Archives for the month of: April, 2012

The Northern Catalpa has sweet scented big flowers, or so I read. It’s apparently also messy, and a “weed tree,” much like its competitor, the Norway Maple I’d love to girdle if and when this tree gets big enough!

I planted the Catalpa such that its shadow is thrown north onto the property next door. That doens’t matter, because they’re a business with a lawn, and never a garden.

As in a recipe, “have ready” your bundle of trees (Fedco coats the roots with damp sawdust, and wraps them in plastic bubblewrap), a wheelbarrow full of compost (I use seafood compost from Landscape Supply), a water source (for example, a hose), and a shovel. Dig a hole for the tree with a shovel.

Here’s the variety of hazelnut I got. Not too tall, cold hardy. Follow me below the fold as I plant #1: Read the rest of this entry »


Here is a bean seedling that survived the low overnight temperature, even though I didn’t cover it with a drop cloth. Perhaps the predicted temperature wasn’t the real temperature. Perhaps I should only worry when there is an actual frost warning. Perhaps the nano-climate created by the jug itself is protection enough from the chill; I always place the handle end of the jug, which is not slit open, against the prevailing wind. However, I leave the slit round the rest of the jug untaped, unlike other practitioners, on the theory that exposure to the air acclimates the seedlings to the patch, as well as hardening them. That was what worried me. There’s hardening, and then there’s freezing!

Anyhow, one more night of this ridiculousness, and then we continue our progress toward spring.

Notice also how this jug exhibits the tendency for the first seedlings to emerge at the sides of the jug.

NOTE A lot of tinkering with this one sfter I pressed the publsh button..


For a certain stratum of Maine society, Fedco tree pick-up day is practically a religious holiday, and Fedco is their Mecca. Lots of trucks in the field that served as the lot. My neighbor and I made it in early; above is the as yet unravished hazelnut section, with the trees tagged and planted, or rather embedded, in damp sawdust.

I wanted hazelnut trees as a small step toward an edible landscape, a polyculture; because hazelnuts, being smallish, do not steal sun or endanger the roof; because nuts pack a lot of nutrition; and because hazelnuts are cold hardy — even as the Gulf of Maine warms, the winter is still something to worry about.

In another part of the warehouse, here are some people:


Of course, planting trees does imply thinking more than a few months ahead…

Predicted temperatures at 5AM tomorrow. And after Summer in March, too! What a rollercoaster! And it’s going to be like this through Tuesday. Are we even going to make it to Memorial Day?

Anyhow, now that I’ve got seedlings, I don’t feel like risking all of them, so I’ve covered the milk jugs for tomatoes and cantaloupes, because they’re in the path of that nasty prevailing cold wind coming round the corner from the North.

I left the beans (a few of which have sprouted) and the squash (which have not sprouted) uncovered, partly out of laziness, partly because they’re more sheltered, and partly as a control. Also, looking on the bright side: Maybe the hulls of the squash seeds never cracked, and now’s their last chance!

Milk jugs work like little greenhouses, for sure, but not when February comes in April!

Zero defects? Sure.

NOTE One thing I noticed is that Fedco never asked for an ID or a phone number when I paid with a check. Crazy, or crazy like a fox. I don’t recall having dropped so much at a retailer in quite some time. In fact, I bought too many trees.

Great metaphor….

I started planting the white clover around the garden two days ago during the warm rain. (See here for clover’s stacking functions). I want a solid border of clover round the entire garden, and not enough clover volunteers self-seeded to achieve that, alas.

Before I scattered the clover seeds, I ripped out all the quack grass clumps and raked away leaves where they had blown up against the fence. After I scattered the seeds, I “punctured” the soil with a heavy metal rake to create irregularities, so the rain didn’t carry all the seeds away. After I had disturbed the soil in these ways, I noticed that the soil was a lot softer than last year, and there were lots of worms. Could have been the warm rain, I guess, but I’d like to think the clover broke the soil up and made it better. Readers? Any experience with this?

This isn’t data as a scientist would understand it — though I guess I could take that approach, after I get done shoveling the seafood compost onto the beds — but I’m getting a sense of where seeds tend to sprout in the milk jugs: Either from cracks in the soil, or near the edges of the jug. A crack provides a seed with light, water, and heat, so it’s natural for the seed to sprout there. The edge of the jug would provide heat only — sunlight concentrated by the translucent jug.

To do a real study, I would have had to control for more factors; which would mean making my process even more consistent. Each jug gets nine seeds in a grid pattern, but I did not control for seed depth, soil composition, soil depth, or the amount of water added to the jugs. Nothing was done randomly, exactly, but none of it was controlled, certainly. Then I would put out the jugs, number each one, plot them on a map, and put the results into a spreadsheet. And take readings on a consistent basis. (The plot would also specify the movement of the sun, and possibly temperature, so those factors could be controlled for, too.)

That sounds like work. Do I really want those results that much? Not really. What I’d really like to know is not where seeds sprout, but why some jugs fail. Since my squash have not yet sprouted. Even though they are always late, I’m worried about them…..

One of those early spring days where it’s cooler inside than out, so the windows are steamy on the outside., in its usual hysterical fashion, had predicted driving rain, but what we got was steady light rain with a lovely mist. I figured this was perfect weather to seed some new white clover around the borders of the garden, so I weeded out the dandelions and a little quackgrass, and did that. (See here for the stacking functions of clover.) The earth was cold on the fingers, but there were lots of worms. (I took pictures, which I’d share if I could find the right USB cable to get them out of the camera.) After I scattered the seed, I mixed up the earth a little with a rake, so that the rain didn’t just carry the seeds away.

And now three days of warmth. More tiny shoots are appearing in the hitherto dormant milk jugs, giving me hope that I’ll still get a decent yield.