I hope everyone who celebrates Easter and Passover had a wonderful holiday season. I did some celebrating yesterday myself because it was my birthday. James performed his usual kitchen magic and made me a carrot cake and coffee n’ice cream. So. Very. Yummy.
I did something yesterday I have never done before on my birthday in the 27 years I have lived in Minnesota: planted seeds outdoors. It was 77F/25C yesterday. In years past I have pretty much expected snow on my birthday and if not snow, at least cold. But it has been getting warmer and warmer and this year is the warmest yet. Granted, the temperature will moderate in long term forecast but it will still be between 57 – 65F /13 – 18C, which is significantly warmer than what it was back in the mid 90s when I moved here. Then, tulips didn’t come up until the end of April or beginning of May and the lilacs didn’t bloom until a week or so into June. Now, the scilla are blooming and my tulips, though not blooming yet, are already 4 inches tall. The violets are coming up and so is the rhubarb. And I dared to plant seeds on my birthday!
Since I live in Minnesota, it is possible there still might be snow in April at some point, no matter how unlikely it looks at the moment. So I made a “raised bed” using an old wooden dresser drawer. I poked holes in the bottom for drainage, and filled it with compost from the bin. Then I seeded two rows of carrots and one row of radishes with the plan to seed a second row of radishes next weekend because I don’t want them all to come ripe at once.
Originally I was going to make the dresser drawer a raised bed in the front yard, but decided that it would be better as a mobile planter box just in case it does snow. I put it on my sunny, warm deck with row cover fabric tucked around it to keep the squirrels from digging in it.
I had planned on doing the dresser drawer planting a week or two from now, but I recently subscribed to the daily email from the Farmers’ Almanac and they list what is good to plant according to the moon phases and the time for root veg was Saturday and Sunday. I have never tried moon phase gardening before but I have nothing to lose by it and everything to gain. There is some evidence that veg and flowers do actually yield better, though no one has yet been able to get past the anecdotal to the actual whys. If nothing else, it takes away my usual internal debate about when I should plant something. Which means I had better start prepping some garden beds. I don’t want to miss optimum pea planting days!
This warm weather in April and the earlier bloom times are the new normal in this climate emergency we are living in. For all of us in the United States, our average temperature standards are about to change to reflect that. Every ten years the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) updates their 30-year weather averages. You know, when you listen to your local weather forecast and they say the average temperature for this day/week/month/ is … They get that average temperature from NOAA. The new averages will go into effect in May and the 30-year data set will now span 1991 – 2020. When this happened in early/mid 2000s it shifted my gardening zone from 4a to 4b. I am curious to see if the new averages might tip me into zone 5a since the current USDA chart is still using 1976 – 2005 data.
Because I have today off from work as part of the Easter holiday, and because I had been meaning to get to it for ages, and because the Farmers’ Almanac also said it is a good harvest day, I finally got around to doing something about the amaranth from last summer’s garden. Let me back up.
Two years ago I purposely planted amaranth in an area of the garden and it did ok but not great, only a few plants sprouted. When the frost came I left them standing through the winter and last year planted Jacob’s cattle beans and zinnias in that bed. Up amongst it all popped a number of self-seeded amaranth. They were vigorous, and looked amazing with the zinnias.
So last fall, when frost came and the flower heads dried out I actually snipped them off and brought them in to dry and harvest the seeds both to try eating and to plant deliberately in this year’s garden. Today I finally got the seeds out and it was no easy thing! The seeds are tiny, the dry flowers are prickly.
Out onto the deck I went with a big bowl and garden gloves. I rolled the flowers between my hands over the bowl to remove them and the seeds from the stems. Then picked out the bigger stems before I carefully started blowing the flower chaff out of the bowl. After the bigger bits of chaff were out, I poured it all onto a cookie sheet and blew some more. Then I got a fine mesh sieve and poured a little of what was still on the cookie sheet in the sieve and very gently puffed out as much chaff as I could. I managed to get most of the chaff out. It was a lot of work!
Things I learned:
- You will be covered in amaranth flower chaff when you are done and amaranth prickles will be stuck to your clothes.
- Amaranth seeds stick to things from static, but also from sweat, so try not to sweat and by no means, touch the seeds with a sweaty finger.
- If there is a breeze, it will help you get rid of the chaff, but know which way it is blowing before you let it help you.
- Wear sunglasses or some other kind of eye protection when you do this so when the chaff inevitably blows back in your face, it won’t get in your eyes (this is the only thing I got right!).
Since I didn’t have a lot of flowers, I didn’t get a lot of seed. What doesn’t get planted with the zinnias in May, we’ll either pop and add to salads or mix in with another grain for breakfast some morning.
I still need to deal with the dried sorghum, but I will save that for another day.