Longest, coldest, snowiest, winter ever?

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Yes, I think this winter here in North America has been a joy for skiers and has been a trial for gardeners.  In Michigan we have had record amounts of both cold temperatures and snowfall.  This, of course, means that we gardeners are getting cabin fever and a terrible itch to get our hands in the dirt.

I do enjoy the calla lilies out the window, (inflorescence even glows for awhile after dark) but…..

 

n & cI temporarily solved this 2 weeks ago by hitting the local garden store that happily had some narcissus bulbs that I promptly took home and put right into pea gravel.  You may be able to see the bud developing in the one on the right.  A friend had given me some crocus bulbs last fall that I never got around to putting into the ground so they have been in my frig.  Since no one in my household had eaten them I was able to put them into a light medium mix and they too are now sprouting there in the middle of the narcissus!  Spring can indeed come to Michigan this year, even if indoors.

 

greensThis week I have begun to sprout some greens.  This will give me both the sight of growing things (since my ground is 4’ under – snow that is) and healthy green food to add to my table.  I readied 2 shallow containers that have drainage in the bottom with a medium mix of 1/2 part humus and 1 part perlite.  The container on the left will grow pea sprouts for me and should be ready in about 3 weeks.  The one on the right is a mix of radish, beets, swiss chard, mustard, cress, cabbage and kohlrabi seeds and should grace my table in about 2 weeks.  Once I see some sprouts about 1″ tall I will begin another tray of seeds for another week of greens.

phal buds bursting

Soon I will be able to pot up some Dahlias and Begonias that have been over-wintering.  In the meantime; taking care of that itch, anxiously waiting for the path buds to burst, and making progress toward spring.

A Fun Gift Idea

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Supplies

Supplies

This time of year I am always thinking of ways to incorporate plants into gift giving.  I found some plastic ornaments that are about 3″ in diameter, clear, and have tops that come off easily just like any ball ornament you may put on a Christmas tree.  This would be an excellent place to plant succulents and make a tiny terrarium.  Instead of hanging on a tree it can be put into a window and there it would make a fun display for any time of the year.

Note: Be sure that no direct sun falls right on the ball or it will cook your plants!

 

 

Ball supported and ready to begin

Ball supported and ready to begin

I sometimes have pieces from succulents that have fallen when bumped while moving or watering and I have babies growing from succulents or cacti that are just ready to be divided.  I just happened to have some pieces that had fallen and then I cut one baby plant that was big enough to be on its own.  I gathered different medium components, a funnel, a stick (well, a paintbrush) and a vase to support my ornament while I planted and fussed. There will be a top on this terrarium and closed gardens ordinarily have high humidity. Succulents usually would not care for a high humidity environment.  In this case the plants are so very small that I do not think the humidity will be too high for quite some time.

 

 

Layers

Layers

I decided to make some layers that I thought would add some fun through the clear plastic.  I chose sand and sphagnum peat moss both for their properties and the contrast. The light colored sand will keep the medium light and airy, and the dark peat moss will help keep in moisture for the succulents I chose.  Using the funnel I began with a layer of sand that could also act as a drainage layer because there are no holes in the container.  Then added a layer of peat, then sand, then peat and finished with sand so the surface would look like the desert but the peat underneath will help hold the moisture in.  Different media would be used for a different choice of plants.

Note:  A layer of charcoal can be used and some say it will help freshen the environment.

 

Gently push through

Gently add plants

I then gently pushed the plants through the small opening, being careful not to break them.  Using the paintbrush I arranged the cuttings and fallen leaves where I wanted them. I was able to plant them by carefully coaxing the proper end of leaves and stems into the sand and deep enough to be into the peat layer also. There are many slow growing plants that can be used.  Just be sure they can remain untouched awhile and not grow too quickly and have to be taken out too soon.

 

 

 

Arrange and plant

Arrange and plant

Miniature ferns, mosses, baby’s tears, jade plants, sedum and aloe are some examples of other plants you can use.

You can add some miniature benches, snowmen, etc.  As long as you can fit it through the opening the sky’s the limit – use your imagination.  This can be just like the fairy gardens that are so popular these days.  It is easiest to add ornamentation at the same time as the plants so they all drop in together.  If added after planting it can be difficult not to disturb the arrangement.

 

 

 

Water it

Water it

Hang it up!

Hang it up!

The last step is to give it some water.  I have an eyedropper that I use for other very small dish gardens that is perfect for this also.  As it hangs in your window you can often see moisture on the side walls.  If you can no longer tell that it is moist inside, just pop off the top and use your dropper to give it a bit more.  It should not need watering very often because the top will keep the environment pretty stable.  The walls should not have condensation on them all the time. If the side walls are extremely wet and you think it is too much just take the top off for a few days, let it get some air and evaporate some of the moisture off.

