Friday, March 31, 2006

Random Spring Observations

Spring is in the air. Highs are in the 70s. There is actually moisture in the air. The flowering trees are flowering, especially the cherries. Peepers are singing their little hearts out. The little sulfur butterflies have already made their appearences. As well as the dandelions. In fact, I spotted a dandelion gone to seed already.

The crocuses are already passed, but the daffodils are going strong. The tulips still have to put up buds. And the hydrangea is starting to put out leaves. The rhodedendrons are waiting. One of the periwinkles is blooming already, and the iris seems strong, despite all the periwinkle shoots sprouting up around them. The hostas came through alright and are putting up new leaves. Several unnamed white wildflowers are blooming away in my back yard. But the grass seems to be waiting.

SPRING IS HERE!!!! *bounce*

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Counting Seeds

My seed starter tray arrived this week. Now I'm trying to figure out how to plan the starting. Some of the ones take 2-3 weeks, and some are 10 weeks. And amounts. How many plants do I really want at the end of it all? I'm still noodling it all around. I do know there are at least two trays worth of seedlings here.

Temperatures in the 70s this weekend. The house is getting aired out again. Who cares about the pollen? A house that is not stuffy is a wonderful thing.

My peonies seem to be happy in their new bed. Although, I should probably water them this afternoon. I should probably also see about getting tomato cages for them soon. Easier to cage while they are small.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Cherry Trees

From the want list:

I have always wanted a pink cherry tree. It is the earliest thing that I remember planning for my own yard one day. Why? Because that is what my climbing tree was. When I was little, my parents had a pink cherry tree in the yard. It had forked low and had very sturdy limbs. So, that was the tree my dad taught us to climb in. There was no better thing than climbing in a sea of pink blossoms.

The plan is simple, the first house I buy, I will buy a pink cherry tree and have it installed. I might not be able to climb the tree, but I will be able to be lost in the petals.

From last year's Cherry Blossom Festival:

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cherry Blossom Festival

I did get the peonies planted. They did not come out of the pots as easily as hoped. I had to plant them individually, but there weren't that many roots to disturb. It's amazing how much smaller that garden looks when planting, as opposed to pulling out grass.

The cherry blossoms are blooming away happily. The festival is in full swing, and some rain even showed up today. Just hit or miss drizzle for a couple of minutes, but it is still rain. Although, after five weeks of nearly no precipitation, we'll take it. Only 0.04 inches since February 23rd. Yikes! Unless some rain really shows up on Friday, we're a shoe in for the driest March on record. Ouch.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ready to Plant

The Cherry Blossom Festival in town kicks off today. I went last year and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Despite the fact that it was absolutely gorgeous weather and everybody was out. The peak bloom is supposed to be towards the end of next week. We shall see if I brave the crowds.

Yesterday, I played in my yard. An outing to Home Depot netted 4 cubic feet of organic dirt, a garden fork and some insecticidal soap. I have had enough of the white flies on my hibiscus. After spraying the hibiscus, I got down to work. The birdbath garden. I had left the area covered with leaves all winter, but it did not really kill the grass. I guess a harder winter might have helped. So, I got down to work with stripping the area of grass. I am now thoroughly convinced that the "experts" that talk about rolling up grass are a) only talking about prelaid sod, b) haven't got a clue. The only area that came up easily was the moss. Such a shame too. That is gorgeous moss. But it's in the wrong area.

I did discover that I have an excellent worm population in my yard. And there is a little bit of topsoil under the grass. But that thin layer is overtop of yellow clay. I took quite awhile to pull up all the grass. I still need to dispose of it. Which is going to be a chore and a half, that sucker is heavy. Part of that is because the leaf covering kept it very moist. I also have idle thoughts of digging out the moss and trying to transplant it in various places, like the front yard and behind the shed.

