Wednesday, April 4, 2018
When the snow disappeared at the end of February we knew it was too early to begin garden work. Now April has arrived and that is an entirely different story. My annual Cardinal Flower rescue is underway! The number of spent flower stalks in this cluster of Cardinal Flowers indicate that three or four years have passed since one plant grew here. That single plant may have been followed the next year by six new plants. Six plants in a rather small space will grow satisfactorily and their flowers will be impressive. The present clump might contain up to thirty-six plants that are way overcrowded. Each plant will have set down a generous tangled mass of white roots. Multiply a single root mass by the number of plants here to get some idea of the nature of the mess just under the surface. One their own in a wild location, these plants might be well on their way to choking each other out. That raises the question of how this native plant survives on its own.
A similar clump, that had been exposed to more sunlight, was removed using a four tined spade. A real tool was required as the clump of soil held by the roots was sizable. Once inside at the potting bench the task of separating individual plants began. One must work from under the plants trying to loosen the root mass. The force required would crush the crowns killing the plants if one worked from the top. Patient persistence resulted in eighteen plants. Many roots were broken in the process but most plants held on to a large root mass. A cone shaped mound was formed in each pot. Spreading the roots across this sloped soil will help the plants survive. The plywood base with handles will make it easy to move these plants into the basement when cold temperatures threaten. Three more trays are ready so we will soon have sixty Cardinal Plants ready to plant out when the weather has stabilized. Other people have expressed an interest in locating some of these plants on their land. We would like to have some of these plants survive in natural surroundings but continue to do the work needed to have them here in our gardens.
This tray of lettuce was started inside under lights. Artificial light results in leggy plants. Today was their first day outside. Cloud filtered sunlight and a little wind will help these plants grow strong short stems. When these plants are larger, they will be transplanted with only one to a pot. As usual, I have more lettuce than needed. These plants will never make it into the garden. They will be harvested and eaten from trays placed on top of the stone wall. Hard frost will send them into the basement for the night. This may seem like a lot of trouble for some early fresh eat it just after picking it greens but we find the taste worth the trouble. Then there is the experience of tending plants while snow remains on the ground. This year's garden is well underway.