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Mar 20

Growing under lights brings spring closer

Officially, it’s the first day of spring, but it’s chilly outside and it snowed last night, and will again tonight and tomorrow, so it’s lucky I have tiny Lupin seedlings to tell me winter hasn’t long to go.

They’re an inch or so tall, the first set of true palmate leaves appearing under the white glare of the growlights. Unlike other perennial seed I started at the beginning of February and plunged into a snow bank (they’re still out there but will be coming in to warm up under light next week), these Lupins are a warm germinator. They don’t need a cold treatment to break dormancy.

But I noticed on the website of Gardens North, where I got the seeds from, that they should be sandpapered before starting, which is something done to seeds with hard outer shells, so the germ inside can push out easily. I rubbed them between a couple of pieces of sandpaper and soaked them overnight for good measure, popped them into little pots filled with with a potting soil mix, covered with sheet of black plastic and placed the lot on top of the fridge – a nice warm place for germination. They sprouted within two days, on March 9, so I moved them to light and they’ve been growing slowly ever since. Perennials tend to be slow – with none of that explosion of life that an annual will give you. Read more
Mar 11

Spring: Bring it on? or Hold off, not so fast!

The mantle of snow is slipping and there’s a softness to the air. “I just want it to be over,” a visitor said, navigating the lake of snowmelt that impedes access to my driveway.

But this is sugar maple country. “We could use some frost,” a neighbouring producer told me yesterday, when I dropped by the sugar shack, alerted to the intense activity inside by the smoke and steam rising above the treeline.

The trees are running, have been going well for five days. It wasn’t the plus 14 daytime high that had him bothered as much as the failure of the thermometer to drop below zero the night before.

It’s a balanced temperature cycle that keeps the sap flowing. Ideally, a range of plus 4 Celsius in the day and minus 4 at night. But plus or minus 10 degrees here or there will work; the important thing is to get some freezing action in. Time was when producers could count on the trees running for most of March. Not any more.Read more
Mar 3

Can we help? Assisted migration in an age of global warming

As the planet warms, species are on the move. The phenomenon has been observed in oceans, with fish populations shifting to the poles, and on land, with creatures moving to higher elevations in search of cool. Many species are struggling for survival in shrinking habitats.

And here in Ontario, higher temperatures are taking a toll of an iconic northern bird. The Gray Jay – the friendly Whiskey Jack of the boreal forest – has undergone a 50 per cent population drop in Algonquin Park over the past 25 years. The decline has been linked to spoilage of its perishable winter food caches, once kept reliably refrigerated by cold winters. Areas that in the past supported the Gray Jay are now abandoned.

The plight of some species – the American pika, the Edith’s checkerspot butterfly, the California newt – is so critical that the question being posed is whether they need assisted migration, which means being moved by us to locations where we deem the climate to be suitable for them, now and 50 to 100 years from now.
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