Monday, April 25, 2016

Garden chores: Spring clean-up, up-planting tomatoes

With weekend of brilliant sunshine, albeit accompanied by an occasional chilly breeze, it was prime time to start cleaning up the garden.

Signs of life are everywhere with the daffodils and hyacinths in full bloom, the peonies starting to sprout, the rhubarb slowly awakening and sending up shoots and the buds on the lilacs, roses, clematises and the Bing cherry tree all plumping up.  Not to mention the profusion of dandelions, plantain and chickweed!

Before I started in on garden, I thought I would bring the seedlings out for their first taste of sunshine and fresh air.  The corner of the deck where the patio table is stored is nicely sheltered from the breeze and with the sun it was quite cozy.  The two square side tables made a perfect shelf for the trays to sit on under the frosted glass top of the patio table, so the seedlings were protected from direct sun to allow them to acclimate to the outdoors.  I left them for a couple of hours only before returning them to nursery under the grow lights so as not to shock them.  I will continue to bring them outdoors for longer and longer periods as the days warm up so they can harden off and become used to outdoor temperatures.

Later this week I will set up my portable mini-greenhouse, a great find at Lowe's a couple of years ago.  I usually set it up initially in a corner of my dining room as it has a door out to the deck with a large window in it.  I bring up seedlings from the nursery as soon as they are large enough and graduate them into the mini-greenhouse. From there, it's a simple move of the entire greenhouse outside onto the deck. If cold weather threatens, it's an easy move of the greenhouse back into the warmth of the dining room.

The biggest chore I wanted to finish was raking all the protective leaves off the beds and allowing the sprouting plants underneath to bask in the sun.

The most finicky area to clean up was the rockery on the back side of the pond, but now that it's done it looks so much better. And I was heartened to see that both the sage and the oregano which earlier I was convinced I had lost over the winter have tiny leaves beginning to sprout. 

It's just so energizing to see all this life bursting forth around me. I love spring as much as I love autumn because both are seasons of change, but while autumn has a mellow, cozy melancholy about it, spring is fresh, vibrant and awake and the urge to get outside in the fresh air is strong.

Still, I did have to spend a bit of time in the basement, tending to the nursery and up-planting the tomatoes.

I had originally hoped to plant all the tomatoes in 3-inch pots, but due to poor planning, I actually ran out of potting soil, so I only managed to get my "babies" up-planted, the cherry-sized version of the Black Brandywine tomatoes I discovered in my garden last year. The maddening thing is, I was at Canadian Tire earlier this afternoon and was actually looking at potting soil, but decided against (why? why????) buying some, thinking I had enough.

It works really well planting the entire peat pellet "pot-let" directly into a plastic 3-inch pot, although for a few of them, there were multiple sturdy seedlings in one, so wanting to save them, I gently removed the net casing from the peat and carefully broke the pot-let apart, teasing apart the roots of the multiple seedlings.  With each seedling now in its own pot, I now have 18 Black Brandywine Cherry tomato plants.  I am more excited than ever to see how these grow.

Later in the week, I will pick up some more potting soil and finish up-planting the rest of the tomatoes.  I will also start some dwarf marigolds to plant along the edge of my vegetable beds as the giant marigolds I started earlier will take up too much room.  I will use them around the pond and along the edge of the property to help deter the raccoons.

Now, if it would just warm up a little more!

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