i left for belmont around 10:30am. i only wore a hooded sweatshirt as the temperature was already in the upper 50's and would soon be in the 60's. spring used to be my least liked season but now it's my favorite. weather turning warmer, people are out and about, everyone's in a good mood, plants come back to life, and flowers blossom everywhere.
ever since we planted 2 new flowering trees in the backyard, i've been more aware of other flowering trees. the tree flowering period is very fleeting, much more so than the autumn foliage color change. just a single big rainstorm can wash all the petals away. that isn't a problem yet as most flowering trees are still closed. yellow witch hazels appeared first few weeks, and the past few days i've noticed the mangolias have started to come out. there are also a lot of these trees with red buds that could be leaves or flowers that i've noticed everywhere but don't know what they are, perhaps one of those purple-leaf maple varieties. also by the park near my parents' place are these young trees with flowers that don't seem to have any petals, just stamens.
i noticed a nearby neighbor (the early solar panels adopter) was planting a tree in his front yard. it was actually a decent sized tree, taller than him at least. from the packaging (a large pink tag that said "flowering") i recognized it as a home depot tree. i would be lying if a part of me didn't feel slightly superior that we got our trees from mahoney's instead. we paid more for sure, but the trees are larger. i also like to think they're healthier as well, since home depot is notorious for neglecting their plant. you can however score some real bargains at HD if you know how to pick the best ones.
my mother made me a bowl of chinese sauerkraut noodles for lunch. even though the amplified HDTV antenna arrived on friday, i was finally able to hook it up today. we didn't get anymore new living room channels (still can't channel 10 NBC boston which means no telemundo) but the ones we could get came in clear with no signal loss.
my father thought we were going to harbor freight to pick up a garden sprayer but i said i could use the bottle sprayer for the time being. instead we went to the watertown home depot to check out their tree selection and to get some mulch on sale during this weekend's spring black friday event. the garden department is still not fully stocked, but at least they have an outdoor pen now for the plants. the tree selection wasn't too much, some fruit trees on sale ($35, normally $50) and some ornamental trees. they had some kwanzan flowering cherries in 15 gallon pots (#15) for $120; we paid $260 for our 25 gallon (#25) kwanzan (1.75-2" diameter trunk). they had a few good looking crabapples but the tag didn't say which variety, and they were already leafing out with any flowers. they also had red buds, for about the same price and size we're getting through matthew from the arlington tree committee ($65 ordered, but not guaranteed to get one).
there was a sale on herbs so we picked up two mints (peppermint and sweet mint) and 2 rosemaries for $2.50 each. we also got a dozen bags of black mulch on sale for $2/bag. the cart was so heavy, we had a hard time pushing it to the checkout line. we also picked up a seedling reliance grape for $10.
when we came back home i saw a package on the doorstep. from the size i already knew it was the flexible solar panel arriving earlier than expected (on a sunday no less). my father went inside to set up the panel while i was in the backyard doing yard work. i started first with the fungicidal copper spray, applying it on the kwanzan cherries, KV plum, and the concord grapes. i mixed up a solution last season but still had plenty left over. this season i was getting an earlier start, hoping to stave off black rot on the grapes and prevent black knot disease from affecting our newly planted prunus trees. i used up two bags of black mulch to dress the base of the cherry/plum trees. i plugged up a rabbit hole on the eastern fence. finally i redug the moat around the bamboo groves, discovering a few escaping rhizomes on the eastern and southern sides. my father helped with the digging, and i think i pulled my back when i was pulling out some particularly stubborn rhizomes.
the flexible solar panel was a little heavier and thicker than i'd imagined. the cells are mounted a rectangular sheet of acrylic about a few millimeter thick. i've seen youtube reviews of other flexible solar panel brands that are tough enough to walk on; i don't know if i'd walk on these, the backing seem like they might crack. though the ebay description didn't mention any brand, this is actually a giosolar GS-FMPV-100W panel. a search shows they sell on amazon for about $159, with mixed reviews, with half saying they're great, while others say they're terrible. there was no problem with the packaging, and the panel came with protective corner pockets (though ideally the corners should be rounded) and a thin protective anti-scratch film that's supposed to be taken off.
it was an intermittently sunny so we took the panel outside to test. using a multimeter, we got a reading of 22V when facing the sun. we had no way to hook the panel up to the controller then the battery because in order to create MC4 solar connector cables we needed 10 AWG wires and the ones my father got from taiwan were too thin. we ended up ordering some thicker wires off of amazon, 10 gauge copper clad aluminum (CCA) 50ft each of red and black for $16.95. CCA has reduced amperage rating compared to full copper wires, 25A instead of 30A for a similar 10 gauge copper, but the difference is negligible for what we're doing (the panel has an optimum operating current of just 5.5A) and a few other reviewers specifically they mentioned they used the wires for DIY solar panel projects so we felt safe ordering it. the wires will arrive on tuesday.
