Monday, February 1, 2016

February 2016 First Edtion

PDF Companion Reference Files for this Edition

I moved these to the actual journal pages this year to try to get them to be noticed more.  These files change with each edition.  I use the Apple software "Keynote" to observe my garden.  For each day of change I add another image.  At the end of the season I have an simple animation of my garden's growing season.

Database Table A
  • Only has last years records.  Will be re-verifying previous information in the next day or two.  Other wise the database is ready for this years data.
Diagram Table A
  • Reflects the critter now in my garden (gray zone at the top right of the image).  Snow not fully diagrammed in this picture as I had to introduce the 'critter' problem.
Diagram Animation
  • if it is not working please let me know!
  • This is the current animation for thawing and growth pattern for my garden(s).  This file will be updated each edition.
  • This is a self running, non-sound file.
  • Current length 1m 45s.
  • Viewers will need to download QuickTime viewer (Free for Windows, and native for Apple).

Hosta On the Way

White Feather
Attempt #1: Is concluded.
  • Note: I did get a refund on this order.  Although I went through a lot of work to get it.
Attempt #2
  • Dec 2015  Was reordered from Nursery C.  Two plantings of it.
  • 3/28/16  Will schedule the arrival for week of March 28th.
Readers may want to note that I normally make my hosta purchases AFTER May 15th.  White Feather is an exception to this as it is so hard to order during the season; and any reputable USA nursery (at this time) orders it direct from the Netherlands for winter shipping as to not break the winter rest period.  ASK about availability before ordering from a USA vendor.  Reputable vendors inside the US will be up front as to when this plant will be in stock; and when they will be shipping in advance of the order.

is MN having an early thaw this year? 

Most Januarys we get that winter thaw at the start of the month BEFORE the extreme cold sets in - we did have a warm spot at the start of the month this year.  To add to that, this year we have had a short week of thawing temperatures at the very end of the month.   Normally this type of warmth (30° to 40°F  / -1.11° to 4.44°C) does not arrive until mid February.  Are we looking at an early spring or a bad sense of humor from 'Old Man Winter' as Minnesota can get massive, and very paralyzing, snowstorms(1) during February through April!  Yes, January has brought a string of thawing temperatures; and now that forecast (six day) is seen I believe this week of warm weather is only that; a brief spurt of warm weather.

(1)  The southern and eastern sides of the USA have been pummeled with snow this year due to the El Nino and La Niña cycles of weather across the globe.  The Mid-West has has a very very mild snow with a distinct freezing cycle this year.  What a snow storm is, is perceived regionally.  Many times those of us in Great Lakes region of the US look at other parts of the US have to wonder because when another part of the country gets over 3 in. / 7.62 cm. - they tend to panic.  For us in the Midwest a heavy snow begins at about 8 in. / 20.32 cm. of snow.

Loosing Data also means I get to make changes ...

Last edition (January 2016) I mentioned that I lost some data from my database.  Since I had to reconstruct files that were missing I decided to also make some midwinter changes to the way the data base works.  This will effect how you read the data from those PDF pages I post with these journal pages (see above).

The first major change from last year is that I no longer will be sorting the listing by where they are in development (spikes, scapes, and fading) of plants.  With the new listing I will be sorting it by plant name and the year that the listing was entered on the file.  By making this change I will be able to present the projected dates of earliest, average of, and latest for each column of dates.  Below is simple excerpt.

               First    Second    First Flower   ...
ID Hosta Name  Spike    Spike     Scape    Bloom ...

20      2015   4/16/15  8/ 1/15   5/ 8/15  6/21/15  
18      2016   4/24/16  7/25/16   5/ 2/16  6/23/16  

    Earliest:  4/16     7/25      5/ 2     6/21     
    Average:   4/20     7/28      5/ 4     6/22     
    Latest:    4/24     8/ 1      5/ 8     6/23     

There are two subtle flaws in how my database actually handles dates under these circumstances.
  • Number 1: if the processed number has a decimal during its handling the program rounds the date DOWN to the previous day.
  • Number 2: Due to the western calendar having a leap year during 3 of the 4 years the calculated date will always be one day previous to the actual date for non-leap year calculations.
I know that this will be annoying to the reader; it is for me!  But I must call these subtle only because weather is never consistent on a year to year basis.  One year Spring might be really early and the next Spring might be really late and so the subtleness of the date handing is a tolerable thing to put up with.  I could certainly code the database around these weak points but inherently it makes no actual difference in the larger scale of things; the information is intended to be approximate projections of dates.

As more years go by the more impressive this data will be.  I'll be checking to see if I recorded all the dates from 2015 correctly in the next few days; for me a long and tedious job.

You might also note that when the estimates are generated the year is omitted.  This is because the process looks only at the month and day during the year that plant exhibits the growth pattern being observed.  Even if I miss enter the year the equation for the calculation still get the result right.

