Sunday, May 26, 2024

News and Ideas Worth Sharing

HomeReal EstateHome & GardenTHE LAZY BERKSHIRE...


If you are lucky enough to have plants in a cold frame, remember to vent it on sunny days. We had temperatures in the low 20s a week ago and 60s four days later. Sun will fry plants under glass unless you allow a cool breeze to get through.


Typical spring in Berkshire County. We had snow that lingered for a few days and challenged buds of daffodils and hellebore. The crocus appeared tattered as well. After a few days though, I noticed my new hellebore bounce back.

Now that grass is visible again, you may want to restore some lawn areas. Use a spring rake to rough up the soil surface, even it out and spread a thin layer of compost, about a quarter inch is enough. When you scatter the grass seed, the seed will be less likely to bunch into divots and will land more evenly. If only seeding a small area, mix seed with some sand and cast widely. You can overseed existing lawn areas in this manner as well.

My starts of Brussels sprouts have their second and third leaves, so I have moved them upstairs away from the heat mats and lamps to acclimate to my cooler, less bright but southern window. In a week or so, I will start to harden them off and prepare them for the cold soil of the garden. I have never started Brussels sprouts this early in the year. I will let you know how it goes.

Brussels sprout seedlings have been moved away from the heat mat to make room for other vegetable starts.

Some experiments have not panned out. I was attempting to keep two cyclamen plants in cool rooms away from windows. However, I kept finding them in a spotlight of hot western sun, and the poor things were wilted beyond rejuvenating. They need bright light, like from a skylight, but cool temperatures of 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. I couldn’t satisfy them this year.

I still plan to start tomatoes on my indoor light shelves in the next week. You could start sweet or hot peppers now as well. Tomatoes and peppers are in the same vegetable plant family. Rotate them around the vegetable garden together. I want to plant a mix. The tomatoes will go in the raised-bed section where I had lettuce last year. Lettuce will be directly sown in the bed where I had peas and beans. Peas and beans (peas first) are planted where I had garlic in 2023.

Last October, I planted my garlic where the summer squash and cucumber grew in summer. My squashes will move in 2024 to where I had beets, and the beets will go where I had tomatoes! Some things like scallions and herbs may have to find nooks and crannies between the bigger plants. They will do fine as companions and will help repel some pests. All the vegetable beds have some winter rye growing as a soil stabilizer and a source of new organic matter. I will turn in the winter rye about two weeks before planting, and the rye will start to decompose, adding nutrients to the vegetable beds.

Although the cyclamen didn’t like the skylit and humid bathroom, my jade plant did! This plant grew and grew leggy, meaning the stems grew long with heavy green leaves at the ends. Jade plant stems will snap under this kind of weight. I took the plunge (and the snips) and cut it way back. The new growth will sprout on thicker, shorter stems now during the growing season. Or that is what I hope.

This jade plant grew too well and started to suffer under its own weight. A dramatic haircut should improve the plant, or so hopes the Lazy Berkshire Gardener.

If you are lucky enough to have plants in a cold frame, remember to vent it on sunny days. We had temperatures in the low 20s a week ago and 60s four days later. Sun will fry plants under glass unless you allow a cool breeze to get through.

Keep saving your eggshells to add to planting holes of tomato plants or use as slug repellent. Rinse the shells clean with cold water and store in a resealable plastic bag. I put mine in the bag, squeeze out the air, seal it, then crush the shells into fine pieces. The bag stays in the freezer until planting time or the first sign of slugs. You can also add the shells (rinsed) into your compost.

I had stopped adding kitchen scraps to the compost since a bear opened our bin in early March. (We still saved our scraps and took them to a local composting site.) When I stopped adding to the pile, I also stopped stirring the pile. On a recent nice day, I decided to give the compost a swirl. Out jumped two critters in opposite directions! Upon stirring the bin contents, I uncovered piles of nesting material, and I noticed a few enlarged air holes in my sturdy bin. Mice! (Not rats! Thankfully!) Lesson re-learned: Whether you add material to your compost or not, keep turning it! Rodents won’t move in if you make their lives unpleasant and keep destroying their nests.

A last note as days get warm: Protect yourself from ticks any time you venture out into your garden or woods. Use sprays on your clothing that contain DEET. That said, all arthropods, insects, beetles, and worms are not pests. We may be bothered by seeing the first mosquito or gnat in spring, but many other creatures depend on these insects for food.

Plus, some insects do a service. I spotted springtails on the remaining bits of snow around some broken dead wood. Springtails (Hypogastrura nivicola, sometimes called “snow fleas”) emerge from under the snow where they are feeding and working to break down dead wood for use by other forest organisms. They show up more clearly on snowy patches in sunshine. No need to fear these “non-fleas.”

Springtails appear like sprinkles of pepper on melting snow in forests. They help break down decomposing wood.

I call myself the Lazy Berkshire Gardener because I don’t want to work too hard in my gardens. I want to enjoy them. I find it easier to observe my landscape and let the compost happen, the water pool up, or daisies to self-sow. I look for ways to do the minimum task for the biggest impact. For example, mulching is better than spraying and much better than weeding all season. I look for beautiful, low-maintenance plants that thrive in or at least tolerate my garden conditions. Plus, I’m willing to live with the consequences if I miss something.


The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

Continue reading


While we busily plant our annuals as a rite of the start of summer, just like Memorial Day, don’t neglect your perennial gardens.


I mentioned spongy moth caterpillars briefly last week. I hear Columbia County in New York has a tremendous outbreak now.

Ideally situated in the heart of downtown Stockbridge, and move-in ready

Elle Villetto and Jared Kelly of William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty offer an 1860 colonial home, stylishly updated and move-in ready. See it now and be in before the summer!

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.