I've got a couple of things to update you on. First, I recently put some lettuce cuttings into water after reading that you could regrow lettuce this way.
I'm pleased to report that this actually works, and that I'm growing new lettuce!
Recently I talked about trying to decide what seeds to order from home-state company Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and that's when my neighbor let me take whatever seeds I wanted from his school's collection. Although I found a few that I wanted to try, there was still one thing I wanted to buy from Baker Creek...
One thing that makes the cold days of winter something to actually look forward to is citrus. When those fruits start arriving in big numbers from Florida and California, it's a time of delicious happiness.
Nothing says that more to me than mandarin oranges, or more specifically, the "Clementine" variety. When these start arriving, I just can't help myself!
We had a wonderful day here in St. Louis yesterday, with the afternoon turning sunny and warm: temperatures were close to 60ºF (15ºC). I took the opportunity to get out and take a look at the bamboos, to see how bad the damage really was.
I couldn't do this right after the frigid weather (-8ºF/-22ºC) not only because I didn't want to yet know how hurt my favorite plants were, but also because there's some damage that doesn't show immediately. I'm glad I waited, as I had a much more positive outlook walking around in this surely-spring-is-coming weather than I would have earlier.
I've talked about plant markers or labels before, and how my favorite is using a strip of vinyl window blinds written on with pencil. It's a fantastic solution for potted plants, but I've wanted something that I could use to label some of my in-ground plants: shrubs, bamboos, roses, etc.
I've seen the metal tags that they use on trees at the Missouri Botanical Gardens -- sort of a dog tag for each specimen -- and that's what I've been looking for. Something permanent, something embossed. Oh, but it has to be inexpensive, because I don't have a botanical garden's budget of course. I recently found my answer -- sort of.
I don't remember paying much attention to winter before I started gardening. Sure I'd notice the extra-cold days, or if we got an impressive amount of snow, or if an ice storm took down part of a tree in the neighborhood. The day-to-day details though, well, I just didn't notice.
Now of course I monitor temperatures daily, watch the forecasts (often with dread), and hope for some winter precipitation -- but not too much. All because of the plants. Will they survive the winter? What conditions might be the most problematic? Are the deer getting extra hungry? It all makes the coldest months a bit worrisome.
I saw an article recently that was one of those "10 things..." type of lists that are so popular these days, as if something isn't worth learning about until it's in a list, but I digress. The article was something like "10 vegetables you can use and grow again forever", and since I already have experience with this sort of thing with my kitchen counter green onions, I eagerly read through the list.
Most of the list wasn't useful information to me (You can grow carrot greens from the discarded ends of carrot roots? Really? What would I exactly do with carrot greens?) but I did see a couple of intriguing ideas that I could easily try out.
It's mid-January, with single-digit temperatures (F) arriving again later this week, so what can I do in the garden on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon? Why, plant lettuce of course!
At last Thursday's seed swap, Jack at Schlafly Gardenworks showed photos of his young lettuce plants that had survived the recent polar vortex with its -5ºF or lower temperatures with only a lightweight row cover protecting them. He insisted that any short warm spell at this time of year is the perfect time to sow lettuce seeds. So I did.
Hopefully everybody reading this has experienced seed shopping from those winter-arriving seed catalogs. The excitement of discovering new plants, imagination working overtime trying to envision the lush tangle of wonder you'll have in your garden next year, left brain figuring out how to fit everything into your space.
With almost endless options, page after page of amazing-sounding varieties, it can be difficult choosing what to grow. Well, there's another type of seed "shopping" that presents its own challenges but can be every bit as much fun as this: a seed swap!
Looking out the window yesterday, sunlight brightening the afternoon, I realized that the bamboo looked so wrong. Still greenish, but too light, the normally fine-textured foliage looking a bit too thin.
Evidence of the arctic air we felt ten days ago is all too apparent, but it's not too disheartening if you just imagine that these are all variegated forms of these plants. Not impossible to do in the sunshine's glare.
