sprout seedling

Have you started any garden seeds yet? Are the robins hopping around your greening yard? Did you tap any maple trees?

There may be a few weeks of winter left on the calendar, but it sure does feel like spring has sprung here in southeastern Pennsylvania.

My onions have popped out of their little pots. I planted three kinds this year. The ruby red and Australian brown germinated quite nicely. I’m not sure what ails the Stuttgarter onions. I believe only one-tenth of them came up. I won’t plant onion sets to replace them. Sets always seem to come with that onion fly that causes rot, so I’ll just buy onions next winter.

Next week I’ll sprinkle cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seeds into pots. I might get the eggplant going, too. Last year I started tomatoes and peppers at the same time as the cole crops, but discovered they went bonkers in the greenhouse (my first spring using it) and they were far too large when they could finally be planted out. This year I’ll start them at the end of March rather than the beginning.

I don’t start my seeds in the greenhouse. Instead, I start them indoors under a grow light and then at the end of March I put them out. The greenhouse would certainly be ideal for seed starting but it doesn’t really make sense, energy-wise, to heat it for an extra six to eight weeks when the house is already quite warm.

I was very happy with how healthy my plants were last year, spending the first few weeks inside and then taking them out to the greenhouse until planting time. They were very sturdy and far surpassed anything I’ve ever been able to start fully indoors. They didn’t seem to mind the transplant as much, either.

It’s quite delightful to water plants in a greenhouse on a chilly, but sunny, day. It is so cozy I’m often tempted to take a chair out there and sit with my hand-sewing just so I can enjoy looking over the little garden plants for longer.

A few weeks ago we spotted the first robins. It seemed awfully early, but such is the way mild winters go.

Sometimes I wonder if mild winters mean worse problems with bad garden bugs in the summer. So, I’m gearing up for spending lots of time picking potato bugs and squash beetles. Maybe I’ll pay the kids to catch Japanese beetles and spotted lanternflies again. Now, if only I could figure out how to wrangle those speedy cucumber beetles into my bug bottle — then maybe I could actually grow enough to pickle cucumbers again.

These warm days have me thinking I should trim the raspberries soon. Then again, I have so many raspberries, mostly red, in the freezer from last year. Maybe I should just ignore the berries this summer. No, I suppose I can’t do that or they’ll take over the garden. Anybody have a favorite red raspberry recipe I could try on my family? It seems like I’m the only one that really likes them, but maybe I just haven’t found the right recipes.

Mid-February found my dad and husband tapping our maple trees up north. It needed to be done midweek, so I had to stay home with the kids being in school and all. Then the first boil happened midweek the following week, so they went up and boiled off the first batch of sap. Since my mom, who also couldn’t join them for the boil, and I do the bottling, they let it sit in buckets on the kitchen counter for us. We’ll bottle it next time we go up. Sugar season is upon us and the scent couldn’t be sweeter.

Speaking of sweet, it’s time I made another batch of maple sugar since I used the last of it making cinnamon rolls the other day. People wonder how my family can use over 15 gallons of syrup in a year, but when you start making sugar with it, it really goes down very fast.

Along with trimming those raspberries, I really should get outside and clean up the flowerbeds. I’m always so tired of weeding by September that I just ignore the mess after frost hits. It means a little extra spring work, but that’s when I want to be outside anyway. So, as long as no one complains about my messy winter flowerbeds, that’s the method I’ll keep employing. I’ve also heard it’s good to leave the dead plants there over winter so that critters have seeds to eat and places to hide. It makes sense, so I’ll use that as my excuse for that bit of laziness.

Even though yesterday was 70 degrees, today it’s cold and windy enough to blow my laundry to the next county. I’ll take that as my sign that I shouldn’t yet venture outside for more than morning chores and loading the wood box. Maybe next week I’ll pick up that pruning shears.


Zoë Rohrer is a farm mom, quilter and freelance writer in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.