NATURE’S TURN: Winter to spring – look back, leap ahead

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By Monday, Feb 1 Home, Garden & Design  1 Comment
'Gaia’s Winter Rest’ copyright Wendy Andrew, www.paintingdreams.co.uk. Used by permission.
February 1 – 14, 2016

Mt. Washington — As February begins, there’s momentum to look beyond winter and plan for spring. We refer back over growing seasons past to inform plans for the warm seasons ahead. This year, the second day of the month, designated Groundhog Day to celebrate the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, will seem like so many other days this winter that alternate between a freeze and a thaw. In the absence of protective and nourishing snow and sustained freezing weather, it seems arbitrary to proceed as if there’s been winter and to accept that we are halfway to spring.

Rosemary plant blooming in captivity. Photo: Mackenzie Waggaman

Rosemary plant blooming in captivity. Photo: Mackenzie Waggaman

But the quickening return of the sun is evident, especially in brighter afternoons and in the flowering of houseplants like abutilon and rosemary. Vegetable gardeners and shoppers alike can measure the length of the winter and the movement towards spring by the condition of storage crops. Regularly examining mesh bags full of red and yellow onions that are hanging in cold, dark spaces, turns up a few that have sprouted leaves; they are good to eat. Even potatoes stored in dark, cool locations are beginning to sprout eyes. At the first sign of tiny eyes I dig them out and cook all the potatoes immediately. The following reference reflects a consensus on the subject of whether or not to eat sprouted potatoes: http://anoregoncottage.com/7-things-to-do-with-sprouted-potatoes/

Successful storage results from crops that grew from the right seed for the environment sown in fertile soil rich in organic matter and harvested when ripe. If not accomplished already, in the weeks ahead, let’s look at our collections of seeds from past seasons and weed out those that are no longer viable. The life expectancy for most vegetable seeds ranges from 1 year to 6 years, based on many factors, including storage conditions. See Addendum, below. Whether you routinely save seeds, purchase them at local nurseries or mail order directly from growers, you might like to know that there’s a source of ecologically grown, high performing seed close by in Columbia County: Turtle Tree Seed www.turtletreeseed.org.

Valentine’s Day is another popular mid-season festival. From the vantage point of a naturalist and gardener it is challenging to observe the marketplace buzzing with gifts for Valentines of every age without giving a nod to presents that enhance a nature-centered worldview. I asked Linda Cyscz of The Bookloft in Great Barrington to recommend a few books that would bring the love of the natural world to readers. It was like tapping into a geyser to receive her knowledgeable and enthusiastic reply. From her long list, two by Piet Oudolf, Planting a New Perspective and Dream Plants for the Natural Garden; there’s Amy Stewart’s Drunken Botanist and Garden of Marvels by Ruth Kassinger. You’ll have to take a hike to The Bookloft to see the rest. http://www.thebookloft.com/

Addendum

Seed viability list courtesy of Organic Gardening Magazine:

Beans: 3 years
Beets: 4 years
Broccoli: 3 years
Cabbages: 4 years
Carrots: 3 years
Cauliflower: 4 years
Corn: 2 years
Cucumbers: 5 years
Eggplant: 4 years
Lettuces: 6 years
Onions: 1 year
Peas: 3 years
Peppers: 2 years
Radishes: 5 years
Spinach: 3 years
Squash: 4 years
Sunflowers: 5 years
Tomatoes: 4 years


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One Comment   Add Comment

  1. Arthur Dellea says:

    My biggest concern this year is that we haven’t had enough cold weather and snow to control our area’s tick population. I’ve had ticks on me in years past and had to get antibiotics, so far I’ve been lucky but you never know when you could be bitten by a disease-carrying tick… and this mild winter will drastically increase their abundance in 2016.

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