April Fool

The joke’s on me! I had no time in March to write my second Blog. We had solar installed instead – quite the process. We’re still chasing pantry moths, though not as many. The exterminator I spoke with said, “It’s a process.” Indeed!

So what with one thing and another, I have had no time to Blog about the spring garden. And I’m not gardening because it turned cold – April Fools – and wet.

I’m out of excuses. Here are some of my favorite spring photos from the past week.

The sweet gum tree against the still-winter sky.

My three-year-old red bud. I was told it wouldn’t survive. It’s thriving!

Bleeding heart starting to bloom. A bit early.

Daffodils this week. Maybe tulips next if the sum comes out.

If the weather ever turns spring-like, I may Blog more. Happy April!

Victorian Dreams

My dream garden includes a greenhouse a la the Victorian structures of wood, brick, and glass found in gardening magazines. Starting price $25,000. Surrounded by a parterre, brick walkways, and lush flowers. Interspersed by statuary of angels and fairies. Hmmm… not on my budget.

Instead I’ve been considering the mini greenhouses in catalogs and on Amazon. Looking over my shoulder, Jim said, “Oh I can make you that.”

And indeed, he did.

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The goal for this makeshift greenhouse is to over-winter my blueberries in pots. You may remember that our soil here in Kansas has a high pH, making acid-loving blueberries difficult if not impossible to grow and fruit. Pots filled with a soilless mixture might work, if I can keep the pots from freezing this winter.

The blueberries will take a lot of cold. Not so with the dipladenia that I want to keep alive this winter. I just don’t want to bring it in the house. First, I have no room. Second, I have a very low light situation, excellent for growing my African Violets, poor for the usual light hungry tropical. Will this plant survive the winter?

The polypropylene wrap that we used promises protection down to about 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Will it get colder than that? Possibly. But I can go out and wrap pots in blankets if it does. Will a tropical plant that does poorly when it’s less than 40 degrees survive. Uh, doubtful. But we’ll give it a try!

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One of the fun parts of the greenhouse is the old window Jim used as a roof. When we first thought of this project, we looked at photos of window greenhouses. Cute! But have you seen the prices of old windows these days?

We picked up a couple for less than $10 apiece – a steal, trust me – and Jim created a lift-able roof, allowing air to circulate.

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“It’s crooked,” Jim said when we were all done getting it in place. Maybe so. It sits on a patio that we (he) built so that it slants away from the house for drainage. The window roof faces the southeast. It’s protected from the wind on three sides.

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It’s not a Victorian greenhouse, but for my purposes, it will do!

Starting Seeds

A couple of weeks ago I bought the things I needed to start seeds.  I had heat mats and a light from ten years ago when I last tried to start seeds.   In 2003, I got busy at work and didn’t give the seedlings the attention they needed to thrive.  They all died.

One big problem was temperature.  Back then, I thought the heat mats would suffice to keep the starter soil at the right temperature.  I forgot that when the plants started to grow – well – I don’t know a veggie plant that thrives in 20 degree weather, wind or not.

My husband, Jim, continued to insist that “the barn would do.”  And he went behind my back and started some broccoli to prove me wrong.  Yes, it was just like the raised bed argument.  Jim looks for the simplest way to get to goal.  I have to read everything I can find and ask for expert advice.

Sure enough, when we went out to the barn this morning, he had tiny shoots poking up through dry seed starter mix.  He’d also forgotten to soak the mix in water before sowing his seeds.  I pulled out my new soil thermometer and tried to show him two things.  One, the seed packet said that the ideal soil temperature for broccoli is 80 degrees.  Two, the temperature of his soil was maybe 59 degrees.

And so we looked at each other for a while.  I went into the garage, which is heated, and started clearing a place on one of our shelves.  Jim came in behind me with the plant light, the drill, the level, some brackets – in fact all the things he’d need to set me up.

So we’re almost ready to sow more seeds and his little broccoli shoots have really shot up in just the few hours since this morning.

Special thanks to my Master Gardener friend, Lenora Larson, for the “when to plant” chart.  Yes, I was trying to reinvent the wheel using average first and last frost dates and seed packet information.  Lenora’s chart is so easy…

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