Time to Sow Onion Seeds

February and early March are the perfect time to sow onion seeds indoors under lights here in Michigan. Growing onions from seeds rather than from sets gives you a lot more varieties to choose from as well as saving you quite a bit of money. Just make sure you choose a long day or and intermediate day variety if you are in zones 5-6.

Long Day Onions

Red Wing, Red Hawk, Bridger, Ailsa Craig, Cortland, Pontiac

Intermediate Day Onions

Walla Walla, Valencia, New York Early, Cabernet

Wet Weather Can Lead to Unsightly Blooms

Dog Vomit Mold
Dog Vomit Mold in it’s tan phase

Wet spring/early summer weather can bring out some not so lovely growth in Michigan gardens. One of the most colorfully named of these is “dog vomit fungus” (scientifically speaking that would be Fuligo septicai).

The fungus typically appears as a bright yellow mass on mulch or other decaying wood in the garden. It eventually goes to a brown or tan phase that lasts for the rest of it’s life cycle.

While the fungus is unsightly, it will not harm your plants. It feeds solely on the already decaying matter in your garden beds. So if it shows up in an out of the way spot you can leave it alone if you’d like. But, it is somewhere more visible you might want to scoop it up.

For more information check out this pdf from the University of Arkansas.

Michigan Gardening To-Do List: March

If you are a Michigan gardener, March is the time to start seeds for prime gardening season. The vast majority of vegetable and herb seeds can be started indoors this month and the list of seeds that can be sown outside is growing. March is also the time to finalize those plans for a successful vegetable and flower gardening season.

It’s Time to Start Seeds!

Indoors

    • Broccoli – March 17 – 31
    • Brussels Sprouts – March 17 – 31
    • Cabbage – March 3 – March 31
    • Cauliflower –  March 17 – 31
    • Celery – March 1 – March 10
    • Chard – March 1 – March 17
    • Eggplant – March 17 – 31
    • Kale – March 3 – 17
    • Leeks – March 1 – March 10
    • Lettuce – March 10 – 24
    • Peppers – March 31 – April 14
    • Scallion – March 1 – March 17
    • Tomato – March 10 – April 7

Outdoors – as soon as the soil is not too soggy

    Note: All (with the exception of potato) can be started indoors throughout March.

    • Arugala
    • Beet
    • Carrot
    • Mache
    • Parsnip
    • Peas
    • Potato
    • Radish
    • Turnip

Watering Basics

watering_canWhen to water

When your soil is looking dry and the foliage is not looking it’s perky best, it’s time to take a closer look to see if it is time to water. A good way to do this is to poke your finger into the soil near the base of a few of your plants to see if you feel any moisture. If it feels dry down there, it is time to water.

As for the best time of day to water, morning is definitely the prime time. By watering before noon you are giving your plant’s leaves plenty of time to dry out, which goes a long way toward preventing a number of plant diseases.

It’s all about the roots

Focus on the roots (not the foliage) when you are watering your plants. Your goal is to thoroughly soak the root zone of those precious tomatoes, cucumbers, and cone flowers when they need it. For annuals, the root zone is roughly the top 6 inches of soil. For perennials, it is roughly the top 12 inches.

The bottom line

But what if you didn’t notice that your veggies were looking a little limp until later in the day or you’re in a hurry today and don’t have time to let the water soak down a full six inches? Don’t sweat it. Just be careful to keep the foliage as dry as possible (late afternoon is not the time for the overhead sprinkler) and try to give the root zone as good a soak as you can in the time you have available. And maybe plan on running more soaker hose or drip irrigation next year :).

A Visit to the Anna Whitcomb Conservatory, Detroit

If you are a plant lover and you’re near the city of Detroit, you’re missing out if you don’t make the trek to Belle Isle (near downtown Detroit) to visit the Anna Whitcomb Conservatory. We go several times a year, and every time we go, I get so caught up in gawking at the plants that I forget to take photos! This time, I was determined to capture at least some of it. I didn’t get any plant names, mostly because I didn’t take the time to search for the plant labels.

About the Conservatory

The Anna Whitcomb Conservatory was founded in 1904, and contains several unique rooms, including the desert habitat, the jungle habitat, a fern grotto and a display garden that changes seasonally. The exterior of the conservatory boasts a newly-restored water lily pond as well as extensive perennial gardens. The conservatory and its gardens are largely maintained by volunteers–and they do an amazing job. I can honestly say I’ve never gone to the conservatory and thought “wow, this looks a little rough.” It is absolute heaven once the weather turns cold.

Entering the Conservatory

The first (and largest) room of the conservatory is the tropical plant habitat. The palm trees here are magnificent—in fact, they’re a little too magnificent. The conservatory just finished an extensive period of repairs and upgrades, including replacing several broken or cracked panes of glass. These palms are in danger of breaking right through the conservatory roof. This will be their final year, and then they’ll be taken out and replaced with younger, smaller specimens.

There are several large banana trees in this area. Besides the luxurious foliage, we saw several bunches of green bananas as well as a couple of flower buds.

The Fern Grotto

The fern grotto is one of my favorite rooms in the conservatory. It is serene and cool. Everywhere you look, you are rewarded with another play of texture against texture. I could honestly spend hours just sitting on the little cast iron bench in this room.

The fern grotto from another angle. You used to be able to walk down a short flight of steps to meander down among the ferns, but they ended up gating off the stairs due to concerns over lawsuits (the moist air in this room is perfect for growing moss—pretty to look at, not so great when you slip on it!).

The Orchids

If I had to choose one spot to visit in the conservatory, it would be the orchid room. The Whitcomb Conservatory (which is owned by the city of Detroit) has a huge orchid collection. In fact, the orchid collection in the Whitcomb is considered to be the largest municipally-owned collection of orchids in the country. I didn’t check names again (too awed to bother reading…) so I’ll just let you enjoy the orchids. All I did was stand there staring. The kids and husband had to move me along :-)

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the Whitcomb! To learn more, check out their website.