Seeds, Bees, Bulbs, and Birds

Despite living in a “cold” climate, I’m a warm-weather gal. I love sunshine and can handle heat,  raised in one of the hottest, most humid places in America. Don’t get me wrong, I love Connecticut ‘s four seasons; there’s nothin’ like a fall day pickin’ punkins and havin’ cider on a crisp afternoon.  But spring here can be fickle – warm or cold.  We’ve spent many Easters in snow boots instead of sandals.  When Mother Nature recently gifted us with an early, warm Spring, I “sprung” into action.  There’s lots to do!  Come see what’s on my  “Outdoor To Do” list, and pick up some tips!

One of my favorite tin wall-hangings

When you love the outdoors and all things green, winter’s grey seems an eternity!  When it warms up,  “yard work” becomes “yard play”.  After last year’s hurricane and October snowstorm, the yard resembled a war zone, with snapped branches and huge downed trees. There’s much  to cleanup.  As for the garden, last summer’s growing season was freakishly late.  By the time the veggies were big enough to harvest, Hurricane Irene wiped it all out.  I’m eager to get going!

First order of business:  get my seeds planted.   I bought only seeds marked “organic”.    Usually, I grow them in egg cartons, but this year I splurged on eco-friendly pots made from coconuts.  I’m happy to see stores carrying more organic products, even in gardening.  My potting soil is an organic mix, as well.  This year, I’m planting a gourmet lettuce blend, “Black Krim”, “Sweetie”, and “Roma” tomatoes, “Short ‘n Sweet” carrots, summer squash (hoping for the return of “Squashzilla”), “Halloween Mix” pumpkins, giant sunflowers, watermelon, and “Carnival Mix” sweet peppers, and cucumbers.  I also picked up some cilantro seed to add to the herb bed in  front.  Technology meets “old world”: each seed packet has a “tag” on the front; scan it with a smartphone and you’ll find all kinds of useful info on growing that particular seed.

After planting, I placed each seed pot in recycled bread bags for a greenhouse effect, and placed them in the sunniest windowsills, in a room we call “the Tearoom”.   It’s “my” room, with flowery and candy-striped wallpaper, white wicker furniture,  my teacup and teapot collection on the wall, and happy houseplants on vintage plant carts picked up at an antique store.  Even in the dead of winter, it’s light and bright.   It’s where I’ve knitted, read, and had countless tea parties with my little girl.  When seeds sit in those windows, in a few days they’re sprouted.  Hallelujah!

My best fur-friend in my favorite room.  Notice my sisterhood certificate on the wall.

“Farmgirl” garden boots for wet days

Bonnie and Badger often sunbathe in the “Tearoom”.  See the birdhouse? My father built and hand-painted several for me, used as decoration around the house.  That one is my favorite, and will never go outside!

One of the best tips I’ve been given was to start a gardening journal.  I keep track of what seeds I’ve planted and where. This helps me note which plants work better than others, and keeps me rotating the position of plants from year to year, as well as remember ideas I want to later incorporate in the garden.  Each year, I like to do things a little different than before. This time, for markers, I used natural wooden craft sticks.

The seeds are coming along nicely. Picture taken 3/31/12

In Texas, my brother Russell’s cactus flowers are blooming.  Here in the colder Northeast, we have daffodils.

I’ve also planted snow peas.  For my planting zone, they went in the ground  March 22nd.  Peas are multi-taskers – they’re easy to eat and a benefit to the soil, readying it for the next crop of veggies in the bed.  So far, the pea shoots look great, and soon will need support.

Last year, I used yarn to stake my plants. This year, I’m using all-natural raffia to tie them. Inexpensive, it’s easy to use and biodegradable. Raffia’s one of my favorite things – use it to tie bows on gifts, decorate cans of jam, and to hang wall-hangings with “farmgirl” style.

For our early-spring get-together, my sisterhood chapter and I made “fairies” like the ones in the February issue of MaryJanesFarm magazine.  This is my version, hung with raffia on my daughter’s wall.

After a long winter, it’s time  to clean the birdhouse and feeder.

My birdhouse is a “Danish-Gnome Bird Home” purchased at a Danish church bazaar.  After hanging for fifteen years, and countless hatched babies, it was looking worse for wear.  After cleaning it out, I gave it a new coat of paint, being careful to follow the original designs.  It looks brand new!  I also followed a tip learned from my daddy: to keep wasps out of birdhouses, rub a dry bar of Ivory soap along the inside.  It won’t harm or detract the birds, but wasps won’t build a nest in it. (He says not to substitute other soaps).  We usually get a family of house finches in it each spring.

Snowplows and bored teenagers wreaked havoc on my mailbox, so I needed a new one.  To keep wasps and spiders from seeking shelter in it, I filled a small jar with mothballs, with poked holes in the lid, and placed it in the back of the box.

I’ve been making wreaths for twenty years, and change the one by the kitchen door with the seasons, sprucing them up with fresh picks every couple of years or so.  Don’t-cha just love the little metal birdhouse? So rustic.

I anticipate an earlier arrival of the hummingbird scout, so I mixed up a batch of homemade hummer food and hung up my feeder.  (I was also excited to hang up my new feeder – a “vintage” style, made from a red glass bottle.  We’ve gotten rid of all plastic, and I wondered if BPA would leach into the hummingbird food from a plastic feeder on a warm day). I also needed a new watering can, and found a lovely little red number.

If you like my hummer feeder, I found it at Lowe’s. My watering can came from the floral department of my local grocer! It’s made by the brand-name “Arrow”, and is double-powder coated to prevent rust. (Although, it “had” me at the red color- like a moth to a flame)!

