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It’s been a while since I’ve participated in Six on Saturday, and it’s a shame because it’s such an eminently straightforward and easy concept; just choose six things that you’ve done or have happened in your garden this week, and write about them. Brilliant!

Some of you may remember reading about my March challenge to myself, which is to complete one garden or plant related activity each day this month. I’m pleased to report that I’m doing quite well with that. I can’t enumerate everything I’ve done in this post because, after all, it is March 12, and in this post I can write about only 6! So I will spare you the details of plucking dead leaves and making trips to home improvement stores in search of seeds, and just stick with the highlights!

  1. Upon not finding San Marzano tomato, French filet green bean, or Jaguar marigold seeds at either of our local stores, I decided to run some germination tests on seeds left from last year, much in the manner of a third grade science experiment! I placed a few seeds of each type inside a damp paper towel, then placed the paper towel inside a resealable plastic baggy. I put them all in a container on top of the furnace and started checking for growth on Day 3.

Fond of documentation as I am, I created a hand-written chart to track the progress of the eight varieties I planted. By Day 5, all but the bush wax beans had sprouted. (I think their paper towel may have been too soggy, and the seeds rotted.) Today I chucked the whole bunch into the compost (boy did they smell stink of mildew!). I’ll give the wax beans another try later this month.

I’m glad to know I can save myself a little money by not buying more of the same, viable seeds I already have!

2. In the meantime, I went ahead and sowed some of the seeds that need a long head start indoors here in the northeastern US. I’ve planted a few cells each of the aforementioned San Marzano tomatoes (the sauce I made from them last year was without peer!), tithonia (a favorite of Monarch butterflies), red and yellow bell peppers, midget melon, cherry tomatoes, and Brandywine tomatoes.

I had some trouble with the seed starter mix. Per the directions on the bag, I filled the cells with the mix, then poured water over it. Well, two hours later, all of that water remained pooled on top of the mix; not one bit had been absorbed! Of course I Googled the problem, and found that this is common in mixes made primarily of dry peat. It actually repels water! So, I dumped all of the mix and water into a big plastic bag, and added more water with just a drop of dish soap in it. (Dish soap breaks surface tension and helps the absorption). I mushed it all up, and waited an hour. Then it was ready to go! I’ve used seed starting mix before but have never had quite so much trouble with it.

Now I am a proud mama of several seedlings! The Tithonia ‘Torch’ sprouted first, after just four days. The tomatoes took five to seven days. Peppers take notably longer; I’m still waiting for them to start.

3. Today I watered and fertilized all of the houseplants. This endeavor is notable, as there are ninety-seven plants, and it takes me twenty-five minutes to complete! Here is just one shelf, mostly succulents:

I don’t fertilize most of my plants during the fall and winter when they are largely dormant. I resumed fertilizing this year in late February, when the daylight hours were noticeably longer and brighter, and many plants began to show new growth. I fertilize every two to three weeks, and do use fertilizer formulated for specific types of plants–foliage, blooming, cactus and succulent, and African violet. (I want my African violets and grocery store primroses to bloom throughout the winter, so I do keep them fed!)

On weekends, I also water my two orchids, both phalaenopsis. I know some people swear by the ice cube method, but it just doesn’t make sense to me to place two or three ice cubes on a plant that grows naturally in warm, humid places. I prefer to fill a bowl with lukewarm water and a small amount of orchid food and set the whole pot in it. After it soaks for an hour or so, I remove it and let it drain.

On the final weekend of each month, I set the plants in the sink and let a gentle stream of water from the faucet run through them. This helps flush out residual salts that can build up from the fertilizer. I usually give them about twenty minutes, turning the pot occasionally, and avoiding getting water in the center of the plant.

My orchids are not in the greatest shape. One is five or six years old, and bloomed twice for me after I bought it. Then I had the gall to re-pot it (it had outgrown the small plastic pot it came in), and it has sulked and refused to bloom ever since. I am heartened to see that it has put out some new growth in the past couple of months. I’d hoped it would be a bloom stalk, but it looks like a leaf. Oh well, I’ll take what it gives!

The other, not pictured, was a Valentine’s gift from my husband last year. Its flowers lasted over four months! Unfortunately, I dropped it while carrying downstairs one day in January, and it had to be re-potted. Who knows when I’ll see orchid blossoms in this house again?

4. Two other houseplants are also in sad shape. Croton ‘Petra’ developed very bare legs a few summers ago when I put it outside and left it in the hot sun too long, without letting it adapt slowly. The poor thing dropped most of its leaves, but ultimately grew many new ones. I didn’t make that mistake again. However, it responded poorly last fall when I brought it inside, and it dropped about half of its colorful leaves. Lack of humidity is my best guess for the reason.

You can see that there’s some lovely new green growth at the top. Seeing that, I decided now is the time to try to grow some new Crotons. I clipped off the top few inches of two of the branches, stripped off most of the leaves, dipped the stems in some rooting hormone, and stuck them in some moist potting soil.

Then I turned the pots into little greenhouses, putting plastic bags over them to maintain a nice humid environment. Hopefully, in a month or so, the cuttings will root and new growth will begin. Fingers crossed!

My Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’ (aka Dragontree) suffered a similar fate last summer. Apparently even just three hours of very early morning sun was too much for it, and many of its leaves dried up and fell. Very sad.

I’ve chopped off the top six inches and planted them just as I did the Croton. I also chopped off a bit of the bare stalk and planted it, as I’ve read that that is supposed to work. We’ll see!

5. How about something that’s healthy and happy! Amaryllis ‘Trentino’ began blooming about ten days ago, and is still going strong. I love its delicate pink striations and apple green throat!

This is a hand-me-down bulb from a friend, so I don’t know how old it is. ‘Trentino’ is a Christmas flowering miniature amaryllis. It’s supposed to grow only fourteen inches tall, but mine exceeded that by ten inches! Its flowers are three and a half inches wide. And, a bonus! ‘Trentino’ has a light, sweet scent! It’s a real beauty!

Now blow the trumpets and ring bells! Two months after showing its bloom stalks, my Walking Iris has opened its first flower! This series of pictures shows three hours’ progression this morning:

You can read more about Walking Iris (Neomarica gracilis, aka Apostle Plant) here. Though the flower lasts just a day, several more will follow.

6. Finally, some signs of spring! Though we have been blessed today by seven inches of snow, a fierce wind, and plummeting temperatures, there were signs this week that spring is indeed on its way!

The pussy willow catkins have begun to open.

Hellebore ‘Pink Frost’ has buds!

And, the rhubarb has poked some little red noses up above the soil. I can’t wait to make a fresh rhubarb pie!

The good news is none of these should be hurt by a little snow, and spring will eventually arrive! I’m doing my best to be ready for it!

Many thanks to The Propagator for hosting the Six on Saturday meme!