Be mindful of the fact that this compiled information is only valid in MY garden.  Your garden it may be very different.  The further away from Growing Zone 4b; and the 45º Northern Latitude the more of a guide it becomes.  If I had a server and the next version up in database I could present the database for online use for global information gathering and recording.  The rough estimated cost for that is about 6 thousand (USD) a year and somewhere between 400 and 800 persons willing to help annually fund the project at about $7.50 USD a year.  But I am not going there at this time.

Hosta growers say plant x does its thing at this time of the year.  But I have noticed that sometimes the plant deviates from that schedule noticeably (Emerald Tiara, Gorgon, and Sum and Substance).  The compiling if these records may not say much for the first two years, but as the years go by I will be able to see which plants might deviate from their genetic hard-coded schedule.  I would agree, in principal, that hosta subspecies do have a tendency towards behaving certain ways over the course of a year; which is why some hosta bloom is in the spring and others bloom in the fall.

1/24/16  After considerable thought I've decided to add one new piece of information to my data.  It may be insignificant in the larger scale of things but ... it will fill in the space between when the first spike and the first scape are seen.  The date on which the first leaf is fully open.  I've also been looking at temperature ranges for Minnesota.  We're a much more varied state than what I thought we were.  Historically a freezing temperature can occur anytime of the year, as can a 80°F / 26.67°C temperature.  This might mean that I have to take the leap year issue (discussed above) just a little more seriously.

Another Variable Changed: Survival 

Another aspect of this database I have records survival and passing of hosta.  Last year I had four variables watching this.  This year I am going to try to do it with only one!  Thus reducing visual space needed to convey this information.  To understand this I have to present to you the entire list of 'information states' that I could assign:

State                   Abbrev.     Notes 
Survived                Surv.
Damaged: Deer           Da De       Have never had this problem, listed as example.
Damaged: Human          Da Hu
Damaged: Mole           Da Mo
Damaged: Rabbit         Da Ra       Have never had this problem, listed as example.
Died Winter             Di W
Died: Growing Season    Di GS
Died: Mole and/or Vole  Di Ro
Died: Deer              Di De       Have never had this problem, listed as example.
Died: Slug              Di Sl       Have never had this happen, listed as example.
Frozen Crown Rot        Fr CR       Used after June 1st, where no rhizomes are seen.
Frozen Chilled Out      Fr CO       Used after June 1st, where rhizomes are seen.
Theft                   Theft       Have never had this problem but listed as example.

I have reduced these categories down to 5 groups: Survived, Damaged, Died, Frozen, and Theft.  Voles, and Moles; Rabbits and Deer, and Slugs and Humans (yes humans) can all effect hosta.

While Moles can do significant damage and disruption to hosta, they are referred to as insectivore as they eat beetles, earthworms, grubs, and according to some sources - slugs.  It is the Vole (Field Mouse) that does the real damage/destruction to Hosta as they are vegetarians and eat roots, tubers, bulbs, leaves, bark, and grass.  Remember rhizomes are a form of root.  According to what I have read the two can use the same burrows.

Rabbits do more damage to hosta than killing them.  They are notorious of eating spring spikes and tender early leaves.  As hosta can survive being mowed/cut back up to three times in a season many of these plants will survive but will grow as though they were transplanted (smaller and less vigorous).

Slugs are more apt to do extreme damage to leaves, than out right kill a hosta.  As much as we as gardeners fight against slugs it is many times more often observed that the damage happened than recorded.  When a hosta is killed by a marauding group of slugs that becomes something to note and record.

Deer can both do damage and kill hosta as they love the leaves.  They are strong enough to at times pull the plant and rhizomes entirely out of the ground.

There have been reported cases where Hosta have been heisted [stolen].  I have on occasion heard about some in the USA, and another very unusual case in England.

As you can see there are many scenarios by which hosta may not survive in a garden.

Now the question is ... where did my 2014 season notes for my plants go off too‽  I'll keep looking for those.

Where Do We Come From ...

This blog is pulling in about 200 hits (web visits) over the last 30 days.  I find that exciting - even for midwinter!  What I find even more interesting is that interest is not just northern hemisphere.  From time to time a few times a year I get visitors from the southern hemisphere (Africa, South America and Australia).  This week again I noticed someone from South Africa who had visited the site.  It kinda makes me excited and makes me more eager to write these entries.  Whomever you are in South Africa ... I hope you return as the months keep passing.

A Few Closing Thougjts

As we've had warm weather in January, and putting those Ground Hogs aside, what happens in February will be telling I think about what kind of spring we might have this year.  The annual thawing and freezing of spring generally begins mid-February and goes to mid-April.  With the intruder in my garden the survival of the plants might look really different this year.  Previous years records say that the survival rate has been:

Year  Survived out of total   Percent Total           
2013           10 out of 18   56%
2014                19 : 21   92%
2015                28 : 34   86%
2016                ?? : 28   78% previous average

To match the current average this years record must have 21 out of 28 surviving (that's for raised bed count)… or better!  Spikes are a ways off as they are seen generally between April 11th to 28th; with the final survival count occurring on June 1st.

Will see you next time when more of my gardening antics will be reported.

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