Then I mixed in three cubic feet of organic dirt and got to mixing. The fourth bag is in reserve for the side bed, which I'll get around to much, much later. After all that, I played with the hose. There are various fittings that were not tightened properly in the hose house I got at Christmas, so I need to tear it all down again. But fortunately, one length of hose does reach to the bottom of the yard. I wetted down the freshly mixed earth (as well as the rest of my gardens, .04" of rain on the month is just not enough).

Then I let it sit over night. Today I need to transplant my peonies. They've suffered in their pots for long enough. I just hope I don't shock them too much.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Return of Sweet Pea!

For the past 3 years, I have lived with a puzzle. Which hibiscus died? I had two hibiscus when I moved to Maryland a little over 4 years ago. Then I lost one. In all those years, since leaving Pennsylvania, my hibiscus had not bloomed. So, I never knew which one died, because I did not label the pots. This spring however, the question is finally answered. Candy, the yellow hibiscus died. The puzzle had actually been solved a couple days ago when the bud got big enough that you could see the color of the petals.

This morning, Sweet Pea bloomed. It was a wonderful surprise first thing in the morning (on a morning I slept in).

And there is even another bloom on the way!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Robin Red-Breast

The promised snow did not arrive, and neither did any precipitation. But that did not stop the robins from swarming the front yards looking for worms yesterday.

Maryland is in the middle of the Eastern Seaboard and has relatively mild winters. Which means some of the locals winter over, and migrants from Northern, more frigid climes, will hang out here. There are robins in them thar woods all winter. But since the ground actually freezes here, they do not feed on worms or even insects during the winter, but rather turn to their other food source berries. Which is why they are seldom seen in the winter.

But on Sunday, I spotted one robin in the neighbor's back yard gathering worms, signaling that the ground has warmed up for spring. I'd better get digging.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

M: for Moisture

There was actually moisture in the air today. Too bad it was snow, but it is still there. Cloudless sky this morning, so driving in to work was good.

NOAA came out with their Spring Outlook. The watchwords are drought and wildfires. We are already suffering from drought conditions. Sadly, the worst is for our friends in the Southwest and Midwest.

So, I'm willing to accept any moisture that comes my way, even if it is as snow. And even if there is a chance of rain on days I'd like to spend in the garden, like Friday.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Happy Equinox!

This afternoon at 1:26 pm EST, Spring will start! That's important to remember in advance of the forecast tomorrow: wintery mix. Yuck.

My hibiscus bud is big enough to tell what color it is, red. Which means that this is Sweat Pea, and I lost Candy the gold one. Ah, well. Now I know what color to buy when I get another. The yellow lantana that I bought last year is putting up new growth, and some attempts at buds. In the wetlands out back, there are daffodils blooming and a forcythia decked out in yellow blossoms.

Peepers quieted down with temperatures in the 40s dipping down to the 20s. But they still peep when it hits the 50s during the day.

I ordered a seed starting tray and more seeds yesterday. The only one packet of seeds left to buy is the Nasturtium Whirlybird Cherry Rose. I'm not certain how much room I'll have for nasturium, and I already have a package of a mix.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patty's!

Well, our St. Patty's day snowstorm fizzled. I'm not certain we're even going to get that much rain out of it. Just not enough moisture in the system. It's a real shame.

But still, some Killian's Irish Red tonight, and it'll be all be gooooood. :)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dry Winds

It has been dry, very dry the past month. Since the big snowstorm on the 12th, there has been only 0.27 inches of precipitation. That's just a hair over a quarter inch! Yikes! No wonder my skin is all dry and sore! Between the heat and the anti-histamines, because yes, the oaks are pollinating right on schedule. It's sad, when you don't want the snow storm during morning rush hour to fizzle, because we despirately need the moisture. Thankfully, there will be rain in the overnight as well.

When I say we despirately need the moisture, I mean it. There have been brush fires nearly every day this week in the region. The region is ripe for fires. There were two big ones yesterday, one wherehistoric landmarks were destroyed, as well as a large roadside brushfire that snarled traffic. I hope there's a good soaking rain in our future.

Aside from that, I brought in four daffodils yesterday that the wind had knocked over. Three are blooming away, the fourth was a bud.

