Garden Log 1/13/21

Thanks to Maria Teresa McKee posting, I realized I didn’t have to wait another month to start seeds; I had some micro greens and micro tom tomatoes that I could start now. Exciting. I think I started these 4 days ago, and when I went down yesterday, I was delighted to see so much fresh new green.

The process:

– buy replacement Jiffy packs to go in these little plastic Jiffy self-watering greenhouses from last year (a good investment for forgetful & scattered me, as I’d definitely have trouble watering daily — they have a reservoir at the bottom, and a piece of felt that wicks water up to the roots of the plants)
– put one soil/coir pack in each slot and add hot water to hydrate them
– realize at 50mm, they’re twice as big as needed for micro greens, so cut them in half to stretch further
– put a layer of seeds in each one, and cover with a bit of soil

– cover greenhouse and put on heating mat, under grow lights (with the lights lowered to be as close to the seeds as possible)

The heating mat isn’t strictly necessary, but it helps with germination. As you can see, the micro greens (Jazzy mix) responded enthusiastically. The mini beet greens are going a little slower, but I’m assuming they’ll keep growing, and aren’t they a lovely shade of red? I’m going to do something very pretty with them — I’m thinking maybe a composed salad with grilled shrimp and a little pile of pretty beet greens on top?

Now I just have to figure out how I’m supposed to harvest these. Is it time now, for the micro greens? Do I just snip some off and add them to a sandwich? I feel like they’d disappear in a salad… How would you use them?

I still have some little baggies of Jazzy mix and beet green seeds to give away, if anyone local wants to try them! Porch pick-up!

Garden Log 1/12/21

I spent a while on White Flower Farm’s hellebore page, deciding which hellebore I wanted to add to my collection (photo at left from last spring). Hellebores are expensive — generally about $25-$30 each, which is pretty high, even for a perennial. I’m assuming that’s mostly because it takes some time before they’re large enough to start dividing.

I bought a hellebore when we bought this house — I couldn’t do much gardening that first year, because we bought the house as a foreclosure and did a gut renovation on it, so the yard was entirely churned up by machinery. But I tucked one hellebore against the front steps, and hoped it was sufficiently out of the way to survive.

It not only survived, but thrived, and about five years on, had gotten big enough that I could start dividing it. I’ve generally added one more hellebore each spring, so I have a nice assortment now, and as a bonus, have started divided the older ones to trade with other hellebore fanciers in the neighborhood.

If I were going to recommend a gift to someone who has just bought a new house, it would be a hellebore. Subtle beauty (most have flowers that tip down, so you only see the full glory if you cut them and float them in a bowl of water), long season of bloom, leaves that are pleasantly green through the rest of the year, except perhaps the very dead of winter.

They tolerate almost full sun to almost full shade, but prefer partial shade — you can plant them near trees, because they bloom early, before the trees leaf out.

Easy care — water them in well the first season as they’re getting established, and then you can mostly forget about them going forward, though I’d give them a little water if it gets really hot and dry in high summer. You don’t have to divide them, either — only if you want to start trading, or spreading them into other spots in your garden. Their leaves do get a little raggedy by the end of winter; I usually go around and trim those off, as the new growth is emerging. It’s very satisfying and easy work, since you get to be excited about the buds you find. πŸ™‚

Just all around, a terrific long-term investment, a perfect pairing for a house. They’re the first perennial to bloom, so along with the snowdrops, a wonderful sign of winter ending.

The only difficulty is picking which one you’re going to add… (I went for the second from the left in the bottom row this year, part of the Winter Jewels line, name “Jade Tiger”.)

NOTE: Trader Joe’s often has simple white hellebores in winter for notably cheaper — they’re lovely indoors in winter, and you can try planting them out in the spring, but there’s a good chance they won’t survive, since they were forced for winter blooming.

