Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Treats.

It's official. It's spring—tra la! 

The tulips are popping! The cherry trees are bursting! The peas are poking their little first leaves out of the soil!

I'm using too many exclamation marks!

I'm sorry, my northern friends—I know it's still chilly up in your part of the world. But, it's spring, and I know your hands are getting itchy... play in the dirt. Ahhhh....

Now, we all know the rules...

No planting tender annuals until after the last frost date for your zone.

(Repeat after me: I will not plant too early, I will not plant too early.)

As tempting as it is, you'll be wasting your time and money by planting your garden full of gorgeous tomato babies and basil this weekend—if your last frost date is May 15. Here's the ultimate resource for when you can plant tender veggies and flowers in your zone.

It's hard. I know. You want to plant. You need to plant. You look at your forlorn, bare garden, and the tease of spring makes you crave soil under your nails. Soon, soon...just be patient.

OK, I'm also impatient. That's why I'm sharing the perfect project to give you a spring gardening fix.

It's easy.

It's quick.

It's pretty.


And you can plant it RIGHT NOW!

It's a Berry Ball.

Hmmm. That sounds a bit like a poorly organized southern cotillion.

Strawberries herald spring. They're one of the first fruits to show off their adorable little blooms, quickly followed by deliciousness. Who can resist that sweet, sun-warmed berry, picked fresh from the field?

Wait—who needs a field when you can grow them in a container right outside your front door? (That's where our berry balls currently reside.)

And what's a more perfect snack for the kids than strawberries dangling within reach—while they ride scooters in the driveway or climb trees? What's more refreshing than savoring a strawberry snack as you toil away in the garden? It's a perfect reward for your labor.

Plus, this is a really fun project to do with your kids.

Here's what you'll need:

  • 12” round hanging container with removable coconut fiber liner.
  • Organic potting soil.
  • Scissors.
  • 10-12 small strawberry plants, ever-bearing variety. 
First, remove the liner from the hanging basket.

Using scissors, make a total of six small, evenly spaced holes around the lower and mid portion of the liner circumference. (I staggered the height of the holes a bit.) Do not make the holes too large or your plants will fall through and soil will spill.

Next, take a strawberry plant and insert the plant into the hole. 

Carefully pull the flowers and stems through the hole to avoid breakage.  

(Holy cow. Where did all of those wrinkles come from?)

You can use standard strawberry varieties, or you can try something a little special--Fraise des Bois. These are tiny, trés sweet, adorable alpine strawberries that produce fruit all summer until the first hard frost. I grow both Red Wonder and Yellow Wonder varieties--and I think the yellow berries are even sweeter than the red.

Fill in the lower holes first.

Add soil to the liner to help support the roots. The plants will be hanging somewhat upside down.

Now, fill in the next tier of holes with strawberry plants. These plants' roots will be placed horizontally in the basket. Add additional soil to cover the roots, and firm the soil to prevent plants from slipping out of place.

It's time to move to the top--you know, the place where we normally plant flowers in hanging baskets. Place one plant in the top center of the basket and evenly space four additional strawberry plant along the edge of the basket. Add additional soil to cover the roots and firm it into place. These plants will fill in the top of the container and spill over the sides as they grow.

Next, retrieve the metal basket from your son...

...who turned it into the Death Star and declared war on the rebel strawberries.

Carefully, lift the liner with the soil and plants into the basket. Gently insert the plants through the metal design of the basket to ensure they hang freely. 

Untangle the chain from the hanging basket. (This was, in my experience, the hardest part of the entire project, because I somehow managed to twist the chain. Lovely.) Make certain the chain's placement won't break any of the plants.

Hang the basket in a spot that receives six to eight hours of sun. This is, normally, a pretty sunny location...just not at 9 p.m. when I finished both baskets. (Friday nights are very exciting around here.) Water well.

Remember, containers need consistent watering. Check your container daily—and when it's hot, you may need to water twice a day. A good rule of thumb is to insert your finger one inch into the soil. If it's moist, you're all set. If it's dry, water your babies. Strawberries, especially, need adequate water. (Hmmm. I guess that's a “rule of finger” instead of a “rule of thumb,” huh? HA! Sorry.)

Now, don't you feel better? A little garden therapy always helps chase away the winter blues. Soon, your strawberries will begin growing and spreading and filling in the gaps so that your container will be one, big blooming ball...and your pretty little flowers will turn into delicious, tasty treats.

Mmmm...are they ready yet?


XO ~


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Eye candy.


...because I'm beyond overwhelmed with a greenhouse that doesn't want to go up...

