Friday, December 26, 2003

Warm winter?

Here it is, December 26, and I'm sitting on the back deck in my jeans, a t-shirt, and a fleece pull-over. The thermometer is reading 8 degrees.

It's so warm that one of our indoor cats, Jimmy, decided to escape, and ran out the back door while I was bringing bags of birdseed back indoors after filling the feeders. I got him back inside, but only after he heard a neighbour's voice, which frightened him, and after I grabbed him and suffered two tooth puncture wounds to my left hand, a scratch on my chin, and another scratch on my right ear (I bled like a stuck pig, and am not happy about the scratches, because we're hosting a dinner party tomorrow night).

Returning the cat indoors was a good thing. The birds need to feed in the few daylight hours we get. They will need the calories tonight that they can gather from the suet, sunflower, safflower, and niger seeds -- the temperature's supposed to drop to -5 overnight. But then it will warm up: tomorrow night's low will be above freezing, and ddaytime high for Sunday is expected to be around 10 Celsius.

What does this mean for my garden? Well, the chives, which I had cut down almost to ground level a month ago, are now about 8 cm high; there are fresh new leaves on the parsley, and we've still got a few live purple sage leaves.

Even the buddleia, which I transplanted late in the season, continues to put forth new clusters of leaves.

Rose leaves, on the other hand, while still green on the canes, are crisp to the touch. There will be no more rose buds until spring.

Everything else in the backyard looks dead for the rest of winter; most deciduous woody plants have lost their leaves, except for the Pee-Gee hydrangea, which is holding tight to them, even though the leaves hang straight down on either side of the central vein.

I may yet get a soil sample this next week that I can analyse: we'll see how the weather unfolds. Right now, the prediction for Sunday is a mix of sun and clouds, and a high of 9.

What does all this teach me? You can't always plan everything according to some averaged schedule of when events should occur... sometimes you've just got to play it by ear, and work the occasional green Christmas into the plans.


Monday, December 08, 2003

Baby, it's cold outside

This past week, just before the big freeze was due to hit, I went out in the garden and collected some soil to do some soil tests.
The pH test results were fast... within an hour. All I had to do was dump a clump of soil in the bottom of the container, add a capsule of reactant, and fill with water to the fill line. Result: Slightly acid soil (6.5).

Now, for the other three tests, I had to take a larger clump of soil, put it in a jar with five times the amount of water as soil, and shake it up really well. I waited for the soil to settle out (hmm, lots of clay... about 1/3) and ... oops, forgot about it for another day an a half. So it sat for about 3.5 days before I did anything with it. Well, potassium and phosphates looked reasonable, but the nitrogen reading came out as... *there's no nitrogen in this soil!!!*
I suspect that maybe that's because I left it too long.

I went out this weekend to get some more soil... the rain gauge, which had been filled with water, was now filled with ice.

The ground was hard.

It's supposed to warm up this week, so I'll try later in the week to get a fresh sample.

Only other news: Ash put collars around all the rose bushes and filled them with a combination of peat moss, soil, and compost this weekend. I hope that will reduce the risk of damage due to freeze/thaw cycles.

That's it for today. Take care, and I'll let you know what the results are of the soil tests, if I can take them this year.