Did you know that the first quarter of 2015 was the coldest since temperatures in our area were recorded? And here we are, the first week in April, and the daffodils have only just started blooming! What’s a gardener to do? Of Stiles and Jonathan, owners of Halcyon Farm, Jonathan’s the one who literally digs in and does the gardening. He makes good use of the greenhouse, which was added a number of years ago. It’s quite literally, a shelter from the storm, especially over long winters.
There’s a schedule to when the plants go inside and outside and when things get done in the greenhouse. In the fall, Jonathan divides up some of the plants, especially the dahlias which are tubers. He removes all of the dirt and puts them in a box in a dark place in the greenhouse where they go dormant. In the spring, he replants them in pots and waits for them to begin growing again and eventually plants them in the garden.
Also in March, Jonathan is beginning to start the seeds and one early favorite is sweet peas. They need to be started while it’s still chilly out – maybe mid-March – and then planted once it starts getting warm out. Because sweet peas don’t like hot weather, they will grow and bloom before June. Sweet peas take a little work, you have to scrape their seeds so they will bloom, but the reward is worth the effort.
Our long winter has called for desperate measures, and Jonathan decided to force some forsythia to bring some spring cheer into the house. A few weeks ago, he cut a number of forsythia branches and put them in a big bucket of water. As they start to bud and bloom, they are moved into the house where they can make a dramatic arrangement along with the pussy-willows and witch hazel, which are also forced. You can do this with branches from fruit trees, but only if you’re doing some pruning and if you carefully consider which branches you cut.
Gardening entails many hours of potting, dividing, re-potting, planting and the other chores Jonathan does, so he’s created a potting area that has all the equipment he needs. This includes rooting hormone, string, pots of many sizes and shapes, good organic potting soil, a knife, a sprayer to dampen soil and other odds and ends. Having everything within arm’s reach ensures that you won’t have to go running around right as you’re at a critical part of the re-potting process.
The greenhouse is essential for over-wintering the larger plants from the garden. There are huge lemon and lime trees in pots that are wheeled in and out of the greenhouse as the seasons dictate. The larger plants and trees are taken out after any danger of frost has disappeared. The smaller plants can be moved in and out of the greenhouse and hardened off. This is a process of re-acclimating the plants to being outside again, and being in the strong spring sunshine.
Plants can actually get sunburned at this time of year. After you’ve coddled and cosseted your plants over the winter, the last thing that you want to happen is to take your plants out into the sun and have the leaves burn and fall off. Trust us on this.
Once it’s well and truly warm, all of the plants are put in their permanent position where they will stay for the next six months or so. By working hard over the winter, you can essentially have an instant garden in the spring.
The View From Halcyon Farm is sponsored by Halcyon House Antiques, located at 11219 Greenspring Avenue in Lutherville and open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit the Halcyon House Antiques website or call 410-828-8889.