spring activities

Taking Care of Spring Bulbs

When spring sprung this year, I actually went online to research when and how to prune, fertilize, sod and care for the many plants in our garden. I was encouraged because last year when I followed instructions about how to care for my (dying) rose bush, I was actually able to bring it back from the dead and coax a bunch of flowers from it! This year, my garden has been growing well. Our bulbs seem to have gotten a late start, but they are hanging around for longer than usual. It's exciting to see them come up, and to think about what and where we will add new ones in the fall.

As a fledgling gardener (I can hardly call myself a gardener, to be honest), I was excited to read this piece in today's Daily Hampshire Gazette, about aftercare for spring bulbs. The article concludes with a list of interesting plant-related events happening in the Northampton area this month.

And, speaking of plant-related events in the Pioneer Valley! Don't miss the Asparagus Festival this Saturday, June 4th from 10-6 at the Hadley Town Common!

Here is today's article from the Gazette:

Mickey Rathbun: Aftercare for Spring Bulbs

The lovely season of spring-blooming bulbs has come to a close in my garden, leaving straggling drifts of lanky foliage. It’s easy to forget the weeks of delight the bulbs provided now that they’ve passed.

But resist the urge to cut back the foliage, even though it’s unsightly. The remaining leaves serve a vital function to the plant by restoring energy to the bulb by producing carbohydrates through photosynthesis. Without this, the bulb will not have the necessary nourishment to produce flowers the following year.

Leave the foliage until it turns yellow and dies back, a process that can take six weeks or longer. Some fastidious gardeners try to improve the leaves’ appearance by tying them or braiding them together, but this decreases the leaves’ ability to photosynthesize. So save yourself the bother and leave them alone.

If the dying foliage is making an eyesore in a visible part of the garden, you can hide it by strategic planting of annuals. Bulbs of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are deep enough below the surface that you can put in annuals without disturbing them.

You can also interplant bulbs with perennials like hosta and epimedium that leaf out as the bulbs are recharging.


To maximize the bulbs’ ability to send out next year’s blooms, it’s a good idea to snip flowers as soon as they have wilted. This prevents the bulbs from wasting energy on producing seed. Leave as much stalk as possible to promote photosynthesis. With spent hyacinths, run your hand along the stalk to remove the dead flowers instead of cutting the whole stalk.

If you want smaller bulbs such as scilla, muscari and galanthus to spread by self-seeding, don’t deadhead them. (Who has the time and patience to deadhead these plants, anyway?)

When you are finally able to get rid of the dreary yellow remains, cut them close to the ground. Don’t pull them out or you will risk damaging the bulb. After all you’ve done to nurture the bulb, you don’t want that to happen!

The bulbs don’t need to be watered unless you have an unusually dry spell. In the fall, apply a slow-release, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 10-15-10. Those numbers indicate the levels of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium in the fertilizer.

Do not use a high-nitrogen fertilizer (the first number); nitrogen stimulates vegetative growth, which you don’t want at that time of year. A few inches of compost is also a welcome addition.

Every few years you might want to divide your bulbs if you notice that the flowers are getting smaller and the stalks shorter. Wait till the foliage has died, then carefully dig out the bulbs. You will find that the original bulb has multiplied into many smaller ones. You can replant these right away or you can clean them off and dry them and set them aside in a single layer in a cool, dry, airy space and wait until fall to plant them.

After a long, cold winter, spring bulbs are an invaluable lift to our spirits. It’s worth taking care of them now so they’ll be back the next year, when we’ll be aching again for colorful new life in the garden.

FRAGRANT PLANTS THAT DELIGHT
We focus so much attention on the visual appearance of plants. But what about their scents? Join noted plantsman Andy Brand at Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge on June 4 from 1 to 3 p.m., for an exploration of ornamental woody plants and perennials that offer more than just visual appeal to our gardens.

The plants highlighted in this lecture have exceptional fragrances that warrant a special place in the garden where they can be fully enjoyed — near an entryway, alongside a terrace or deck, or along a woodland path.

