Forsythia : Love/Hate Relationship

When I was younger (waaayy younger), my days of getting with my friends over a typical Saturday pick-up football game, would be suddenly halted by the dreaded words of “yard work”. Now these games were always planned from Monday, through the week by my friends on when, where, who, etc… We were, afterall, living the life of our beloved football jerseys which we wore constantly. We got them for birthdays, Christmas, etc. We all were pro’s ourselves when the numbered, colored jerseys were on our backs. We were fearless, until….

“I need you to help with cutting down the Yellow Bells in Nannies yard”, AAARRRGGG!!! Not today, please! …but the game….  Now I always knew it would be a losing argument, but a kid of 14 almost needs to keep the defiance going, only to lose by default. I would always picture the game waiting on me to show up, well because, afterall, I wore the jersey of Alan Page from the 70’s Viking era… They needed me to make spectacular plays along with Csonka, Butkis,Riggins, Bilitnikoff, whatever….  Yeah, I was hatin’ Forsythia.

Now, as time wore on through my life, grew up, moved on, every time I saw Forsythia, I shuddered to myself of the entire days used up cutting back this dreadful shrub. The whip injuries, sweat, held back tears of not getting to play football with my buds… Yep, a good thing to hate. Now that I am older (waaaayy older), I have grown to cherish the nemesis. I was fortunate enough to acquire my Grandparents home after their passing. The Forsythia, still there. I now respect it’s worth.

I can tell time with Forsythia in a phenological way. See, when Forsythia blooms, things are happening. I am also one of those anal folks who watch the addition of minutes of daylight form around January 3rd and on. When we are getting 2 minutes a day, I get really energized. As of this posting, we have gained over a half an hour, and I feel it. Soon, I will get my soil temp probe out to see what is right. The angle of the sun is rocketing overhead now. Here’s the skinny on the poop on Forsythia. When Forsythia blooms, then the soil temp has been 58 degrees at 4 inches for 5 days straight. Most of your seedling weeds and annuals start to germinate with this same scenario at 7 days… Hmm. Forsythia is my friend. I then know when to put down my pre-emergent on my lawn and in my beds. I know to check my Hostas and Sedums, along with my Hardy Bananas and to feed them for the season. In just a couple of days, it will be time to solarize my vegetable garden for April planting. Furthermore, in a few weeks, the Oak leaves will be the size of a squirrels ear, time to plant my corn….

OK. For someone who loathed this vile shrub in the past, I can say, “Thanks Nanny, for shoving this wicked plant down my throat now and then”. I get cuttings every year from my yard, and they are in bloom, now, in my home, just to remind me of my Grandparents, and times I should have paid more attention to my surroundings, but, I truly could make those fantastic plays with that old jersey…  It is time again to pay attention.

I Know It’s Cold, But….

The time is right to start thinking about that vegetable garden, now… Instead of drudging through the cold part of the year, and getting “house madness”, I opt to start my garden in my head. What went wrong last year, went right, wanted more of, some of… Yeah. All that is buzzin’ around in my head. So, the first thing I will do is figure out how much more space I can conjure up on my property. I will even make use of growing food in large pots that almost made it to the dump. I have already amended the old part, as well as composted a newer part I will till in March. Yeah, I will have more this year.

But when do I?…… Start the seeds, start saving milk jugs, solarize, etc…. First things first. The seed racks are out already, and I have some dried out from last year. The proper timing in my experience is this, and its streamlined, you betcha…. On every pack of seeds, there are some important bits of info for you, after all, those folks have been selling seeds a long time, and it’s their job to keep us straight. There is a growing zone chart on when to plant outdoors, height, width, depth, spread, row length, etc. But the one piece that  most people ignore, is the “emergence” time.  That is the time to expect the seedling to pop up and say hello. Here in Zone 7a, my last average killing frost is around April 15th. Sooo, I will take the timeframe they say for each individual crop, add 3 weeks, do the math and subtract that many days from April 15th, and thats the day I start that particular plant, indoors…. Too soon, and I will have to repot because of root mass, and who has time to do that over and over, plus the space it will take, and too late and my neighbors are eating fresh veggies before me. Nah. not me.

There are several hundred ways, creative, and marketable gadgets, to start seeds in. It’s a great feeling to see the little guys pop up, but here’s the thing. From the time they emerge, they are hungry, so now feeding is going to be a priority. They don’t get food in the soil while germinating, or it will make them leggy most times. I want my little fellas to come up, and sprout leaves soon. Then I will start a little balanced feeding. When that happens, they start to root out more, which is a good thing. From root, you get bloom, from bloom, fruit. So less leggy leafing, gets me more root mass, see? If I have to repot, then the feeder roots keep getting disturbed, and start producing more leaf, which takes away from my precious root mass. So one transplant time is good enough for me. Matter of fact, when I transplant to the garden bed, I place bottomless one liter bottles on them, then feed so the food isn’t right at the root. My guys have to work for their food by spreading their roots to get to it. After all, I have to work on picking it later. It’s kind of a thing we have, me and the plants that is.  Wow. I’m picking Green Beans and Squash in my mind already. Yeah. I’m ready. But there is a little more to do yet.

Later we will discuss the art of solarizing a garden bed and setting up the irrigation, etc. But for now we need to remember High School Biology a little. It takes seed to soil contact, moisture, and light to get your seeds off right. I will add some pics (hopefully) on a cheap, easy seed starting contraption and even a easier way to transplant to the bed, without even touching the plants. Time to get creative a little on your garden sense. After all, I do know those folks out there who did this stuff last year for the first time, and you are wanting to go, now… Timing people, timing and planning will get you off to a better start with memorable times next Winter, when you are still eating veggies from your own garden, instead of buying them. The time is coming. Start planning. If you need to get something going now, and just can’t stand it, go out and get some cuttings from a bunch of your Spring blooming trees and shrubs, bring them in the house and put them in a vase with water in a well-lit room. They will explode waaay sooner than outside, and maybe give you a little hope that it will be warm soon… Just a little.