A walk in the woods, a planted seed, new skills to learn

We went to the woods on Sunday afternoon to enjoy fresh air, warm sun reaching through frostbitten air, and no other humans in sight. For the dog, it was just like any other day. She had no idea that the world was turning upside down as she galloped across the blackened prairie, still charred from a late fall burn. We followed an unmarked trail into the woods, tiptoed around patches of ice still clinging to the tops of the cliffs, and made our way down to clear rushing water, alive – very alive – at the bottom of the gorge.IMG_1241

In spite of a marauding virus, closed schools, closed everything, it appears that spring is still doing her thing, the same as she’s done year, after year, after year. The first green we found was the moss on rocks and logs, growing lush and extravagant like a psychedelic shag carpet. Next, we spotted green leaves of watercress poking out of the water. Watercress is an aquatic plant, native to Asia and Europe, that now grows in almost every state in the U.S.. It grows in clear, cold springs and can be harvested and eaten, similar to arugula. Finally, we discovered the best prize of all – a scarlet cup mushroom, folded gracefully upon a log like a flower in bloom. Scarlet cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca) grow in eastern hardwood forests and are one of the first mushrooms to appear in the early spring. Don’t eat them but do enjoy their beauty.

Because we’ll be home for a while, and because it is definitely spring, we decided that this week would be a good time to start planting seeds. Perhaps you’d like to do the same?

Here are some rough guidelines for when to start vegetable seeds indoors in Minnesota:

  • Early February – Leeks and onions
  • Mid-February – Celery
  • Early March – Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and head lettuce
  • Late March – Okra, peppers, and eggplants
  • Early April – Tomatoes

If you’d prefer to plant seeds directly outdoors, the following can be planted in late April: asparagus (crowns), beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (early), carrots, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce, onion, parsley, peas, potatoes, and spinach. Onion and rhubarb plants can also be planted outdoors in late April. IMG_4936

webinar promo

The Blue Thumb – Planting for Pollinators workshops that were scheduled to begin this week will now be moving to online format. The workshops are free and offer valuable advice on how to plant native gardens that protect water and provide nectar for pollinator species. If you’ll be planting a backyard veggie garden, try incorporating native plants as well to attract beneficial insects and provide natural protection against pests. Here is the current schedule of workshops:

To learn more about these workshops and register, go to www.mnwcd.org/events or facebook.com/mnwcd/events. Log-on information for the webinars will be emailed to registrants before each class begins.

Monarch butterflies on rough blazing star in a raingarden in Cottage Grove. These practices help to protect water resources and create valuable habitat for wildlife and pollinators.