Sunday, February 22, 2015

Give Away

 Since I am bidding farewell to middle age this week (I'm turning 60), I thought I would offer a give-away to anyone who wants it.

 These four photos will be made into photocards and sent to you if you leave a comment on this post.

 I would also be happy to substitute other photos from the blog posts if you prefer. Just give me the title of the post and a description of the photo.

Send your mailing address to me at:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Starting Seeds

Since it is seed starting time, I thought I would share some ideas about getting little green plants to grow.
Seeds: Fresh seeds bought from a reputable company will usually germinate the most quickly and evenly.  Older seeds can sprout, but best results will come from this year's seed.

Soil: Buy a good quality starter mix - it makes a difference.  A heavy soil will inhibit growth and can result in die-off so go with one that has enough peat to keep it light.  African violet soil is usually a good bet, but most of the name brand starter mixes work well.  Peat pucks also do a good job especially for planting larger seeds, one per puck.

Containers:  Lots of different containers work just fine.  I save plastic margarine and large yogurt containers, and clear plastic lidded containers from the bakery department. Regular 4" plastic pots can be handy or you can buy the multi-celled units.  For plants that dislike transplanting (cucumbers, squashes, some flowers), peat pots are ideal.  The only essential for containers is that they have good drainage holes in the bottom.
   Light:  Light is one of the trickier aspects to manage.  If you have grow lights, they work really well, but they need to be somewhere that is also warm.  A south-facing window is next best but, at this time of year, it's a good idea to move the plants away from the window in the late afternoon so the plants don't get chilled.

Water and fertilizer:  Once the seeds have sprouted, be careful not to overwater to avoid damping off and leggy plants.  Water from the bottom, if possible, and try to time it for a sunny day when the plants will be most active.  Some soil has fertilizer in it, in which case, no more is needed.  If you do fertilize, use no more than half-strength once a month.  You want short sturdy plants.

Special tips for better germination:  Always read the directions on the seed packet as some seeds need light, others darkness. Pay attention to the temperature requirements suggested.  As a rule, seeds germinate best in warm temperatures : 20-30C with plenty of moisture. I give the potting soil a good soaking before I plant the seeds and cover the container with plastic wrap or lid. On a sunny day, I'll let the sun shine right on it to get everything nice and warm, possibly removing the plastic around midday if it seems to be heating up too much, but putting it back later in the afternoon to capture the heat.  If it's not sunny, I find the warmest place in the room for the seeds, which is usually somewhere high, like the top of the fridge.
Once a group of seeds germinates, take the plastic off. Now the job is to get the soil to dry down and to give the seedlings maximum light. I like to have a fan nearby to increase air circulation to minimize damping off. The moving air also makes for stronger seedlings.
Transplant to individual pots (or with small plants space out in container) when the seedlings have 2-4 sets of true leaves. A transplanting fertilizer with a high(52) middle number will give them a boost, but it's not necessary.                                                                                                      

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Bouquet

Lovely roses from my dear husband.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Did I Say It's Been Cold?

 You'd think after all these years that I wouldn't be surprised at very cold weather (-20s C) in February.  Intellectually, I understand that the first couple of weeks of February can be frosty, but in my heart when I see the sun shining stronger, and feel the days getting longer I keep believing that winter is getting to the end.

 Rainbow thinking .  We are still in the middle of winter.

Ice sculpture season at the carnivals.

Snowball weather.

Frostbite warning weather.
But I have new plants growing - basil in a pot and some statice that sprouted in one day (must have been excellent seed that I got from Richter Herbs). And I've planted up more flowers and some onions.  It is so cheering to have fresh green stuff growing in the winter.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Gardening Friends

One of the great things about gardening is the people you meet who share the same delusional fantasies about it as you do. (Although in fairness to Susan, who made me this lovely diarama several years ago, her gardens actually do look pretty much like the seed catalogue photos, so I guess she is just realistic). But for a lot of us, the summer realities fall well short of  the winter dreams.  Nevertheless, we plan and compare notes and are ever hopeful.
Come spring when I walk around the garden, I will see plants that friends gave me, and it is always so special to remember those gifts. Some of the perennials go back 35 years .
Gardening isn't just about plants.  It's about people and sharing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

February Abstracts

 We're having a classic winter with cold weather for the end of January and beginning of February.  We had new snow yesterday, but today is bright and sunny.  The air is very fresh and clean.

 The snow always molds into interesting shapes.

 I like the roundedness of the white landscape.

 The striking contrast of light and shadow is more pronounced in winter. The snow sparkles beautifully in the sun.  Unfortunately, the camera does not do it justice.

Woodpeckers pecking on trees drop dark confetti on the snow.

As kids, we used to love to lie in the soft snow and just enjoy it's cool comfort. It was easy to imagine falling asleep in it.

 Variety of lines.

Zebra landscape.