 

Looking good

Looking good

If your plants are growing tall and weak or the leaves are pale, your terrarium may not have enough light.  If the leaves are drooping or have brown spots, it may be too warm or may have been sunburned and have too much light.  Wilted leaves may also may be an indication of too little moisture.  If your mosses are browning this would also mean that it needs to be watered.  If you have a small paintbrush you can use it to keep the side walls clean which will keep down disease, mildew and pests.

 

 

 

Too much moisture

Too much moisture

I hung my new terrarium in the window to take pictures for this post and forgot to take it down.  It never should have been in this south facing window but for the sake of a picture… you know….  You can see in this picture a few days later that there is too much moisture on the sides and you may be able to see that the leaves are looking transparent.  These are definitely signs that the top should be taken off to dry out a bit and then put in a shady location with as much air movement as possible until it is under control.  A good lesson learned.  Never put a new terrarium in a sunny location but let it acclimate for a few days somewhere more neutral.

You can also see that I got out the sculpey and it is ready for the winter season. Enjoy this gift for teachers, friends and family or even yourself.

Growing Edible Sprouts Indoors

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With spring pushing up sprouts everywhere in my perennial beds I have decided to push up edible sprouts on my kitchen counter.  Using a quart size glass Mason jar with a plastic lid full of holes or cheesecloth and some seeds there will be fresh sprouts in no time.  There has been a lot of discussion about harmful bacteria that can grow along with your sprouts but I follow these guidelines and have enjoyed growing and eating healthy sprouts for many years. In a very warm and humid house be sure to use cool water and rinse no less than 3 times every day.

 

Items needed to sprout seeds

Items needed to sprout seeds

Always purchase organic sprouts.  You can grow a lot of different types of seeds and use them for numerous things.  Clover, chia and broccoli are mild tasting like the alfalfa.  Radish and onion will add a bit of spice.  Garlic and sunflower add something different altogether.  Mung bean sprouts are great fresh or cooked in a stir fry and lentil sprouts should, as other beans, be cooked before eating.  I have heard celery, soy bean, kale, pea and cabbage are also good to try.

 

Once you have chosen your seeds you will need a container.  Any jar will do and if you do not have a specially purposed plastic lid you can just use cheesecloth with a Mason jar ring or with a rubber band over the jar.  Add seeds and cool water and you are ready.

 

Alfalfa seeds soaking, mung beans on day 2

Alfalfa seeds soaking, mung beans day 2

Put 1-2 T. seeds in a quart size jar.  Fill the jar half full with cool water, swirl them around to rinse and drain the water out.  Fill the jar enough to cover 1” above the seeds.  Let them soak overnight.  In the morning drain the water, fill the jar with cool water, swirl, and drain the water out – TWICE.  (you could fill a watering can with all this water draining) Let the jar sit on your counter on its side.  There will be a bit of water on the bottom for moisture.  Leave it away from the rays of the sun, but with light while you go about your day.   Most kitchen counters work perfectly.

 

When you get home from work or mid-afternoon you can rinse again, TWICE.  Before you go to bed, rinse TWICE.  Do this every day, for 3-6 days, depending on the seed and you’ll be ready to enjoy.  You will be fine doing this twice a day if your house is cool.

 

Mung bean hulls rising

Mung bean hulls rising

Alfalfa seeds take about 4-5 days.  Bean sprouts may take only 3 days. Each is different but you can tell because they will sprout tiny leaves and begin turning green.  Once the greening begins you can rinse one last time and remove the hulls.  You can put your sprouts in a large bowl, fill it with cool water, swish them around and the hulls will rise to the surface where you can remove them.   My salad spinner works great for this purpose with a little different technique.  I put the sprouts in the basket which is in the bowl, fill it with water, swish it around, lift the basket and the water left in the bowl will then be full of the small seed hulls like alfalfa or larger ones like Mung beans will rise to the top when submerged again.  I reserve the hull water (strained for inside plants or not for outside plants) to water my flowers and plants rather than running it down the drain.  Do this a few times and you will get most of the hulls out.

 

Mung beans ready to eat

Mung bean sprouts ready to enjoy

Put your sprouts back into the jar and leave it one more day so they can really green up.  No water in the jar this time.  Drain all remaining water, put them into a dry and clean container with a cover and keep them now in the frig.  You can give them a rinse before you add them to salads or sandwiches, etc. and they will keep for week or so in the frig.

 

Now we eat!  We made Thai inspired Pizza.  Recipe to come soon.

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