First daffodils of 2017: March 1

daffodil-march-1-2017So they didn’t start blooming in February, despite unseasonably warm days.

But I spotted on with my headlights on March 1, plus another already in bloom early on the 2nd that I am crediting to the 1st. So it looks like a new first bloom date for me, just barely. (The previous earliest date my records show is March 2, but usually it’s the second half of March.)

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Then there’s this one that looks like it is just about unfurled and will bloom properly today.

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Will daffodils bloom in New Jersey in February?

daffodils-feb-25-2017These are awfully close …

This photo was taken on Saturday, the third straight day that highs were in the 70s. The 70s! In February! Madness! And it nearly reached 70 last weekend. (Accuweather now claims snow will start in 52 minutes. Uh huh. And that it will be 57 tomorrow.)

A guy in my Italian class on Saturday said he spotted one blooming in his yard, so I am betting the answer to my question is yes.

Last year I noted we had five blooming on March 10, another year when we had a mild winter — and the first bloom on March 2 back in 2012. But usually they don’t emerge until the back half of March.

Screening for compost

It’s time to fully reclaim our driveway.

It had shrunk a bit over the years, as wood and leaves rotted down and built up along the edges and more. Weeds invaded too. Before winter set in, I shoveled it to what I think is the edge of blacktop, figuring that extra six or 12 inches would come in handy when snow narrowed the driveway even more.

But it’s been a pretty mild winter and today I decided to see if I could screen out all the bad stuff with a piece of metal cloth wire (or whatever it’s called) that had once been used to build a compost bin.

So here it goes:

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Time had certainly done its job in creating compost. We stopped after nearly two buckets of crumbly, rich, black compost (and a few worms) and dumped what I hope is pretty weed-free on parts of the flower beds. Plenty more to go, and more of the driveway still to reclaim.

The marmalade challenge

marmalade-jarsI know these ingredients aren’t from the garden, but I wanted to blog about my first time making marmalade as part of Food in Jars‘ Mastery Challenge. Plus there’s really not much to say about the garden in January (or even the yard, beyond some wood-chopping to keep the firewood well stocked)

I went for a recipe for thick-cut ginger, grapefruit and orange marmalade from my mini Australian Women’s Weekly jams and jellies book, using standard supermarket navel oranges and grapefruit. I needed 2 of each, plus 7 cups of water and 7 cups of sugar — and 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger.

I used up all the ginger in the fridge and think I had that much, but given that I think ginger is an essential food group, I would have preferred to put in at least twice as much. Plus I’m searching to get any hint of ginger now. That’s pretty surprising considering that I’ve always found Australian Women’s Weekly to have big flavors (see the chili cordiander jam/chutney that I’ve blogged about before and adore.)

This doesn't look like much, but it's the marmalade boiling.
This doesn’t look like much, but it’s the marmalade boiling.

Another lesson I learned is that I’d prefer smaller slices — mostly not as long, though also not as thick would be fine too.

I ended up with seven 8-ounce/half-pint/jelly jars and one jar half that size

Next month’s challenge is salt preserving. Any suggestions? Maybe I’ll learn to make gravlax? (Does that count?)

Who wants walking onions?

onion-bed-fullFive months ago, I was excited that our onions were finally walking.

Now our onion bed is packed — and that’s after giving some away in the neighborhood and beyond.

Right now they feel more like green onions on steroids. But come summer, I figure every green stalk you see will give off at least three bulbs and we will have dozens of shallots. I’ll know how those people in Asheville were feeling when they put out a bowl of onion bulbs for the taking. Be sure to stop by and claim some. Or I can bring you some.

My Thanksgiving weekend dilemma

Planting these was a daunting task
Planting this big bag of bulbs was a daunting task

I bought more daffodil bulbs.

Yes, I know we have hundreds (likely 1,000+, since they keep naturalizing) already in the yard. Yes, I know I didn’t need more.

I tried to resist. I resisted the offer of two bags of 50 mixed bulbs for $12 at an area garden center. I resisted an email fall clearance offer, though after some internal debate. I resisted when a friend emailed about it, suggesting we go in on an order. Everything 35% off! But when he repeated the offer and said he was ordering the next day, I took another look. Not just at those listed in the email but all the daffodils on the website. And when I saw the mixed assortment of “double” daffodils — fragrant, frilly, showy — well, I caved.

Irrresistable, right?
Irresistable, right?

The smallest pack was 50 bulbs. But I’d already fallen off the wagon, so why show restraint now? I figured I’d get 100 and worry about where to plant them later.

Fortunately, my friend missed that part of my request and only ordered 50 for me.

I picked up the bulbs on Thanksgiving morning and just stared at the size of that bag. What had I done? Where would they all go? I didn’t know where the other bulbs were, just that they were all over the flower beds. And I’d moved some in the spring from a back bed that hasn’t worked out. At least then I could see where I could squeeze them in. But after all that, did I have any space left?

Just some of the daffodil bulbs I dug up and found new homes for in the spring.
Just some of the daffodil bulbs I dug up and found new homes for in the spring.

No time like the present to do a bit more “editing” of the beds .. thin out some, move some others. And yes, try to find room for daffodil bulbs.

I had some early success, but then it got hard. I’d dig — and slice through some bulbs. (I hope they can heal.) Time to be more careful. I would find a spot — and tuck in one, maybe two bulbs. This was slow-going. I eventually got about 30 in the ground and had no idea where to put the last 20. I really didn’t want to create a fresh bed, and I didn’t want to put them in a section of the front beds where I’d rarely see them. Could I put them in one of the raised vegetable beds for the winter and transplant them in May or June, when I could see the gaps? That might mess up the spring peas, or the tomatoes or …

But maybe somewhere else where they could later be moved? I settled on a spot in front of our garden bench, visible from the kitchen window. It nicely connected a flower bed and a lemongrass plant that just expanded and expanded over the summer (and now is indoors) on one end and that weigela we’d planted in the spring on the other. (Yes, the bench will likely get squeezed out as the shrub grows.). Plus it was an excuse to clear out some mock strawberry (a pointless effort, I know, but it made me feel good). The bulbs will stretch along the length of the bench and beyond, look pretty in the spring and yet be easy to transplant.

Done!

When I’m tempted again next year, I should read this again and just keep saying no. Unless, of course, I’ve created a new bed in anticipation.

This is the last harvest of the year. No, this is. Actually, there’s one more.

I thought this was pretty much the last of the garden produce, aside from the odd tomato (and then the lemongrass stalks I harvested while transplanting the plants into indoor pots for the winter):

october-harvest

But when we cleaned up the tomato bed in late October, we ended gleaned plenty more, some with more appealing looks than others, plus a few more peppers:

tomato-gleaning

The fall peas, planted in August, were still there, and we’d noticed the white flowers. But we’d given up on any actual pods. Guess the Brit planted too late, we said. No bees around to pollinate, we decided.

november-pea-flowers

And then we spotted this, while mulching leaves for the compost bin. I think there may be about three pods.

november-pea-pod

Lesson learned. Plant in July if there is room in the bed. Otherwise don’t bother.