...because there are thousands of tomato babies languishing in the basement, begging for natural light...

....because my poor girl is home, sick (and it's the kind of sick that translates to many, many loads of laundry. Sigh...)

...I'm playing along with May Dreams Gardens very lovely Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. If you, too, need a respite from your daily dose of stress, click on over to this site and check out the lovely virtual March blooms of gardens in different zones throughout the country.

It's such a nice escape from reality.

Yesterday, while my ickie sickie girl watched the very relaxing and probably highly-inappropriate-for-a-9-year-old Pirates of the Caribean 3: At World's End, I took a much needed stroll outside. It's supposed to rain today, so I cheated a bit. Here's what's blooming on March 14 in our garden and woods:

Daffodils galore.

When I was hugely pregnant with our now 5-year-old, I spent many days planting hundreds of bulbs. Mommies-to-be tend to nest, but mostly they ready the nest inside--scrubbing floors, walls, anything scrubable. I, however, moved mountains of mulch and worked in the garden every day until dark. And then, I would turn on all of the outside lights and keep working. My neighbors thought I was nuts. 

They were right.

But during March, when our yard is blazing with cheerfulness, I'm glad I nested outside.


Cherry blossoms. Truly, is there anything prettier than cherry trees in bloom? 

From our tiny little weeping cherry... the tree we planted when our now almost 10-year-old was born. Cherry trees just make me happy. Trite, I know, but true.
Pieris Japonica. The only time of year I feel affection for this shrub...

...and bulbs. Hyacinth...

...Muscari Grape Hyacinth...

...huh. No idea what this is. I suppose I could look it up, but I'm a little time-pressed this morning. It's cute, though, don't you think?

...tulips about to pop.

Then, of course, the camellias are showing off like prom queens--perfect, blemish-free, absolutely unreal in their loveliness.

But my favorite bloom of all isn't showy, doesn't flaunt its looks, and actually is a bit shy...but it heralds spring...

Soon, soon...spring will arrive, and our winter hibernation will be just a far off memory.

Happy bloom day!

XO ~


Monday, March 7, 2011

Twelve Truths...

(...about life and greenhouses).
When the customer service guy tells you that it will take two adults two weekends to build the 12 x 20 greenhouse you just ordered...multiply his estimate by 10. Remember, his job is to sell you an expensive pile of metal, screws, and plexiglass. He doesn't care if it takes you two years to build the thing while your tomato babies languish in the basement, begging for natural light.
If your husband or significant other decides to take vacation to finish a large outdoor project (like a greenhouse), Murphy and his law will make certain it rains.

Lowe's will become your second home. Cashiers will know you intimately.

You will spend your children's college funds at Lowe's, buying all the parts that didn't come with the all inclusive greenhouse kit. (But that's OK. You're building a business that the kids can inherit, so who needs college...right?)
Backing down a steep driveway in a borrowed truck filled with lumber is a quick way to unload.

When you build or garden in a forest, you will find many, many rocks...and roots. And roots wrapped around rocks. You will feel like a pioneer woman, conquering the wilderness. And then your wimpy suburban self will ask your husband to help you move the rocks, which really means that you'll watch him while he moves the rocks.

If you need a 2”x 10” x 12' board...the actual measurements are 1.75" x 9.75" x 12'. Who knew? And why?

If you drop a 1.75" x 9.75” x 12' board on your finger, you may find yourself crying in Lowe's.

While the greenhouse goes up—life continues. You will run to craft stores, farms, and school because your fourth grade child created an Egg Dispenser for Invention Convention. While she came up with the idea, you have to gather supplies, take her to test it, and force her to sit in a chair long enough to finish the project the night before it is due. And then you will take her to the Humane Society, where she will pick up supplies for a service project. There will be a dozen cat condos cluttering the living room, as well as cat blankets and dog toys that she made. Add to this the piles of papers that arrive home from kindergarten every day, plus the general mess that accumulates while you obsess with greenhouse construction, and soon you will qualify to star in an episode of "Hoarders."

Your cat will want to help.
Your heart will hurt for your inventor daughter, who won an award at school—and had high hopes to win at the Invention Convention. And your heart will be proud of her while she cheers for her friends who won instead. 

Daffodils are lush, forsythia is blooming, cherry trees are popping, and you remember—in the midst of the insanity of building a greenhouse, running a business, and caring for your family—why you love spring. And you remember why you started the business. And you're thankful—even with greenhouse traumas and sore muscles and panic attacks when the business' website server goes down—how lucky you are to do what you love.

XO ~