Sunday, March 31, 2024


Almost everything outdoors is swelling or starting to emerge from the chilly ground. Some things develop earlier than others: the serviceberry in the backyard looks like it is ready to pop, while the 'Cumulus' variety in the front yard has barely started. I have my fingers crossed that flower buds don't get nipped by frost. That has happened to some of the magnolia in the area.


I used to start a lot of plants from seed, but no longer, so I also don't have a very good setup for doing so. Consequently, once the zinnias and amaranth popped up, I moved them to the garage where they are under lights. Not the best situation, but it stays above 50 out there this time of year, so I hope it will be okay until I can move them outside.

Today was the first mow of the season. I felt a bit guilty making all that racket on Easter Sunday, but WeatherBug is predicting days of rain, so I didn't want to wait.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024


I *finally* got around to starting seedlings. Or at least doing what needed to be done to get them started.

Something new to me is starting wild strawberry and wild petunia from seed. The seeds need to be pre-treated by stratification. The gardener mixes the seeds with damp sand to help break through the seeds' dormancy mechanism and allow germination. The mixture sits in the refrigerator for a given amount of time, 60 days for these varieties, at which time the seeds have hopefully sprouted and may be planted directly into the garden. Fingers crossed!

The other seeds that needed starting were zinnias and amaranth. This process is more "normal" - fill little pots with potting soil (I chose to top the potting soil with vermiculum), moisten the medium, then plant the seeds. Ordinarily, I would place the pots on a warming pad, but this year I have too many for that. The flats are in a room that is fairly warm and protected from Beau the Feline Destroyer.

Each packet of zinnia seeds contained 40 seeds, although they are so small I was skeptical. However, when I counted them out, there were 41 seeds in each. A while back I learned that the gardener does not need to use more than one seed per pot, so that is what I did here. There are some leftovers in case some of the seeds don't germinate.

If the zinnia seeds seemed tiny, the amaranth seeds made them look like giants. The package contains 100 seeds, but all I needed were six. In this case, I did plant two per container, just because they are so small.

By the way, amaranth is a ancient grain, but I plan to use my plants for dyeing yarn.

It feels like March around here, especially with the wind - in like a lion. Around town, forsythia is blooming and magnolias are budding. The birdhouses are cleaned and hung. The lawn is green and will soon need to be mowed. The yard awakens.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Mulch volcano or donut?

One sure sign of spring is the proliferation of mulch, especially on commercial properties. Mulch is good for keeping down weeds, BUT. All too often the mulch is piled up around a tree like a volcano.


Mulch should be applied like a donut or lifesaver. The point is to leave the trunk flare exposed. One would think the landscaping companies would know better - or maybe they do, but don't want to take the time to be careful.


Even the landscaping company that redid my yard made this mistake (along with a few others). I rectified the situation myself. For more information, go here. The tree you save may be your own.

(Another mistake the landscaping company made was to apply mulch under the Japanese maple and 'Limelight' hydrangea. Both have shallow roots that need to breathe. I *told* them not to mulch under those two, but did they listen? NOOOOOO.)

Other signs of spring:


Witch hazel


Yesterday was *gorgeous*. Since we were facing two days of rain, I tackled the fall cleanup. I don't get on the north side of the house much in winter, so was surprised to see the goldenrod still relatively intact. Something, probably a rabbit, chewed on the asters I planted in this bed; I hope they survive (the asters, not the rabbits).

Goldenrod (before cleanup)

I am SO glad I had the landscaping redone in my yard. The cleanup took just a few hours instead of days. Some nasty weeds are already staking a claim, though, so that is the next yardening task on my to-do list.

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Rough trip

A week ago we visited the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area to view the sandhill cranes. There were plenty of cranes, but no dancing, not even much feeding going on. They just stood or sat there. Maybe it was naptime or something. If you want to watch a video of their dancing, check this one out.

My son and his girl friend were supposed to meet up with us there, but they spent most of the day in the ER (all is okay). Then the restaurant we wanted to eat at is closed on Mondays. At least the rest of our plans panned out: a visit to the Chesterton Art Center and coffee at the Red Cup, where my son and girl friend caught up with us. So not quite what we planned but an okay day.

On the homefront, I saw a mute swan fly overhead on Sunday, probably heading for Eagle Marsh. I heard it before I saw it: the wingbeats "sing". Check out this short vid for a sample.

In my own front yard, signs of spring: Crocus tommassinianus 'roseus'. The snowdrops are popping up, as well as some regular croci. It's hard to not get one's hopes up for an early spring.

Friday Clio has a "temperament check" with a local doggy daycare. She will be so excited. Meanwhile, Finn, my 13(?) year old cat has been diagnosed with stage 2 kidney disease. I had noticed excessive drinking and peeing lately. Once I determined that it was him and not Beau, off we went to the vet. All we can do right now is feed him a special prescription food, which fortunately he likes and Beau does not. Otherwise, Finn seems fine. I hope he sticks around for a while.