Archive for February, 2011

So much for crocuses

I finally emerged from the house yesterday after nearly a week in bed with the flu, and I was greeted by the sight of every one of my crocuses uprooted, with the corms eaten off. (Corms are the bottom bit of crocuses, and look like tiny bulbs.) I’m not sure if it was rats or squirrels, though I consider a squirrel to be only slightly less of a pest than a rat. Now I see why the previous owner planted a sea of hyacinths (they’re even coming up in the middle of the lawn), which rodents only rarely eat. I wonder if being rat or squirrel food is the fate of all those Ice Stick and Queen of the Night tulips I planted last fall…


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My bees have arrived

A few of my friends have have been giving me looks like I’m crazy when I talk about raising bees for fun, but they haven’t deterred me. I’m the proud new owner of 20 blue orchard mason bees (Osmia lignaria propinqua), one of the Northwest’s native bees. These little guys will stay in the fridge for another month or so in their shipping straws, since they don’t get put outside until temperatures warm up a bit. In the meantime, I’m making a house for them that will protect them from wind and rain, but still give them plenty of morning sunlight. If anyone has tips for mason bee house design or construction, let me know!

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Winter’s still here

My coldframe was frozen shut this morning, at least until the sun hit it. Good thing I opted to keep my little seedlings inside on the windowsill for now. This may be the year that convinces me to buy a grow light.

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Now that the crocuses and daffodils are starting to push their way out of the ground, I’ve gotten antsy for spring planting time to come. Someday in the future, I hope to build my own little greenhouse to give me a head-start on the season, but right now my time and money budget isn’t up for that project. Instead, I decided to build what is essentially a mini-greenhouse; a cold frame.

Cold frames work by the same principles as greenhouses. Sunlight comes in through the clear glass and is absorbed by the soil and plants. This warms up the soil and other materials in the greenhouse, which then emit infrared radiation, which is felt by both us and plants as heat. The neat part is that although glass is transparent to visible light, it’s not transparent to infrared radiation, so the infrared radiation is trapped inside the greenhouse and helps keep the plants and soil warm. The walls and ceiling of the greenhouse also protect the plants from the cold winds outside.

There are plenty of cold frame kits available, but I decided to go even cheaper and bought an old window in its frame from the Seattle ReStore. I gave this a few upgrades, like a new coat of paint and a sturdy handle for opening the window. I chose white paint for the inside of the frame, to reflect the sunlight and make it nice and bright inside. I painted the outside with black paint, in the hope that it will help the frame stay warm by absorbing any surrounding light. Also, those were the colors of exterior paint I already had around the house. I’m still not sure about the soundness of my color choices, since black on the inside would also have the advantage of absorbing sunlight and radiating it as heat.

I also bought a thermometer to keep track of the temperature inside the cold frame. If you’re tempted to make your own cold frame, learn from my mistakes; don’t get a thermometer that attaches with a suction cup to the window. It will fall down on your plants. On that note, does anyone have a recommendation for a small, sturdy outdoor thermometer?

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