- Mothers day is traditionally the last date on which frost can be anticipated in the Philadelphia area, so despite the recent warm temperatures don't set out tomatoes, peppers, and annuals such as marigolds or zinnias too early.
- Be sure to harden off any plants before planting them outside. A cold frame is perfect, if like me you are lacking one place the plants in a protected area and cover them with a light fleece at night.
- My houseplants and geraniums have been dying a slow death inside from benign neglect and low light levels. I put them outside at the first opportunity and watered them well. Like seedlings, place them in a sheltered spot and baby them at night and cold days with a light fleece blanket.
- Continue planting potatoes, onion sets and onions plants outdoors.
- Sow seeds of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants in seed pots. Make sure the soil temperature remains between 70-75 degrees - electric warming mats are an easy solution. Provide fluorescent overhead lights and cover containers with polyethylene covers to retain moisture and encourage germination.
- Move germinated seedlings to cooler temperatures for healthy growth
- Start planting peas in the ground, continue planting lettuce and spinach and transplant brassicas such as cabbage and broccoli into the garden before the weather becomes permanently warm.
- Complete pruning any roses or perennials that are still leggy or bedraggled.
- Basil and dill are essentials in my kitchen and easy to plant from seed. Dill can be direct sowed in beds and grows best when it is cooler so can be sowed now. Basil seeds can be sown indoors for transplanting outside after the last frost date.
A gloriously hot sunny day today with highs into the 80s. Tempting to rush outside and plant - but next week the temperatures are meant to plummet down into the 30s at night.
Sun, clouds, and 30mph winds and the remaining magnolia blooms are falling to the ground like confetti. To add insult to injury there are fire weather watches and warnings out because of the combination of high winds and low humidity.
Could be worse - 27 years ago today thunderstorms along the Atlantic coast produced winds and golf ball sized hail that that destroyed or badly damaged 52 planes and 23 greenhouses which makes todays weather a relative breeze!
A productive evening, sunny and mild with temperatures in the high 60s. It was astonishing how much has changed since the weekend. A couple of camellia flowers are out among the buds desiccated by the harsh winter, trillium are blooming in the woods, tulips are almost in bloom in the lavender garden, the early daffodils are finished, the late ones are in bud, native spring ephemerals Mertensia virginica and trillium are flowering in the woods beneath the Cersis canadensis blossoms and the Dicentra spectabilis are in full bloom. I cut back the last of the grasses and managed to finish repainting the garden chairs before a huge storm cloud darkened the sky and heavy rain, thunder and 50 mile an hour winds forced me inside. At least I don't have to water the pots.
Of the many different Fritillaria I planted years ago I found one solitary Fritillaria meleagris and a couple of Fritillaria pyrenaica about to flower.
Fritillaria meleagris ('Snake's head fritillary) is a British native plant and flourished in our Cambridge garden but is obviously not partial to our heavy Pennsylvania clay and harsh winters.
Fritillaria pyrenaica is native of the Pyrenean meadows and is supposedly one of the easiest and most rewarding fritillaries to grow. It flowers just as F. meleagris fades and is meant to bulk up to form substantial clumps and even self-sow when happy. It obviously is not happy in my garden, but at least more than one seems to have survived. It is usually a dark brown with a dull gold lining that's just visible when the segment tips curve outwards. Like most fritillarias they gave a rather spunky unpleasant odour, but if I could grow them successfully I would still plant more.
A glorious day to work in the garden, cutting back grasses and perennials left for winter interest.
At the edge of the woods the cercis are beginning to break bud, daffodils are in their glory, magnolias are already winding down and the edges have been blasted by frost, Strachyus praecox is definitely past its prime.
We lost some of our colonies at the farm this winter so replaced them today with new sets brought up from Georgia.
It was quite the bee pick-up scene, cars lining a small country road, beekeepers of all shapes and sizes walking down the road clutching their wooden sets in arms, stray bees buzzing around them. We took ours straight to their new hives and installed them next to the two hives that survived the winter.
It's a deliciously mild spring morning, temperatures in the 40s before 9:00am and promising to soar into the 70s today.
The chickens are adjusting grumpily to their new location outside the vegetable garden at the farm and the straw littering the beds has been dug in with a sprinkling of milorganite as added fertilizer. I'll let the turned soil sit for a day before raking in preparation for sowing peas and planting out the trays of kale and cauliflower I've moved from the potting shed to the cold-frame to harden off.
Some spring tasks you can write in stone -- sowing tomato seeds 8 weeks before the last predicted frost in the area. If frost still threatens after planting out the new seedlings can be covered with fleece and survive. Sown too early, you risk thin straggling plants that have stretched too long for light.
Other spring tasks are a moveable feast, if the winter is as wet and cold as this year's even if the weather is suddenly glorious the ground may still be too wet to sow or plant any edible crops.
The classic test is whether the soil sticks to your boots. If it does, wait a couple of days until there is 'tanning' on the soil surface.
There's still plenty to do -- the soil might be too wet to dig but will be easier to edge. Neatening edges and weeding now greatly improves the garden going forward. The best way to edge is to use a moon-shaped cutter and angle the tool slightly outwards rather than straight down. This exaggerates the edge and makes it look deeper. It also improves drainage and helps to prevent the weed seeds congregating in the groove at the bottom.
Finally, the first robins were on the lawn this evening when I returned from work. A great sign. Outside the kitchen window Chionodoxa luciliae (Glory of the Snow) are blooming alongside crocus tommaainianus, hellebores and snowdrops. I've moved all the plants from the kitchen windowsill so I have an unobstructed view of the bulbs outside.