Participants will learn how to make their gardens feasts for all of the senses.

For over two decades, Brand has been nursery manager for Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, Connecticut, known for its rare and unusual woody plants. He is the former president of the American Rhododendron Society, past president of the Connecticut Butterfly Association, past President of Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association (CNLA), and received the Young Nursery Professional Award from the New England Nursery Association.

He is an amateur naturalist with a strong interest in native plants and attracting wildlife to yards.

The fee for members is $15; nonmembers, $20

WILDFLOWERS ON THEHOLYOKE RANGE
Woodland wildflowers are everywhere, but so often we don’t really see them. Gain a better appreciation of spring wildflowers by taking a guided tour of wildflowers at the base of the Holyoke Range on June 4 from 9 until 11 a.m. The Kestrel Trust has organized the tour, to be led by Karen Searcy, University of Massachusetts professor and botanist. RSVP for meeting location to: office@kestreltrust.org.

TOVAH MARTIN IN GREENFIELD
Celebrated garden writer Tovah Martin will give a lecture and workshop on making terrariums at the Brandt House, 29 Highland Ave. in Greenfield on June 5 from 1 to 4 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Greenfield Garden Club.

If you’d like to participate in the workshop, bring a glass terrarium and adornments. All other materials will be provided.

The lecture and workshop is $50; lecture only: $25.

For information and tickets, contact Jean Wall at 773-9069, or jeanwall1313@gmail.com.

SUNDERLAND CHURCH PLANT SALE
The Sunderland Congregational Church is having its annual plant and bake sale on June 4, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The sale will include annuals, perennials, and some small trees and bushes. The sale is to benefit the church, located at the corner of Routes 47 and 116. There will be parking at the rear of the church buildings.

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at foxglover8@gmail.com.
 

 

Many Uses for our River

Ever since our daughter discovered sea kayaking a few summers ago - she likes to bring up the idea of purchasing a couple of canoes for our family every year when the weather warms up.  Though we have been members of the Holyoke Canoe Club since she was 2 years old, we use it for the pool and the tennis courts, as well as the views of the lovely Connecticut River - we have yet to become a boating family. That said, one of the reasons we love living in Northampton is it's proximity to the Connecticut River.

Kayaking is something my children and I love to do, even though we have not yet figured out the logistics of using the river for this purpose.  I hold out hope that one of my children will someday join the crew team, and I love that there are options for grown ups who want to row here as well.  I was so excited to read the following article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette about the contruction of a new boathouse, which suggests that Northampton Community Rowing will be offering kayak rentals, and expanded classes and programs as the boathouse and construction of a park along the water are completed.  Read on here for more details.
 

Hamp Crew boathouse rises on new city-owned riverside park in Northampton


The launch site of Northampton Community Rowing.


By EMMA KOLCHIN-MILLER
Gazette Contributing Writer
Thursday, May 21, 2015

NORTHAMPTON -- Northampton Community Rowing is finishing construction of a boathouse beside the Connecticut River, a project that's part of the new 11-acre Connecticut River Greenway Park owned by the city.

Use of the boathouse, located off Damon Road north of the River Run condominium complex, will enable the nonprofit group Hamp Crew to move

from the Oxbow area into the open river for better training conditions. Hamp Crew offers rowing classes and competitive programs for youth and adults in the Pioneer Valley.

"We would really like to get people to the River -- not just rowers. I've lived here 15 years and it's always amazed me that so few people actually access the river," said Dorrie Brooks, who chairs the boathouse building committee. "We hope that we can open it up to people and get more people down to it, because it's an amazing spiritual experience to be able to spend time on the River."

To mark the occasion, the group invites people to visit this Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m.


The city will finish work on the boathouse site within two months, according to Wayne Feiden, Northampton's director of planning and sustainability.
Feiden said the city hopes the park and boathouse will connect city residents to the river, especially those who live at River Run.
"Northampton has this incredible river, but it's not as much a part of people's lives," Feiden said. "One of our goals is to make sure every neighborhood in the city is served by the Parks and Recreation Department. River Run is one of our most underserved neighborhoods."