spring signs abound in the backyard garden. the catkins on the discarded pussy willow branches in the backyard have continued to flower, i even saw a honeybee paying a visit. we had some fresh potting soil onto the garlic chives and i added some organic fertilizer to give them a boost. in the raspberry patch the daffodils have emerged. they are one of the most reliable spring bulbs, and no matter how much leaves they get buried under, ever spring they pop out of the ground for a showy display. my garlics are doing very well, many thick green stalks, which hopefully means fat bulbs. today marks the beginning of 13+ hours of daylight, which combined with temperature about 68°F caused the bulbs to form. the yellow alyssums i started from seeds last season on a hanging planter, the few that have survived have sprouted. maybe at some point i'll replant them, reorganize them a bit so they can grow better this year. the few scilla (AKA siberian squills) bulbs i planted have started to poke out of the ground. the ornamental grass are appearing as well. we killed the main wisteria plant last season, but saved a few escapees that we planted in pots of varying sizes. wisteria are super hardly, and not only did they survive the cold winter, they seem to be thriving, each plant producing numerous buds on their stalks. we'd never plant them back in the ground (too invasive), but we wouldn't mind training them into miniature bonsai wisterias. given the better growing conditions, hopefully they'll also produce some flowers this year. in the shady eastern perennial bed, the dutchman breeches have emerged. they're an early season plant, all but disappearing by the summer.
there's plenty of perennial action in the southern-facing bed behind the garage. the lupines were the first to emerge weeks ago. now the red peony shoots have started to emerge as well, plus some wild geraniums which seem to have spread out a bit more. there are also some money plant and foxgloves, which are all over the backyard. i noticed some lupine seedlings; i will try to save them before the critters eat them. lupines are hard to started because their seedlings are susceptible to predation, but once they're established, they're pretty hardy.
plenty of action in the southeast perennial bed. a single lupine plant has emerged, a transplant from last year. hopefully it will grow big and strong and produce more lupines. i planted some crocus bulbs in the area but i only saw one emerge, and it already showed signs of rabbit damage on the leaves. some perennial flowers i started from seeds last year and seemed to have disappeared are reemerging again. shasta daisies definitely, once established, they form thick roots and even if the leaves get eaten, they're still alive and will grow back. most surprising are feathery red chrysanthemum leaves. i was sure they were all eliminated, but a few have sprouted back. will the rabbits take them before they have a change to get to a good size? there's some action on the hydrangea plant. note that this was an escapee i found in my community garden, which i transplanted to the western perennial bed by the lilacs and raspberries, didn't do so well, so last year we moved it here along with the peonies. now with much more sun, it seems to have really taken to the new location. i'm hoping to see some blue globe flowers this season. some peonies have also emerged, but the one that we bought still seems dormant. i'm a little worried about that one because after it flowered last year, it quickly withered away. but one thing i know about peonies: never estimate their ability to surprise. they're one of the hardest plants, and even from a tiny piece of tuber, given the right conditions, they will spring back to life. there are also the 3 columbines. they were one of the first plants to emerge, but they grow slowly, and i think some of the more aggressive perennials will soon overtake them. i haven't noticed any columbine seedlings given how many flowers they produced last year, but from my own personal experience, columbines are difficult to start from their tiny seeds, so i'm not too surprised. there are also a few foxglove plants, also waking up from their winter slumber.
my father has been a little disappointed with how little the krauter vesuvius (KV) plum tree has flowered since we got it. has it already finished flowering? but when we drove down to home depot, we passed by two large KV plums outside the watertown lexus dealership, and those trees only seemed to have a little bit of flowers, which meant they just started, because we would've seen them otherwise the past few weeks. inspecting our own tree, we noticed that there are still plenty of tiny flower buds all over the branches, so it seems like it will continue to flower, despite some of the bronze-colored leaves already emerging.
the mahoney kwanzan cherry is much more aggressive with its flowering: each "spur" has multiple flower buds. we can't wait to see the display once they start blossoming. the bareroot kwanzan shows less promise. there are spurs, but they appear as singles and don't even seen like they're flower buds, more like leaf buds. if you didn't know otherwise, you'd think these were two different trees. now that it's been relocated and relegated to a less favorable spot in the backyard, i don't know how well it's going to do.
there are polypores growing on the dead trunk of the pussy willow tree. a cursory search for common polypores on willows brings up Daedaleopsis confragosa AKA thin walled maze polypore. i can't be sure if these are the same ones. polypores are edible (or at the very least no poisonous), but they're so hard, most people prepare it with a cheese grater. there even seems to be some small ones forming, so there seems to be plenty of fungi activity.
finally we planted the seedless reliance grape. we took it out of the packaging and soaked it for about 20 minutes to remove the packaging material (compact soil) and all the roots to expand. we planted it gently, laying out the roots and filling it halfway with soft loamy soil, before watering and allowing the water to soak underground. finally we added the remaining soil and watered it again. i couldn't find it on the packaging but i read somewhere that it generally takes 2 years before this new grapevine will begin producing grapes. we have 2 ancient concord grapevines which grow very well but by the end of the summer all the grapes succumb to black rot disease. unfortunately reliance is related to the concord, so both are susceptible to the same diseases. we just have to be vigilant about keying an eye out for black rot outbreak and control it before it does. reliance is better than the concord in that the grapes are larger and sweet, compared to the smaller and sour concord grapes.
i didn't get home until 8:15pm. the heat was off but not that it mattered because it was so warm today the room temperature was still at 67°F.