Grit Blogs > A Long Time Coming

Some Observations on the Advent of Spring

A photo of Shannon SaiaAh ... Spring. I know you're here. For one thing it hardly ever seems to stop raining, and then when it does – glorious.

My windowsills are crowded with plants that are longing to be outside, but it's too soon to let them go.

They – like I – are at the moment only shadows of what they promise, this year, to be.

shadows of spring seedlings in window  

Today is one of those teases – 71, clear and sunny – you just know that Spring is here, and it is – and yet there are still a number of evenings ahead of us that will dip down into the 40s, and I would be remiss as a gardener if I were to set them all out and let them have thier way so soon.

Two more weeks. And then. I promise.

It leaves us time for some reflection. A number of things come to mind.

1. Cucurbits are remarkably hearty. They are less sensitive to cooler temperatures than tomatos and peppers. Once hardened off they can be left outside to dip into the 40s and they seem fine. The exception to this is the cucumbers, which are not dead, but are not thriving. I think they will recover, but they are visibly yearning. The Bush Baby Zucchini, the watermelon and the muskmelon are thriving.

2. Pepper plants are hardier in cooler temperatures than the tomatoes. My tomatoes have been suffereing from not staying warm enough outside, but they're also leggy from being inside. The peppers are mostly thriving.

3. The hardiness of the tomatoes may have something to do with thier variety. The Beefsteak seem to be doing the worst. I've lost the tags on my seedlings but either the Yellow Taxi or the Nova may be doing the best. Next year I need a way bigger grow light.

4. Sweet potato slips can be rooted out of doors without suffereng in the least. However, taking sweet potato slips that have been rooted indoors and planting them in the garden shocked all the leaves off of them. However, the vines are still turgid and there are tiny new leaves growing so I think most of them will survive. Going forward though - pending how these outdoor-rooted slips do once they're planted, I may start rooting all my sweet potatoes outside each year as the weather breaks. The first year I planted sweet potatoes I ordered slips, set them out in early April and I had no problems at all. It makes me wonder if I got already hardened-off slips. It never occurred to me...

6. Last year I had such good luck with watermelons growing into the sweet potato patch that I thought - why not just plant the watermelon right there in with the sweet potatoes from the get-go? I think that's what I'm going to do. Two weeks ...

7. It takes transplanted brassicas some time – weeks – to get established in my garden. When I first put them in the leaves inevitably go magenta. Then they recover.

8. I love potatoes. Potatoes are a fine and hearty crop. I got my seed potatoes into the ground this past week the day they arrived on my front step. I expect to see evidence of their doing well before the first of May.

9. Marigolds are also very easy to grow from seed, so save your money at the garden store. What you lose in instant gratification you will gain in the heartiness of the plant.

10. Kale and radishes are fairly foolproof in my garden. 

11. Hornets will always try to establish a nest somewhere in the vicinity of my deck. They are almost always successful. Always be wary when removing the grill cover for the first time in the Spring.

12. If you push a child on a swing long enough they will eventually learn to swing themselves. Hooray!

13. There is no greater sensation in the world than that of the sun on a dog's back.

14. Proof of concept: I have prooved for myself that the germination rate of seeds declines over a few year's time. I've been planting the same pea "seeds" for three years now and this year I seem to be down to about 50% germination rate. Time to get a new supply.

15. Plants you order from reputable purveyors that arrive looking dirty and dead will in fact bounch back from thier journey and become beautiful.

16. I have three heirloom, embroidered pillowcases that are 100% cotton. They are white and seem stiffly starched even though I never starch anything. God how I love those pillowcases. I feel rich sleeping on those pillowcases, especially when they've been dried in the sun. Thanks Mom!

17. A pencil is an execellant device for making holes into which to transplant baby leeks. How do I know when to set them out? When some of the leek seeds I planted directly into the garden present as baby leeks.

18. It may be true that the bee population is declining. I have one tree in my yard which, in full bloom, usually hums like a bee condominium. This year I never heard one buzz as I walked back and forth past the explosion of white blossoms. It may be that it was too cool for bees. I don't know, but I'm planting a lot of flowers in the garden this year - marigolds, neon calendulas, beneficial bug mix.

19. Blackberry bushes are the fruit for me. They grow like weeds, and they flourish even if you give them no attention. I may have to compile a list of best crops for the inattentive – if not exactly lazy – gardener. Blackberries, sweet potatoes, turnips, radishes and kale are definitely on the list. And zucchini, my goodness, I am growing to love zucchini.

20. Sheets dried in the sun are infinitely superior to sheets that have been in the dryer. There is nothing like crawling into bed at night and smelling fresh air. A sheet – well draped – dries very quickly in the sun.

21. But seriously – the heat of the sun on a dog's back. That's the best.

cindy murphy
4/19/2011 8:43:15 AM

Hooray for Shannon’s daughter! Oh, I remember those days of endless swing pushing, trying to teach the rhythm of “pumping”, and then when they finally get it there’s the “Look, Mom! I’m doing it” ear-to-ear grins. Though those pushing days are long gone, our swing set still gets a good workout – even with the teenagers (and me on occasion)! That freedom of flying through the air still holds a thrill. I’m with you on the blackberries, though mine last year got a shoot borer. They were easily enough taken care of by cutting out affected canes as soon as I noticed the problem. Still they thrived. Now if I could just get my Shannon to leave the fruit on the plants long enough to fully ripen, we’d be doing fine; she picks them as soon as they turn black, which most of the time doesn’t allow them to sweeten. Will your list for the inattentive – if not lazy gardener includes tips for parents of anxious-to-pick children? We’re still waiting for spring here…at times, it seems like futile effort; spring is still on vacation. Yesterday, we had three inches of snow, though it melted by afternoon. Today back UP to the forties with predicted thunderstorms and hail. No heat of the sun on the dog’s back yet – just mud on the pads of her paws so far.


nebraska dave
4/18/2011 6:09:40 PM

Shannon, I feel your anxiety about wanting to put plants out in the garden but not being the right time to set them out to fend the elements. I do have the onions, radishes, and lettuce planted. Now I have an idea that if I don't cover the lettuce it will become a rabbit buffet just like the pansies did. Ah, but I have a plan. I always have a plan .... but it doesn't always work. It's been raining here with the most gentle soaking rain ever for April. When it dries out some I will get those potatoes in the ground and mulched in. All five beds are ready for planting but three of them will have to wait until the middle of May. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers need the much warmer weather then we are getting right now. Thirties at night and forties during the day just don't cut for them. It will take me a few days to get my automatic watering system expanded and set up again for this year so there's no hurry. And well there's always a project or two to keep me busy. :0) Have a great spring gardening day.