b in the south to 2b in the north, but in January 2012, they updated the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to reflect recent temperature changes and shifted Minnesota into a slightly warmer zone.  Our new zones range from 5a in the south to 3a in the north.  So what does this mean?  The plant hardiness zone map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature.  What does that mean for gardeners?  It’s a tool to help us determine which plants are most likely to thrive in our location.  When looking at seed catalogs, plant catalogs or plant tags in the nursery or garden center it should show the cold hardiness for each (perennial) plant.  For example, say I’m looking through the Seed Savers Exchange catalog (one of my favorites) and as I cruise through the description for “Oregano, Greek” – I see “Perennial in zones 4-9”.  If I live in northern Minnesota, in zone 3a, I think to myself, “nope, not a perennial here” but if I live in southern Minnesota, in zone 5a, I think, “hmm… maybe that’s why my oregano came through the winter last year”.

You typically won’t see a lot of cold hardiness information noted in fruit and vegetable seed catalogs.  Why?  Because the majority of these plants are annuals.  We plant them, grow them, harvest their fruit and they complete their life cycle all in one season.  However, perennial herbs, fruits and vegetables, perennial flowers, as well as trees and shrubs, will include cold hardiness information because they will continue living, growing and producing fruit year after year in the proper growing conditions.  What if you fall outside the perennial zones?  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a shot at growing the plant, it just means you’ll need to think of it as an annual whereas other areas will think of it as a perennial.

The other thing to note, is if you will be growing the plant for its fruit, you want to make sure your climate has enough warm days during the growing season to allow the fruit to mature.  This will also be noted in the catalogs or on seed packets.  They will state “65 days to maturity”  or “75 days from transplant” (“transplant” signals that these need to be started from seed indoors prior to planting outside).  They may state “50 days”, they may state (with peas, for example) “Shell, 50-55 days” or they may state “Edible podded, 60 days”.  Basically what all of this means is that they need to have the number of days (shown on the package or in the catalog) during the growing season (average last frost in the spring until average first frost in the fall) to be able to produce fruit.  Keep in mind if you only have 75 days in your growing season you would be cutting it pretty close to not getting any fruit if you choose something in the 65+ range.  It would be a huge bummer to nurture a plant all summer to run out of warmth before you get fruit.

On to plant light stands.  If you don’t already have one, you can buy them ready-to-assemble or build your own.  Some plant light stands can be pretty darned expensive, I’ve seen them for as high as $800 for the mac daddy down to around $250 for a pretty basic structure.  However, you can build your own for just a little over $100 with hardware store materials and a little handiness.  Mine is built from PVC, which unless you like the look of white plastic in your house it’s not all that pretty, but the plants have yet to complain.

If you’ve never started seeds inside, I’d encourage you to try it.  It’s pretty fun, truly amazing to watch, can be disappointing at times, but be very rewarding and well worth the money you save versus buying transplants later in the season.  At the very least you get to say, “I grew that, from seed!”

The added bonus about starting your own plants from seed, is that if you want to eat local, organic food, there’s really no better way to know exactly where your food came from than to start with an organic seed, grow it in organic soil, provide water, sunlight and feed it with healthy, chemical-free fertilizer (a.k.a compost) until the day you harvest. It doesn’t get any more local or organic than this!

If haven’t tried seed starting and you’re not sure where to start, or if you have and ran into problems please give me a holler, leave a comment or drop me a line and I’d be happy to offer what I can to help you get things growing.

Kate