I watered my peonies last night. They're all sprouting. They made it through the winter. Although, with how mild this winter has been, it isn't that big a surprise. I'm going to see about getting them out of the pots and into the ground this weekend. At the very least, the plan is to buy compost to ammend the bed. They're talking below normal temperatures. :( I thought it was early summer!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Ides and a Full Moon Too

So, here we are on the Ides of March. The thing stabbing people in the back is the wind. Very chilly out. The peepers are still singing, although not as enthusiastically. The daffodils out front that bloomed got knocked over by the wind.

And we've finally come out on the other side of dawn. Let me explain. Because traffic in the region is terrible, I get up early and drive into work between 5:15 and 5:50 am. Yes, I know clocks shouldn't have that time on them. But today, the sky was actually brightening when I left the house, and dawn was approaching when I arrived in the parking lot. Whee! That's almost as nice as when sunset hit the 6 pm mark. Daylight is returning to my world!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

All the Little Froggies Go Peep, Peep, Peep

Absolutely beautiful day yesterday. It got a little muggy with incoming storms late in the day, but still beautiful. The breeze took the edge off of it. I ate lunch outside and spotted the little five-lined skink that is resident on the cafeteria patio. These skinks are interesting, in that the females maintain the characteristic blue tails, while the males disolve into a rosy gold color. Quite a reversal.

Also, there are more crocus blooming. These just popped up over night under the hydrangea. They aren't the teeny tiny ones like the others. There are purple ones and yellow ones. And it looks like a few more are popping up right at the base of the hydrangea, along with some more tulips.

And the daffodils out back are blooming. The ones out front were just starting to open this morning when I left for work.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hold on to Your Hats

And the roller coaster continues. Mid 80s today, and going down into the 50s. Those 50s will be tomorrow's high temperature as a front rolls through bringing thunderstorms. And strong March winds will continue. Makes me want to have someplace to fly my kite. This is the only time I complain about having too many trees around. *chuckle* And they're talking about snow on Thursday, if the temperatures drop low enough.

The cherry trees at work are giving it another go. The blossoms should last this time. The trees on the Tidal Basin are going to hit their peak between March 27th and April 1st. They tend to be a bit later than the ones at work. I'm all excited. I love cherry blossoms.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Gorgeous Weather

I bought a new car on Thursday. On Friday, the beautiful record breaking Friday, I took a long and rambling drive. High 70s yesterday, flirting with 70 today, and more of the same tomorrow. They are talking 80s on Monday. It's a real shame the last frost date is a month away. The spring peepers are singing their little hearts out at night. It was warm enough that I left one of the windows open to listen to them.

I have teeny tiny yellow crocus popping up out front. They seem smaller than I remember crocus being.

My daffodils out front and out back are just about ready to bloom. I think they like it out back in the sun better.

And it seems that I do have tulips! There are two clumps under the hydrangea. Just tucked willy nilly. But they're there!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Spring? Already???

I've been reading my hummingbird and butterfly book. The stuff about hummingbirds is mostly new to me. I have at least two that visited my neighborhood last year. I had spied the female hunting insects for her young. It is really cool to watch them spiral downward almost lazily, and then all of a sudden zip off.

I also have a few yellow crocus blooming in my front garden. I'll try and get pictures. It just wasn't good conditions the past two days to take pictures.

And great Jeosephat! It's barely spring, and the ice cream truck is back in the neighborhood! Yikes!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bird Brains

So, I had recently read an article which mentioned how the brains of song birds need to constantly grow new brain cells in order to sing their complex melodies. Well, this morning, I can certainly believe it of the mimic songbirds. On my walk in from the parking lot, there is one bird that sings in a courtyard. Now, what that bird is doing awake that early before dawn, I don't know. But usually he sings some birdy type song. This morning, he was doing a reasonable* approximation of a car alarm. I'm not sure what female bird would be attracted to that. But it was amusing.

