My Garden Diary - 2008

by George Kingston
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April 25

Picked up 3 blueberry bushes, a rosemary plant, and two bags of gladiolas at the Hampden County Conservation District plant sale today.  They always have great plants are very reasonable prices, but you have to order a month in advance.  The downy yellow violets are in full bloom and our first red trillium (T. erectum) has bloomed.  The Solomon seal is up and the Virginia bluebells are in bloom.  The shadbush, which bloomed on Monday, is now past but the apple blossoms are opening up.  We're expecting showers tomorrow, which we badly need.  We spent the morning spreading wood chip mulch.  Our town chips the Christmas trees up after the holidays and makes the mulch available to residents at the transfer station for free.  You should check with your DPW to see if they do this in your town.  It's not as uniform as the commercial stuff, and it's not dyed, but that's okay, I don't like that orange stuff anyway and it still does a good job of keeping the weeds down and the moisture in the soil.

April 21 - Patriot's Day

Another beautiful day.  Planted one sage bush and one common thyme to refresh the herb garden.  Our herb garden is in the front yard.  It is a circle centered on a bird bath.  We have mostly perennial herbs, including Egyptian onion, three kinds of chives, and Greek oregano.  We supplement this with biennial parsley and annual common and Thai basil.

April 20

We have three trout lily blooms!  This is exciting because we have been tending this trout lily bed in the edge of the woods for about five or six years.  Every year we got lots of leaves but no flowers.  Last year we got one flower.  This year it is three (so far).  The trout lily is a native wild flower with dark speckled leaves and a single, bright yellow, lily-like flower.  It looks spectacular in the dead leaves of the spring forest floor.  Also today, we planted two winter-berry holly bushes to replace the burning bush that we chopped down.  We planted one male and one female, which is necessary if you want to get berries.  We also put in some red primula in one of the shade beds.

April 19, 2008

Open burning today, the last of the season.  Limed, fertilized and shaped the beds in the north vegetable garden.  The soil is really dry and there is no rain in the immediate forecast, so I guess I'll have to soak it before setting out the lettuce.  Planted 3 heuchera ' ' in one of the rear shade beds.  That particular bed, which gets afternoon sun, seems to be particularly good for heuchera (coral bells).

April 18. 2008

Daffodils, bloodroot, spicebush and forsythia in bloom.  Virginia bluebells getting ready to bloom.  Turned over the north vegetable garden today.  Moved my tomatoes from the sixpacks where I started them to 3-inch pots in the greenhouse.  Started a second set of tomatoes and eggplants.  I'm trying the eggplants I got at the Berkshire garden symposium last weekend.

April 12, 2008

Attended the WMMGA Berkshire spring gardening symposium in Lee.  A really good program.  Attended on session on borders, while my wife attend one on perennials and another on shade gardens.  Needless to say we now have a list of plants to go shopping for.  I gave a session on being a good gardening neighbor to a stream, discussing how integrated pest management can help reduce your garden's negative impact on ground and surface waters.

April 10, 2008

A beautiful spring day with temperatures in the 80's.  Cleaned out the south perennial bed and started edging it.  The perennial crowns are just starting to green up.  The crocuses are in full show, daffodils are just starting.  The first ones opened yesterday.  I have my tomato plants out in the new greenhouse with a space heater for the colder nights.  They seem to like it there.  The peppers are a little slower.

January

Who says you can't garden in January in New England?  This is the time of year to get out and walk your property.  Look at the bones of the landscape, the trees and shrubs.  Then get out the loppers, the pruners, the hand saw, or in some cases the chain saw and get busy.  I have already taken down two small trees that were damaged by a heavy snow storm, and I'm hoping to clear more of the oriental honeysuckle, burning bush, and buckthorn that have invaded my little patch of woods.  This winter, I'm working on the edges of the back yard, trying to improve the ascetics and the sight lines.

My major project for the winter is almost done.  I bought and built a new greenhouse.  It is about 8 by 10 feet and made of an aluminum frame with UV resistant insulating plastic panels.  All that remains to be done is to put down some gravel for a floor and decide how to heat it.  Of course, I probably won't begin heating until March.  Although I can get up to 20 degrees of temperature gain from the sun during the day, it drops to ambient at night, and I'm not going to foot the bill for heating during these cold January nights.

Inside, the house plants are responding well to a new set of humidifiers.  I still have basil plants living that I started in September, and they provide a great fresh flavor note when cooking.  The rosemary's are still alive on their humidifying beds of wet gravel.  Our second set of paperwhites is blooming, as is our 'Christmas' cactus.   Now we are into primrose season at the supermarkets, so we have a few of those for color as well.

Happy gardening!