The rowing group also hopes the site will make the river more accessible in general.

"We hope to grow our membership and get more people involved with rowing and kayaking, but even beyond that we hope to be stewards of this dock and of this site so that people can feel comfortable bringing their own kayaks down," Brooks said.

While boathouse construction was to be finished Friday, Brooks said the group and the city discourage people from bringing boats until the city finishes site preparation in two months.

The boathouse is a 45-by-80-foot half-cylinder with a steel frame. Mounds of dirt from construction work speckle the site around it, though there is room for multiple "ergs," or rowing machines, which roughly 50 rowers, friends and family were using on Wednesday afternoon.

Hamp Crew boats will fill the boathouse, which does not have plumbing or changing rooms, though there are portable toilets outside. Brooks said NCR hopes to rent storage space for boats outside as a source of revenue and will also eventually purchase kayaks and canoes to rent out.

A path of a little more than 100 yards, which Feiden said will have an adjacent wheelchair-accessible path, runs from the dock to the boathouse. The path continues to the parking lot, which has over 30 spaces. Between the parking lot and the road is a contractor's yard owned by Lane Construction, the company that gave the city the land for the park.

A rowing community

Brooks, who rowed in college and rediscovered the sport as an adult, said rowing is special because it requires a concentration comparable to "meditation." Though many adults love to row, Brooks said rowing particularly benefits young people because it teaches teamwork and leadership. "They have to rig and derig boats to go to races, they have to take them out in this water and navigate them in the wind, and they're coxing them," Brooks said.

"It's a little bit more technical and more teamwork-oriented for a sport than a lot of other things," she said.

Youth rowers said the teamwork involved lets them build bonds with rowers from across the Valley. "I consider it the ultimate team sport, because you actually can't do it without every single person," said Sarah Callahan, 17, who lives in Northampton and is the varsity girls squad captain. "You build a bond with the boat, and it's just a fantastic feeling."

"I like that I get to meet kids from other schools," said Maggie White, 16, who attends the Williston Northampton School. "In my boat I'm the only person from my school, so I got to know everyone from all over the area, which is really nice."

Dylan Walter, 14, of Shutesbury, loves the powerful feeling of rowing. "There's nothing quite like knowing that you are moving something 40 feet long and about 200 pounds through the water at 20 feet per second," Walter said.

Rowers also said the Connecticut River provides better conditions than the Connecticut River OxBow, an extension of the river to the south out of which the group previously operated.

"When we were on the OxBow, we would have to turn around every five to eight minutes, depending on what we were doing, and we lost so much practice time," Callahan said. "I'm so happy that we're finally here and we have the freedom to do what we want to do."

Head rowing coach Erin Andersen agreed. "As far as the efficiency of practice, you can't beat it. It's just really nice being on such a straight stretch of water, such a wide part of the river," Andersen said.

Andersen noted that the group will be able to offer more programming at the Connecticut River. "We were pretty limited on the classes that we could offer because we shared the boathouse with the Oxbow ski team, so we weren't able to offer any evening or afternoon programs during the summer," Andersen said. "This year we're really trying to expand our programs and offer a lot of evening learn-to-rows and more advanced classes."

Collaboration with city

Hamp Crew and the city are collaborating to open the boathouse and park, for which the city attained a $400,000 state grant and a $190,000 Community Preservation Act grant.

Feiden said the rowing club helped "leverage the grant" by pledging to raise $120,000 for the site and to build a boathouse, which Brooks said costs the group an additional $80,000.

According to Brooks, Hamp Crew is still $30,000 short and will continue to fundraise. Clearspan Buildings of Windsor, Connecticut, which sold the group the boathouse frame and is overseeing construction, will accept payment over three to five years.

The city's longterm plan is to create trails near the river, including a bike path up to Hatfield, according to Feiden.

"Our interest in the river is not just individual parks along the river, but a whole greenway that goes up and down the river," Feiden said.