*reasonable meaning not as annoying while just walking past.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Dry Skin Woes

It was a bad weekend for dry skin. That might have had something to do with the fact that the humidity was brutally low. Low enough, in fact, that the area had a Fire Weather Watch this weekend. Which meant that between the dryness and the high winds, that conditions were favorable for small fires to get out of control. Yuck. Fortunately, it seems that no fires started up.
It is also fortunate, that a drizzly weather system is making its way into the area today. Nice and damp this morning.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Frost Zones

Everyone is itching to start seeds by now. I see a lot of questions about it out there. Me personally, since I haven't ordered a seed starting tray am not too worried. That and I'm waiting for the local garden columnist tells me it's time.

But I did find a good chart on the web, out of curiosity.

The average dates taken from that webpage for first and last frost are:

Zone 1 = Average dates Last Frost = 1 Jun / 30 Jun
Average dates First Frost = 1 Jul / 31 Jul
Note: vulnerable to frost 365 days per year

Zone 2 = Average dates Last Frost = 1 May / 31 May
Average dates First Frost = 1 Aug / 31 Aug

Zone 3 = Average dates Last Frost = 1 May / 31 May
Average dates First Frost = 1 Sep / 30 Sep

Zone 4 = Average dates Last Frost = 1 May / 30 May
Average dates First Frost = 1 Sep / 30 Sep

Zone 5 = Average dates Last Frost = 30 Mar / 30 Apr
Average dates First Frost = 30 Sep / 30 Oct

Zone 6 = Average dates Last Frost = 30 Mar / 30 Apr
Average dates First Frost = 30 Sep / 30 Oct

Zone 7 = Average dates Last Frost = 30 Mar / 30 Apr
Average dates First Frost = 30 Sep / 30 Oct

Zone 8 = Average dates Last Frost = 28 Feb / 30 Mar
Average dates First Frost = 30 Oct / 30 Nov

Zone 9 = Average dates Last Frost = 30 Jan / 28 Feb
Average dates First Frost = 30 Nov / 30 Dec

Zone 10 = Average dates Last Frost = 30 Jan or before
Average dates First Frost = 30 Nov / 30 Dec

Zone 11 = Free of Frost throughout the year.

Now, the span of dates is because the zones are big and there is variety. But it is a good approximation. Not that this (or any) winter is predictable.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Garden Plans

Hmm, I never did write up my seed and plant choices for this spring. The front gardens are full, so nothing really going in there. I might sprinkle some vine seeds in the rhodedendron bushes to give it some summer interest. The back deck is going to turn into a container garden. I'm going to get three to four of the over the railing planters and fill them with petunias and pansies. In addition to the pinky-orange ones I have at the moment, I'm going to order some yellow and white ones. A couple pansies purchased at a garden center and nasturium from seed will round those out. The lantana will also go into pots on the deck. And I'll watch the garden centers for million bells.

The former coneflower garden by the shed will be planted with butterfly weed and cosmos. More butterfly weed will end up in the new birdbath garden. I've already got the bird bath. Sunflowers, dwarf morning glories and peonies will round out that garden. A few snapdragons might go in there too. Snapdragons, peonies and some other border plant will go along the fence where the satellite cable is. I can't put spreading plants there, because they would spread under the fence into the neighbor's garden. The extension of the hosta bed will eventually get a butterfly bush, I've decided, but not this year. More border plants will go there, possibly some dwarf morning glories.

I will see about some hanging pots under the deck with nasturium vines. I want at least one over the compost pile. I might work up to a long planter under there as well by the drain spout.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Meteorological Spring

It's March 1st, which means in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the meteorological start to Spring! Weather wise, that means a break between frigid air and warm air to actually keep in line with the seasonal averages today. But that's still 54 degrees. Nice.

As for signs of spring, there are buds on the rhododendrons, although, they're several weeks from being ready to bloom. There are leaf buds on the hydrangea, so my late season pruning didn't do it in. :) And the spring bulbs are actually beginning to put up flower buds. It appears that daffodils was the right guess, although, there might be a hyacinth or two in there as well.