April 17, 2015: Long-awaited signs of spring

The difference a 71-degree day makes! The first cherry blossoms have opened literally within the last 24 hours. Strawberry vines are spreading out over the edge of the pot and along the earth, grape hyacinths emerged, and California poppies are beginning to sprout. The latter are perennials in their native Golden State, but annuals here in the East. See if you can spot the Springer Spaniel in the last photo! 

         

April 16, 2015: Blackberry bush

I have a new plant! This summer, I will be able to harvest blackberries, in addition to strawberries and cherries (as I have in summers past). Craigslist connected me with a fellow South Philly gardner, who is moving away at the end of the month and was trying to sell off his plants. This blackberry bush was the last item to sell, and I am happy to give it a new home. It even has new growth! And came with several irises in the container. I can almost taste the homemade blackberry jam.


 

April 3, 2015: Kitty explores the garden

As I raked and cleaned up in the garden this afternoon, Kitty explored, poking around the new trove of terra cotta pots I got off Craigslist, climbing the walls, and peering into the chiminea (McBaine was at school). I also scattered wildflower seeds, among them California poppies and forget-me-nots, which remind me of growing up in the Bay Area. The Farmer’s Almanac says April 6 is the date of the average last frost here in Philadelphia, so here’s hoping they’ll be blooming soon!



 

April 1, 2015: Seedlings at 10 days

Sprouts and cotyledons, the embryonic leaves that are the first to appear from a germinating seed, continue to emerge from the starting trays. At 10 days, the peas have clearly grown the most, with cucumbers close behind. The red chard, perhaps not surprisingly, have red sprouts, the leeks are pointy, and the brocolli, kale, and romanesco look quite similar at this stage. They’re all growing steadily! Once the first set of true leaves develop, I can start to fertilize the plants, but for now, a bright southern window and daily misting, plus the seed starting mix, are all they need. 

         

March 29, 2015: Lattice fence

Before and after (and during) my weekend home improvement project: affixing lattice to the frame of the fence. Yesterday, after measuring the necessary dimensions, I went to Home Depot solo and the lumber department kindly helped me cut each 4x8′ piece by a few inches on both sides. Then I ran into my friend Tommy in the checkout line who agreed to drive the pieces to my house  in his truck (which was amazing timing as I wasn’t exactly sure how I would have gotten them home, but it would have involved bungee cords). This morning, Michael and I installed them, as well as the bird house made by my late great uncle Alan (1910-2004). With the help of two cups of coffee to warm up (since it feels like 21 degrees out there), and about 30 screws, we completed the work! He even wore his lumberjack shirt, my favorite one. 

             

March 21, 2015: Seed starting trays

Soil smells like spring! What do coconut husk fiber, worm castings, parboiled rice hulls, and pelletized turkey litter have in common? They’re all ingredients in this seed starting blend from Organic Mechanics. And they’re about to feed the romanesco brocolli, red chard, pickling cucumber, and blue podded shelling pea seeds that we planted today. Each seed starting tray has 32 cells; eight cells for each type. After planting all the seeds, it’s suggested to lightly mist the soil to settle it before covering the tray with the greenhouse cover, which increases humidity and promotes germination. In several weeks, these will be joined in the garden by the rest of the veggie seeds (candy cane beets, kaleidoscope carrots, tri-color beans), which will be sown directly outside after the last frost. All will be planted in the three hand-crafted raised beds that Jim Cappon (Mike’s dad) is building for me! And the marigolds and beneficial bug and butterfly blooms will be planted in the ground. Planning my whole garden already! Can’t for the temperatures to catch up with the season.