Sunday, March 27, 2011

Signs of spring: bunnies in the garden

Bunnies are not especially welcome in the garden, especially the vegetable garden. But they can be pretty cute. One warmish day recently I watched as a bunny seemed to be nibbling at the roots of a large thyme plant at the edge of my garden. I was only a couple of feet away, but he/she ignored my presence. After awhile I noticed that the bunny was not just nibbling but digging. As I watched, that rabbit excavated a sizable hole under the plant.

Beginning the nest

Digging in
Cleaning up

The finished product

I thought I remembered reading that cottontails don’t burrow, and wondered if it might be a nest for babies. I checked on the internet, and that seems to be the explanation. There was another rabbit hanging about, and there was some chasing, frolicking, and at one point the second rabbit made a sudden and amazing leap right over the first one. All part of courtship, apparently. But since that time, she has not returned to the nest, and there are no babies. So maybe she decided she didn’t like our location after all. And after I had actually planted out some of the lettuce we’d been growing indoors, just for her!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Daylight Design at the DC Home and Garden Show

This past month has been spent in a flurry of activity, preparing to exhibit my husband's Sunstation growlight  systems at the Washington DC Home and Garden show this past weekend. We needed to get lots of plants started from seed, so that we could show off the versatility of the system with an interesting mix of plants at different stages of growth. Our show photos didn't turn out well, but here's what one of the Sunstations looked like before we dismantled it and packed it up for our exhibit.

Greens do very well with this semi-hydroponic system; we had lots of beautiful lettuces - a gorgeous heirloom  called "Garden Ferns" from Renee's Seeds is one of our new favorites. Some other things we're trying for the first time: Round Baby Carrots, and a compact pepper called Baby Belle. (We've successfully grown full sized peppers indoors, but we're really interested in anything that's compact.)

Our most interesting challenge is tomatoes. No problem getting them off to a good start, and they are one of the most popular vegetables to grow under lights for eventual planting outdoors.  The question is, can you grow a tomato to maturity indoors that will taste as good, or almost as good, as one grown outside? Right now we are trialing Zebra Hybrid, Early Wonder, Totem Hybrid, Better Bush, and Cherry Sweetie. We were trying to pick those that would grow into compact/patio size plants, but this last appears to be a full size plant, so we've been pruning it. It actually looks terrific, and has some small tomatoes on it, as do several of the other plants that were planted earliest.

So all this was very impressive for the garden show; we had a lot of interest, took some orders, and had great fun talking to people. It was all very energizing. I love indoor seed starting and growing. But now the outdoors is stirring. Birds are returning to the feeder, I've planted peas inside my new chicken wire fence, and yesterday on my way home from work I saw a single daffodil blooming. I'm hearing the siren call of spring!