Native seeds

Locals, stop by today! I bought these native seeds last year from Prairie Moon, intending to sow them outdoors in the fall; didn’t get around to it, so I was thinking I’d try the cold stratification method. I’m happy to split the seed packets if anyone stopping by today wants to take some to try! They’re a year old, so I can’t guarantee they’re still viable, but I think most should be.

Meet-up details:Β https://www.facebook.com/events/2758810204233470/

Garden log: warming up

Garden log: We still have a few cold days coming at the end of February, but it’s warming up enough, esp. when it’s sunny, that it’s very hard for me to resist starting to putter in the garden. There’s a little patch by my front door that I ended up raking clear yesterday, uncovering a mature hellebore.

You don’t need to do this, the raking! And in fact, the more eco-friendly option would be to just leave it alone, not disturbing any possible pollinator larvae, etc. Maybe someday, that’ll be how I garden entirely, as if we were in the wild — no one is raking away leaves in the woodland or prairie! I’m heading a little more that way every year, it seems.

But right now, I still do rake some of my beds clear, for various reasons. I let the leaves fall in autumn, and degrade there — the breakdown of leaf mould over ten years now has dramatically improved the clay soil in my garden, making it much easier to dig and plant in. But then I do rake it away in spring — we have enough leaves falling in my garden that in some places it makes a heavy, compacted layer, and that means my tiny bulbs can’t always push their way through. I love the thrill of uncovering a little emerging flowering beauty.

(I don’t compost right away — I rake them into a big leaf pile in a corner of the garden and let them be for a while longer. Some more pollinators may well emerge from there.)

For the hellebore, I raked around it with a small rake, then used gloved fingers to clear away the last of the dry leaves entangled. That left me with a lot of big, old green leaves, lots of flower buds in the center, and some new leaves starting. If the old leaves are raggedy and bothering you, you can trim them away; the new leaves will emerge in a few weeks. But I’m leaving mine for now, in the hopes that they’ll continue to soak up lots of sun, converting it to nutrients and growing a stronger plant overall. I may trim them away once the new leaves emerge fully, esp. if they’re looking shoddy by comparison.

Can you see that one tiny snowdrop that’s managed to push through the leaf mould? Once I raked away the thick layer, tons of other tiny shoots emerged. Soon that will be a nice big patch of snowdrops, to be followed by whatever other spring ephemeral bulbs I planted there. Probably some scilla, chionodoxa, reticulated iris, muscari, crocuses — classic early spring ephemeral bulbs.

I’ve just started learning more about native spring ephemerals. It can be confusing — when we talk about “native spring ephemerals”, it seems like we’re talking about plants (often not bulbs) that bloom anywhere from February to May. Whereas when we talk about “spring ephemeral bulbs”, we’re usually talking about early spring, February / March, the tiny little flowers that come before the daffodils and tulips start blooming.

From what I’ve seen, natives tend to be a little more expensive to buy, and a little slower to grow and get established. But if you’re interested in them, there are more and more showing up in local nurseries, and if people continue to buy them, they should become more readily available (and hopefully more affordable, as more growers invest in them?). I’ve started trying to add them into my garden, as my budget allows, so I hope that in future years, I’ll have more natives to show off.Β 

One plus is that while you have to plant most bulbs in the fall, many of the native spring ephemerals can be planted in spring. New hellebores can also be planted in spring, to return year after year. Which means it’ll soon be time to start haunting the garden stores. Yes, I’m the obsessed plant lady who shows up in March, with eager eyes and grabby hands — “Are they in yet?” Maybe this year I’ll call first…

Lime tree

Noticed this morning that the Makrut lime tree I bought for Kevin this Christmas (okay, for both of us (okay, maybe mostly for me)) has started blooming. Little limes coming, yay!

This is my second time trying a lime tree; the first time, I bought the smallest one they had, didn’t manage to water it well, and it quickly died. This time, I bit the bullet and bought the biggest one they had (because it was a PRESENT, see?), and so it has a much more established root system in a bigger pot, and can take less frequent (deep) watering. Doing well!