Brooks said that like the city, Hamp Crew wants to connect the community with the river, now that it has rebounded from earlier pollution. "The river defines the history of the Valley, it defines the economy of the Valley, and to some degree it defines the culture of the Valley," Brooks said. "But people are only now starting to get back to it."

 

Spring Cleaning Time!

I am amazed how the undeniable instinct to clean and declutter accompanies the warmer weather year after year.  It's like clockwork.  After being cooped up inside all winter long, I find myself looking at both the interior and exterior of my house with new eyes.  Clothes that don't fit the kids (or that I no longer wear) go to Goodwill, piles of who-knows-what that pepper every surface of the house get dismantled and dealt with, the garage gets swept and organized, artwork gets framed and hung, the lawn gets mowed, flowers and trees get watered and planted... I turn to my husband/recycling guru to check in about various local recycling events happening here in Northampton (electronics, expired meds, toxic waste, paint cans, furniture, etc).  It feels good to be productive in this way.  Yet it is interesting that, despite these efforts, the projects never seem to end!  

I was perusing my favorite go-to blog/website Apartment Therapy today and came across this very relevant post about keeping your living space looking great!

 

 

 

Get Rid of These 5 Things That are Keeping Your Home from Looking Its Best


If the look of your home isn't quite where you want it to be, it could be because you're holding on to things that are dragging your decor down. Does anything on this list sound familiar? If so, consider whether passing it along would give you the freedom you need to take your space to the next level.

Things that used to fit your style, but don't anymore.
Maybe when you were in college you went through a phase where you really loved shabby chic, or Chinese-inspired stuff, or whatever, and you bought a bunch of things and they were great, but now they don't quite fit your style but you can't get rid of them because you used to really love them. It is ok to get rid of these things. Sometimes tastes change. You're not the same person you used to be. Let your home, and your life, be what it wants to be now, and find those old things a new home where they'll be truly appreciated.

Stuff that you have just to fill holes.
Most people have a lot more furniture than they actually need. I can't explain it -- maybe it's our consumerist culture -- but I think that in decorating we feel a lot of pressure to fill up spaces. Like, if you have a blank wall you feel there needs to be some piece of furniture there, even if it's something you never use and don't even like. Do you have a piece that has never felt quite right, but that you've kept because it's the thing that goes in that particular corner? Consider letting go of it. Your home doesn't need to be full to feel full.

Bulky items that don't really have anywhere to go.
You loved that armoire when you saw it at the flea market, but it's been floating around your house awkwardly ever since then, as you tried without success to squeeze it into a corner where it just wouldn't quite go. Sometimes things you like are out of scale for your home, or the way you live, and it's better to just admit it and move on.

Things that you like but that don't fit into your lifestyle.
Maybe you have a sofa that is beautiful but too uncomfortable to sit on, or a lovely serving dish that you never have occasion to use, or a rug that you really like but avoid stepping on because it stains so easily. It's worth thinking about how the things you own affect the way your home feels, as well as the way it looks. Your home should be a place that makes you feel comfortable, and things that you like but never use can be obstacles that get in the way of you living your life.

Projects you are never ever going to finish.
This is a hard one. Oh gosh, is it hard. Especially if you're like me, and you love to plan projects, and buy things to make them happen, and then you are not so good at actually following through on them. At some point, maybe after years and years, you just need to admit that you are never going to paint that sideboard, or re-cane that chair. Find a new home for those things, and clear the clutter and the guilt out of your life.

(Image credits: Alysha Findley)

 

Maple Sugar Season Snafu!

One of the perks of living in Northampton and the Pioneer Valley, is the celebration of winter's end and spring's beginning that is earmarked, in part, by maple sugar season. This provides us Western MA folk with a post ski-season excuse to spend a weekend day driving through the picturesque Hilltowns to have pancakes and homemade maple syrup at one of the many sugarhouses which pepper the area. The very long and cold winter (which seems to be clinging on for dear life) has thrown local maple syrup producers and fans alike, a curveball this maple sugar season. The cold temps throughout March have created a shift in the freeze and thaw cycle necessary for "normal" sap production, as you can read about in the following Daily Hampshire Gazette article. Here's hoping that there is enough syrup produced so that we can all enjoy some sugarhouse fun!

