Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Spring Traditions - Candlemas and Imbolc

According to Phil the Groundhog and our local Shubenacadie Sam, they didn't see their shadow and therefore we will have an early Spring. What am I talking about? Today is February 2nd, and all over the Northern Hemisphere there are traditions and festivals celebrating the long awaited return of Spring. Crepe day in Belgium and France (not to be confused with pancake day in the UK next week), Candlemas, the end of the Persephone period and in North America Groundhog Day. While there are religious roots in many of these festivals, it being 40 days since the birth of Christ and therefore his presentation at the Temple etc. The universal appeal comes from the fact that Spring is approaching and the days are getting noticeably longer again and so many folk traditions have developed around the arrival of Spring or another 6 weeks of Winter. The story of Imbolc is one I know from my Celtic ancestors. It bears strikingly similarity to other stories. 

It's still not a lot warmer here in Nova Scotia although it's been a mild Winter so far. We're all a little bit paranoid though because last Winter was pretty nice until February when we just got one dump of snow after another until we had over 15 feet. And there's a legendary storm that hit Nova Scotia in 1977 on this date. But this morning has dawned calm and is now beautiful and sunny and it's hard to be grumpy and pessimistic sitting in the sunshine which is just a little higher in the sky and holds a little more warmth. Local tradition shows the practical side of Maritimers, they say that by Groundhog Day you should have half your firewood and half your hay. Last Winter we did, and we actually ran out of hay and had to buy a lot in because we had such a late Spring. Our fields weren't starting to grow until well into May. It's good advice, and we do have about half our firewood still left at the moment. The good thing about that is if it doesn't get used up then it'll be lovely and dry for next Winter.

I'm really looking forward to getting seeds started soon. But resisting the temptation to plant too many too early can be really difficult. If you know you can't plant your stuff out until May, then you don't really want to be planting until the end of March or into April. It's far better to have younger shorter seedlings than to have them all be root bound and tall and leggy. SOme of the seeds I start in February are cool season veggies for planting out in the greenhouse and some of the tomatoes I will use for grafting later. There are also some seeds that can take up to 3 weeks to germinate and they need the extra time. Being organized involves checking the dates you want to transplant and then working backwards to figure the rest our.
     For example: I want to plant my pepper plants out in the field on May 25th. I know that my seedlings will be 8 weeks old when they're transplanted so that brings us back to about March 28th, and I know that typically peppers germinate in 10-21 days so that brings us back to the middle of March. Therefore I know that to have my peppers ready for the end of May I need to plant them around the middle of March. Does that make sense?

So why don't we just start them all now and wait for the weather to be warm enough to plant out? Well, for one we'd quickly run out of room in the greenhouse. Having all those peppers in increasingly bigger pots takes up a lot of room, and they would suffer from not having properly grown out roots. 92 little seedlings in a tray don't take up much space but 92 plants in half gallon pots sure do. The more mature the plant, the more likely it is to suffer transplant shock which can delay plants by several weeks and thereby negate the fact that you started it early. My personal preference is to let plants continue to grow at an even rate and not stump their development along the way. It makes for healthier and more disease resistant plants and better yields.

Planning ahead and writing these things down will really help as we get into the gardening season.

My seed order still isn't in but I'm almost done. Hopefully today or tomorrow. I'm still sick if you can believe that, and it's driving me batty. I'm looking forward to my first greenhouse being built so that I can get more fresh air and sunshine, maybe that will help my lungs. In the meantime I'm just going to dream about warmer days to come and enjoy the sunshine.

Just ten more days to get your entry in for the Spring Contest. What better way to beat the February Blahs than to win something? Just check back a couple of posts ago for the easy contest details.

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