Rain, drizzle, high temps in the 60’s, and not a peek of sunshine; but it was still a perfect weekend to spend time out in the vegetable garden! Sure, the sun would have felt great, it’s nice to stay dry, and no one likes wearing rain gear when working in the garden… but there are times when drizzly, cloudy, and cool are just what the gardener ordered.
In this case cool and cloudy wouldn’t interfere with my weekend gardening activities at all, and even a little light rain can turn into an opportunity for the backyard vegetable grower. That’s an ideal time for transplanting seedlings out into the garden and it allows them to get off to a fast start rather than wilting under the sun and heat of a warm spring afternoon. There’s actually a whole list of gardening activities that I perfer to take care of under the exact weather conditions that we received here over the weekend and that look to continue into the comming week.
MAEscape Native Plant Festival and Pollinator Trial Results
The weekend started out with a native plant festival sponsored by MAEscapes that took place in York County, PA. The clouds didn’t put a damper on the affair that was highlighted by a presentation of the “Outstanding Plants from the 2012 Penn State Pollinator Research Trials.” The pollinator trials research is conducted to determine which native plants are the most attractive to local populations of beneficial pollinating insects.
The plants were rated both for the diversity of insects attracted and the sheer overall numbers of pollinators that were drawn to each. Clustered Mountain Mint took the top spot by attracting both the largest number of insects, and the greatest amount of diversity in the insects that were attracted to it. Other native plants that rated highly included; Coastal Plain Joe Pye, Gray Goldenrod, Thoroughwort, and Mistflower. I’ll share more of the research details in a later post.
Hands-On Beekeeping Workshops with Dave Papke
Also over the weekend Dave Papke held another session in his series of Hands-On Beekeeping workshops. Generally the last thing that you want to do is work with bees during dreary, cool, and rainy weather. For one thing, most of the bees stay right at home inside the hive, rather than going out to forage for nectar and pollen, and even worse the bees tend to be in a bad mood and are more difficult to work with when the weather is gloomy.
But the show went on in spite of the weather and with the exception of one irritable and queen-less hive that Dave decided to keep off limits for the day, the bees were well behaved and I only recall one person receiving a sting during the entire day. This workshop focused on management techniques for bee colonies and covered everything from making splits and capturing swarms, to combining colonies and maximizing the honey crop.
Perfect Gardening Activities for a Dreary Day
On Sunday there was no change in the forecast but that was exactly what I was hoping for and I took advantage of the clouds and drizzle to check off some tasks from my garden to-do list that were actually made easier by the gloomy weather:
- Transplanting Seedlings – I had a backlog of plants waiting to be set out and most of them finally made it into the garden on Sunday. The cloudy, misty weather meant there was no need for watering and less risk of a set back or of the plants wilting and suffering through days of transplant shock. More than likely they won’t even notice the change in living quarters and will continue their active growth.
- Thinning Plants – The moisture soaked soil makes this an ideal time for thinning plantings like the new beds of beets, carrots, and parsnips. Just a slight tug and you can remove the excess seedlings without disturbing their neighbors that are left behind to grow on. The light rain will also help to settle the raised and loosened soil back down around the remaining plant’s roots.
- Easy Weeding – Weeds also give up their firm grip on the soil easier when the ground is soft and loose after absorbing a good misting or rainfall. The tiny light-green weeds stand out nicely against the dark, moist soil, making them easier to see, identify, and distinguish from the cultivated crops that you don’t want to pull up by mistake.
- Compost Turning – The compost pile was due for a turning and the cooler temperatures made this a good opportunity to get the job done without breaking a sweat. I also spread out some dry brown organic matter that will be used for a new pile so that it could absorb some of this moisture and require less watering when assembling the future compost pile.
- Tea Brewing – I’m experimenting with creating some compost teas this summer, and while they can be brewed under any conditions, I like to apply the finished product onto soil and vegetation that isn’t bone dry. Hopefully Monday evening will offer up the ideal conditions to apply the compost tea that I started brewing over the weekend.
Ending the Weekend with a Meal Harvested Fresh from the Garden
A great weekend in the garden concluded with a great meal in the kitchen that consisted entirely of produce that was harvested fresh from the garden. On the menu were thick spears of purple asparagus, baby garlic, leafy greens consisting of a mix of assorted kales and colorful Red Giant Mustard. The highlight of the meal had to be the Wine Cap Mushrooms, which were the first that I have harvested or eaten, and they were really delicious!
What may have appeared to be a dreary, miserable, wash-out of a weekend was actually a perfect opportunity to spend some productive time in the backyard vegetable garden. I’m not hoping for a repeat of the forecast next weekend, but this one came along at an ideal time for the garden!
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