Maple sugaring season comes at long last to Valley, as producers hope for best after long-delayed start

By LARRY PARNASS

Gazette Editor

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

 

WILLIAMSBURG — Easy does it. Now that maple sap is flowing, sugarers hope spring continues to play hide-and-seek in the Valley to salvage a sluggish season.

 

With night freezes and daytime thaws finally here, sugarers are making syrup, starting in earnest to boil at a time of year when they have sometimes been wrapping up.

 

At the Lawton Family Sugarhouse in Williamsburg, Bill Turner had produced just 11 gallons by Sunday. This time last year, the small family operation, founded by Deb Turner’s great-great-great grandfather George Lawton, was halfway to the 133.5 gallons it produced from trees on an adjoining sugarbush of 40 to 50 acres.

 

“From what I hear, we haven’t missed much,” Turner said. “Everybody’s in the same boat.” 

 

Unlike past years, when March has brought thaws, 2015 remained cold through the month. “This year it was more like an old-fashioned year,” Bill Turner said.

 

The depth of snow in the Hilltowns may help preserve sugaring conditions, several maple producers said this week in interviews beside their evaporators. Deep snow still on the ground at high elevations helps moderate rising daytime temperatures and preserve the freeze-and-thaw cycle maple producers need for a robust sap flow.

 

“I hope it keeps running and that we can make some decent syrup before it goes to dark,” said Deb Turner, referring to the hues that result with sap gathered later in the season, when warm temperatures bring up bacteria levels and affect quality and taste.

 

Paul Zononi, who taps trees on a few hundred Hilltown acres, estimated Sunday inside his Williamsburg sugarhouse that he has produced just 40 percent of the syrup he expected to turn out. Zononi said he hoped to do better.

 

“We got to. We have to,” he said. “Nationally, nobody’s making syrup. Our production is barely keeping up with our sales.” 

 

Usually, his season wraps up April 1. This year, Zononi is playing catch-up. He is hauling 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of sap a day down Route 9 from land he owns or leases in Goshen and Cummington. 

 

Zononi first boiled March 13, earlier than many Hilltown sugarers, instead of starting the first week of March. His operation produced 1,000 gallons of syrup last year, the last 200 of them darker commercial grades because the 2014 season was also late.

 

At South Face Farm in Ashfield, visitors on Sunday passed a stone-cold evaporator on their way in to the restaurant now run by the Olanyk family. The farm, owned by Tom McCrumm, has been making syrup this year, but did not have enough sap to boil on Sunday because it remained at freezing or below in the sugarbush the day before.

 

“The weather forecast looks pretty good for this week,” said Todd Olanyk, as restaurant customers waiting for tables sipped coffee near displays on sugaring history. “Hopefully, we’ll make up for it.” 

 

His restaurant, like most in the Hilltowns, will remain open for two more weekends.

 

As a veteran producer, McCrumm smiles at the notion that anything can be predicted in an agricultural enterprise.

 

“There is no such thing as average,” he said. “People have to understand. It’s all dependent on the weather.” 

 

McCrumm estimated that his sugarhouse has produced one quarter to one third of the syrup it may make this year. 

 

By the calendar alone, the season should be nearly over. Last year, after the late start, conditions allowed for 17 days of boiling that enabled the farm to produce 825 gallons of syrup. “We had this continuous, long stretch of sap weather,” he said of 2014.

 

While good endings are possible, they are jeopardized by rapidly warming days. He is buying sap this year from Heath and Colrain, two Franklin County towns at high elevations where the snowpack may help extend the sap season.

 

“Most producers would rather start early than start late and have to see how far it goes,” McCrumm said. “We don’t know how far ahead of us this end will be.”