Being somewhat superstitious – for instance never, I mean never say the Red Sox have a game tied up until they make the very last out – I’ve hesitated to mention the weather that has blessed Connecticut gardeners and other Nutmeggers this week. I think any possible jinx from me is passed though, the latest weather forecast is calling for cooler temperatures, rain, and wind early next week. So … how to describe the last few days? Wonderfully warm during the day yet chilly at night, soothing sunshine, refreshing spring air, in a word “Delightful.”
With three days of outside work under my belt, my
gardening raking muscles are reminding me they have gone little used for too long – no matter how I try, my winter exercise routine does not keep these muscles in tone. I don’t know about gardeners/homeowners in more southern states, but New Englanders go through a spring ritual of clearing multiple fallen branches and twigs, acorns, and other debris – including mounds of wind-swept leaves – from lawns and gardens. Many bemoan this task, but I embrace it as it gives me the opportunity to slowly build up gardening stamina, clear the winter cobwebs from my head, and observe how all my woody and herbaceous family members have braved the winter.
Most have done quite well. The boxwoods, however, are loaded with boxwood leafminers. Notice the yellowed spots; each contains a leafminer waiting to hatch into a flying insect that will lay tons of eggs that will become leafminers that will injure any remaining uninjured leaves. I’m not sure I will be able to save all of them, but I’m trying. I sprayed each with horticultural oil, said to suffocate leafminer larvae, and will spray them again after a few more warm days. To work, the oil has to cover all leaf surfaces, top and underside, and it must be applied before the larvae hatch into the little insects that will flitter about blooming boxwoods. I also sprayed my pieris shrubs to prevent the tiny lacebug that love to give pieris leaves that unattractive mottled look.
On a more positive note, I found a lone ladybug wandering around inside the house so, like any good gardener I found it a plant to monitor. It seems pretty happy on this little coleus. As often happens this time of year, my indoor coleus developed an aphid/white fly infestation. Since my windowsill plants are small, I use the kitchen sink sprayer to liberate the tiny pests from the top and undersides of the leaves. The ladybug, though, which feasts on these insects might take care of this infestation – a one bug army of sorts.
And, for the first time in recent memory I was able to plant peas on St. Pat’s day … a tradition according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. But my planting method is not traditional. My first set of peas – Snowflake Pea Pods, height 22 to 24 inches from Kitchen Garden Seeds – went into a large pot on my front porch – lots of midday to afternoon sun. Then I sprinkled a few seeds of Tom Thumb lettuce from Pinetree Garden Seeds. This tiny heading lettuce was a new found favorite of mine last year – sweet, crunchy leaves of the freshest spring green – and I vowed to plant as much Tom Thumb as possible this season. In fact it has it’s own pot right next to the peas.
Why not plant both in the vegetable garden? I have a serious problem with voles; they love the rich soils in my vegetable beds. These lovely little varmints wait until peas and lettuce, and many other vegetable plants, are just beginning to show some real promise, then they have an underground feeding fest and leave only gaping holes where the veggies once grew. So, we are undertaking a major project. We’re going to dig out the main long narrow vegetable bed – built into a slope with the lower edge supported by a stone wall – and line it with wire hardware cloth to prevent the voles from entering the bed from underground. Watch for future posts on this project; until it’s done, all veggies go elsewhere.