Sunday, March 25, 2007

What's Growin' On: 3/25/07

A Small But Determined Sign Of Spring

Realization Of The Day:
Spring will burst through anything.

When I first moved to Missouri, I read that you were supposed to do something (Plant potatoes maybe? Hunt for morel mushrooms?) when the oak leaves on the trees were the size of a squirrel's ear. I found this piece of advice both funny and odd. A squirrel's ear? Please. How are you supposed to know how big a squirrel's ear is? All I knew was that it had to be small. Really small.

But that's how spring starts out each year, isn't it? Small. Baby buds on the lilac bushes, delicate blades of grass, one tiny grasshopper. But just as you would have to look very closely at a squirrel to figure out the size of its ear, you have to look closely or you will miss so many signs of spring. I don't think I'll ever stop being amazed by how all those barely visible sprouted seeds in the garden turn into full grown beets and heads of lettuce and bushes dripping with beans and tomatoes. How can they do that? And how does the transformation seem to happen in only a matter of days? (Well, unless you're waiting for the first ripe tomatoes of the season.)

I don't know what size the oak leaves are right now, but I do know they're here (and the morels aren't--I checked this morning). And so is our lone clump of grape hyacinths in the front yard. I'd forgotten all about it until I nearly tripped over it yesterday as I was on my way back from one of my numerous lamb-checking trips to the barn. I was so surprised I actually said "When did that happen?" out loud. I love grape hyacinths, and I could have sworn they weren't there the day before. But as far as I know, unlike mushrooms, they do not pop up overnight. They were there alright, along with the oak leaves and the lilac buds and the itty bitty purple flowers I found sprinkled over one of the fenced pastures this morning. I just hadn't taken the time to notice them.

Spring is here, in all its glorious busyness. Slow down, slow down, slow down. You'll never figure out how big a squirrel's ear is if you don't.

From Garden To Table:
For the past few weeks I've been picking arugula and three varieties of Swiss chard that overwintered in the greenhouse and tossing them into the nightly salad bowl. Fresh parsley, too. Green has never tasted so good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What's Growin' On: 3/14/07

First Of The Daffodils

Realization Of The Day:
Spring has sprung. Two days ago it was 80 degrees outside. We actually opened the windows to warm up the house.

Apparently Mother Nature doesn't care one bit that I am totally unprepared for spring. This photo was taken on the 8th and was one of only a handful of blooms. Now the yard is full of them. (Thank goodness for cheerful perennials that require no effort on my part.) When I mentioned missing the color yellow in my last post (written over a month ago? how is that possible?), I had completely forgotten that the first flowers to come up here are the daffodils. I guess Mother Nature does care about me after all.

If your gardening brain is still stuck in January like mine (why am I having so much trouble grasping the idea that it is March?) fear not--you are among friends. Well, actually you probably should be fearful. If we don't get a move on and start some seeds real soon, we're not going to have anything to eat in a couple of months.

It looks like this will be the year I plant nearly all of my seeds directly into my raised garden beds. I usually start dozens and dozens of types of seeds indoors (or in the greenhouse) in flats of little containers, but as far as the cooler season crops are concerned, I've missed the deadline by a longshot.

In a way it's kind of a relief. It'll be nice not to have those hundreds of rootbound, dying-to-be-transplanted seedlings staring guiltily at me every time I get near them. As of right now there are only about two dozen of them, and that's plenty. They're the broccoli seedlings I started way back in early January when I was sure this was going to be The Year Of The Massive Broccoli Crop. Not gonna happen. That one beautiful little broccoli head in the greenhouse? While it was covered with blankets and sheets during the single digit temps, something somehow sneaked under them and ate it. Munched the entire thing off, as well as all the tiny side shoots. I still can't believe it.

The scraggly seedlings had been bravely clinging to life under the flourescent shop light I have tucked under a bookshelf in my office while I spent weeks and weeks ignoring them. They nearly perished when I forgot to water them for, um, a while, but once I finally did they (of course) sprang back to life, so I sprinkled some compost around them and set them in the greenhouse. Maybe I'll get them transplanted into individual plugs. Probably not. I might try putting them straight out into the garden instead--save a step and some time.

The nice thing about broccoli plants is that even if you get yours in the ground too late for a decent head of broccoli to form, you can still harvest plenty of bounty. Yep, all those tender little leaves can go straight into your salad bowl. They're quite tasty, and you know they must be super good for you. Broccoli is one of the few vegetables where we eat only the florets--but there's simply no reason for that.

I did sow some seeds in the greenhouse last week--mostly lettuce. But I realized this morning that was probably a stupid thing to do, as the greenhouse will start heating up like crazy with these warm and sunny days. Lettuce is only too willing to turn bitter and bolt, which is why if I wanted a greenhouse spring lettuce crop, I should have started it back in, oh, January.

But of course that's where my gardening brain still is, isn't it?

Next week the moon will be in the first quarter, which is the best time to start most seeds (except squash, tomatoes, and peppers, but I'm going to anyway), as well as onions. I'll be starting seeds and planting onion sets (barring any unforeseen lambing crises) on the 21st and 22nd as they are the fertile days. Wondering what all this minding the moonsign business is? Click here to read more about it. But be warned--once you find out about all the "bad" times to plant, your gardening schedule might be thrown even more out of whack. If nothing else, it'll give you yet one more thing to fear. On the other hand, if you don't follow the rules and have crop failure, at least you'll have somewhere to lay the blame.

P.S. My apologies (once again) to those of you who asked questions in comments and haven't received a reply. If you're still wondering about something, you're always welcome to e-mail me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.