Whew! I’m dog-tired now.  Time to sit a spell with some iced tea.  Tell me, what’s on your outdoor “To-Do” list?

  1. Mary Ann says:

    All I can say is WOW! I live in Florida and it’s warm and sunny most of the time so I can fully understand the excitement and burst of energy to get out of the house and into the garden. Sounds great, keep us posted!

    MaryAnn, I’ve been to Florida several times.  Love the weather there, as well.  Here, everyday something new is blooming, so that can be exciting. (Although the weeds bloom first!  Ugh)!  Thanks for reading and commenting! -Nicole

  2. donna says:

    My "dream" was to be on a deserted island with a seed catalog..great ideas..gardening has been a real challenge the past few years..Im lusting after some zuchinni and eggplant..have many new recipes to try..Happy Spring! We are sprouting out all over here in central Pa.

    Hi Donna!  I used to live in PA, too, about fifteen years or so ago.  I didn’t realize just how different the gardening zone would be just a few hours drive away, going from PA to CT.  One of the best ‘going away’ presents back then was from a friend, who gave me Martha Stewart’s book, Gardening Month by Month.  It was one of her earliest books back when she still lived in Westport, CT.  I always say I wish I had more warm weather here, but to be honest, it is a nice break from weeding in the winter! Thanks for reading and commenting!  -Nicole

  3. Coreen says:

    You are so busy! I envy you the early season, but ours is finally here. We are planting my sweet peas today, barring interruptions. I like the "Mammoth" variety. So fragrant, and they give great big blooms from spring until the end of September here. I fell in love with Martha Stewart’s gardening book, too. It’s one of the few that this old tightwad actually paid full price for. Don’t you love her rose arrangements? Thanks for your blog. I always enjoy it.

    Coreen, thanks for reading and commenting!  You didn’t mention where you are, but sounds like you are in a colder climate than here.  Hope you have a wonderful day planting your sweet peas!  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  4. Laurie Dimino says:

    As always just love your blog! Looks like you have been very busy and getting a lot accomplished. I have broccoli,spinach,lettuce and snow peas planted in my raised bed that I cleaned so far. Have several others that I have yet to tackle. LOL
    SO much to do, so little time, But little by little it will get done.
    Enjoy the gorgeous early spring we have been having!
    Farmgirl Hugs,

    Laurie, thank you ever so much!  Yes, there’s lots to do, but it’s a labor of love.  You’re right – little by little it will get done.  Take care and Happy Spring!!  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  5. Debbie says:

    Hey Nicole! I’m right there with ya sister! The early warm spring weather seems to be all over New England… Thanks goodness! This has also been the sunniest winter I can remember in the ten years we’ve been living in MA. A gift from above for this sunshine starved farmgirl! Nevada had four seasons too, and ALL OF THEM are SUNNY! I love all you are up too. Your bird feeders are adorable and I love how you planted and marked your seeds too! Looks like spring has found you for sure! Enjoy and thanks for the cheery spring visit! Loved it!
    Your bloggin’ sis in Plymouth!

    Hey Deb,
    That’s a good way to put it…"sunshine starved".  This has been a beautiful spring, for sure.  Way better than some of the soggy, cold, wet-all-the-time springs we have had in the past.  Glad it’s warm up there in MA, too.  Enjoy!  Happy Easter!

  6. Shery says:

    LOVE your floral wellies…and all the pics of your recent gardening goings-on. You’ve got an earlier start on your green-thumb projects than some of us. I’m still solidly in the waiting game, but spring is coming and its just a matter of weeks now. Thanks for leading the way :o)

    Thanks, Shery!  My old wellies got a hole in them from the nasty raccoon that visited us a few blog entries back.  Have patience, spring is just around the corner, right?  Big farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  7. Patricia says:

    Hi Nicole,
    I too have gone from winter "cozies" to spring "posies", I finally went to knitting classes & learned to knit (inspired by YOU) and finished some crochet projects (I got #1 son’s crocheted blanket done!!!) Now on to Posies, I have seeds sprouting all over my kitchen windows, tomatoes, bell and jalapeno peppers, and lots of basil (FRESH salsa in just a few short months!). I also took a couple of english ivy cuttings and put them in water, no roots yet – soon I hope.
    I had an extra clear jar and put it in the window with some yellow food coloring and water, looks BEAUTIFUL with the sun shining through….I STILL LOVE your blog, you truly inspire me. Best from your Indiana "sister".

    Patricia, Oh my goodness!  Thank you.  You’ve warmed my heart like spring sunshine for sure!  I’m so happy you are knitting and crocheting…you’ll have to send me a picture of your project!  Good for you!!  I like your idea of the jar with colored water!  I’m going to do that for my daughter’s windowsill – she will love it!  Thank you for the idea and for leaving me such a wonderful comment.  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  8. Nicole You didn"t say but you will be in TEXAS at this time next week…the weather was in the high 80’s. We worked in the yard all day.The limes, lemons, oranges, and tomatoes are already heavy with fruit. I can’t imagine with such cold weather! Here in Texas we already had our 6 days of spring – we are now in summer. We all are looking for your visit, and have ordered great weather for your visit home! See you in 6 days.
    Love Dad

  9. Been harvesting red and green leaf lettuce and spinach. My tomatoes, peppers and zucchini are doing well. We had the perfect mix of rain and sun the last few weeks in East TN. Love all things family, home and garden. I might be a mix between Martha and MaryJane – it’s all good.

    Sharon, I giggled when you said you are a mix of Martha and MaryJane. For years, my hubby used to call me "Martha, Jr." Now we often say, "Hmm…what would MaryJane do?" Thanks for reading. Enjoy your harvest. Sounds great! Can’t wait to be harvesting in our nook of the world. Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

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