One of the things I like most about having a blog is that it introduces me to lots of like-minded people: experienced gardeners, beginners, plant-lovers, bamboo growers, and sometimes companies. Yes, marketing departments sometimes find me and request that I take a look at some product or another and post about it. My criteria for this type of "opportunity" is that it really must be something that I'm excited about and would actually use in my garden. If not, I politely decline the offer -- which is what almost always happens.
Like most gardeners, winter for me is a time of poring over seed catalogs and choosing what to grow next season -- mainly for edibles. With limited growing space, I need to choose carefully. Oh to have room for rows and rows of food someday!
One of the first places I look every year is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, a major player in the area of heirloom seeds, and also based right here in Missouri. Their catalog is huge and wonderful, and I've chosen a few things to order from them this year. Before placing the order though, I asked my neighbor if he was planning on ordering anything from them, thinking we could combine orders, save a little money, and conserve some resources.
The plants under the lights are doing quite nicely, even though I'm still battling aphids and mealy bugs.
I'm not overly fond of begonias, but the four or five plants I inherited are starting to bloom now, which makes them worth keeping around I think. What else is going on?
Back at the end of November I did some major houseplant pruning when I hacked one of my lanky Dracaena into pieces.
It's been seven weeks, and I've been patient, but there's finally something worth showing you.
As I've hinted at a few times already, the recent cold snap has caused some damage to my bamboos. Although I won't know the extent of the damage for a few months when the leaf buds start to swell (or don't because they've been killed), it's easy to see that most if not all of my larger bamboos will be losing the majority of their leaves.
It's not just the temperature that causes problems (about -8ºF/-22ºC here), but the wind. A cold, dry wind does terrible things to bamboo leaves.
One thing you can't deny about our recent snow and dangerously cold weather: it makes for some beautiful mornings!
The cold, gusty winds kept the almost 12" (30cm) of snow blowing and drifting, forming wonderful ripples, snow shelfs, and mounds. It has been a few years since I've seen winter act this way, not content with an even blanket of snow, feeling more creative.
I like to do a wrap-up of my favorite self-snapped photos of the past year in January. For some reason I forgot to do it last year, but I did it in 2011.
|January: art deer|
So here are my favorite photos of 2013. How many of them do you remember?
As I write this, the temperature outside is -7ºF (-22ºC) with a windchill of -20ºF (-29ºC) or so. This is cold and windy enough to not only kill all of the leaves on my bamboos, but it may also kill all of the leaf buds too. This means that I will definitely see lots of blonde bamboos soon, and I may be cutting down lots of dead bamboo culms in the spring.
Since I've known for a while that this arctic air incursion was imminent, I took advantage of some sunlight a couple of days ago to get what may be my last look at some green bamboo for a while.
As you've noticed during this holiday season, I've not been as diligent with the daily posts as I have been. For almost four years I've managed to post something almost every single day, but I've finally realized that it's no longer possible.
So, I've changed my posting schedule: I'll now post daily Monday through Friday, but will skip posts on the weekend, at least in this blog...
With the coldest air in several years moving into the area soon, I wanted to take a quick survey of the bamboos to see how they've handled the winter so far.
At the time these photos were taken on a mild New Year's Day, the lowest temperature my garden has seen this year has been about 6ºF. Let's see how the bamboos have fared...
After a couple of really mild winters, we're back to a "normal" winter in St. Louis, with alternating periods of warm and cold weather and snow. Temperatures over the last couple of days were in the mid-40's F, but forecast lows in the next few days could reach -5ºF (-20ºC) or lower.
It certainly has been a winter of contrasts so far, and what better way to illustrate that than with a series of high-contrast photos after an overnight snowfall.
Although it's quite common on many kitchen windowsills -- even those belonging to non-gardeners -- I've only been growing Aloe vera for about a year.
Even though we don't need to use its soothing properties very often (once), it's so pretty in the kitchen, it will be there for years!