Spring Garden Archaeology

Viola_tricolor-wikiIt’s spring.  Well, it’s close enough to spring that I’m pretending it is spring and getting a start tending emerging plants in the nursery.  For the most part this is pretty straight forward now that I’ve finally found a marker that creates plant tags that survive the winter still readable (more about that below).  But there are always those exceptions.  Those exceptions require what I refer to as garden archaeology…the excavation and identification of the anonymous plant.

For instance, there is usually at least one tray of seeds that were planted in haste in the fall with missing markers.  Maybe the markers blew away, or I committed the ultimate gardener sin of assuming I would remember what I planted, or the cats made toys of the things.  Regardless, now I’m looking at a tray of small seedlings with no clue what they are.  Eventually, of course, they will get big enough to identify, but that’s not the point.  I’m out here now with my gloves and spade and ready to DO something with them.  Frustrating.

Or there are the mystery plants that show up as visitors in other plant pots.  Again, late season oversight.  Flower heads that were not snipped off and set seed.  At the time, I just admired the swaying seed heads not thinking about the inevitable results.  Some plants, most plants really, are pretty polite about it all.  It’s only with plants like catnip that you can end up with an unintended seedling invasion.  So, lots of excavating to remove early weeds and pot up volunteer seedlings…maybe pot up volunteer seedlings.  Depends on how badly I want more catnip. Oh, and don’t get me started on the mints.  Lovely plants, but they are definitely travelers.  Their lines of rhizomes running out from their pots to their neighbors, where they wriggle up through the pot drain holes and show up green and minty in a new location.

The first year of the nursery, and before I found my perfect plant stake marker, spring was much more exciting.  It was a lesson in early plant development identification because nearly ALL the plant stakes had faded to the point of invisibility.  On sunny days I would hold the faded markers to the sun to see if I could make out enough of an ink shadow to figure out who was living in that pot.  Sometimes it worked.  Mostly, it was a case of recognizing emerging plants, or waiting until they got big enough to be distinctive.

But despite the challenges, or probably because of the challenges, this is one of my favorite times of the year.  You will generally find me hopping around staring intently at trays of plants looking for evidence that they are emerging, or to see how much bigger they have grown in the past 24 hours.  It is such a magical, joyous time of year with all the new life erupting.  What’s a little archeology when compared to that?

Yelm…the Chicago of Washington

Chicago is called the “windy city”.  Justifiably.  I’ve been there.  Definitely breezy.  I had no idea that little Yelm, WA, Pride of the Prairie, was just as blustery.  Perhaps the word “prairie” should have clued me in.  I don’t know.  I do know that we had our third cold frame disaster this past week.  This time I was standing right there watching as a big gust of wind blew up out of nowhere (okay…probably Chicago) and knocked another cold frame flat.  Seedlings everywhere, soil, mayhem.  It was a mess.  Managed to rescue most of the plants.  They are now in plant triage while they recover from their ordeal.

We have been thinking about just how we will install poly tunnels on the property.  The current thinking is steel girders and six foot concrete footings.

Happy Spring!

Happy spring!  The second batch of seed trays were planted and put under lights this past weekend.  I even managed to get the timer set correctly for a change today.  Well, I think I got it set correctly.  When all the grow lights come to glaring life at 2 AM I might have to reevaluate that statement.

I dealt with the timer after re-writing roughly half of all the plant labels in the seed trays.  This weekend I broke out my bright, shiny, and new, fine tipped Sharpie to clearly print out the botanical nomenclature on the seed tray labels.  Anyone who has used a standard Sharpie will understand why a fine tipped pen is so wonderful when you are writing something like Scutellaria baicalensis on 1.5” of plastic and expect to be able to read it two weeks later when you no longer remember what you planted in that tray.  What I neglected to notice was that these were Sharpie’s basic writing pens…not permanent markers.  Guess what happened as soon as I watered the trays?  Hence, the scramble to re-write the labels while I could still make out the names.

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