Cicoria, the first greens of the season in many gardens, was a mainstay of our spring diet. At our house, it was referred to as Mattioda Lettuce, first given to us by the Mattioda family. It was seeded at the edge of our playground, under our hazelnut trees. Mom made sure a few plants were always left to go to seed, thus ensuring a new crop every spring. This lettuce was often mixed with dandelion greens in our salad bowl. Cicoria is a good example of a xeriscape plant. It can be found growing along roadsides and other marginal areas. It has a blue daisy like flower that if sometimes referred to as a blue daisy.
Another hardy green, that does well in the spring or fall cool weather, is radicchio. Raddichio can be covered in the fall and harvested during the winter. Escarole and Endives complete the picture of the Chicory family. Both these plants are fall and winter storage greens for many families. Endive usually refers to the lacy leaved plants and Escarole to the broad leafed curled chicories.
The Birds and the Bees are both welcome guests in our garden. Each morning the finches, nut hatches, chickadees and sparrows give us much joy as they start their day at our feeders. We have switched to squirrel proof feeders and use fine grade sunflower chips as a food source. This has changed our bird visitors to the smaller birds, kept the squirrels at bay and left less mess in the garden. It is always a pleasure to watch birds at the bird bath. But, there is nothing more enjoyable than to watch the antics of larger birds, like our neighbourhood robins, while doing their bath routine.
Our Mason Bee hotel started out as a single house and has been growing every year. Mason Bees are great pollinators. Unlike honey bees, they do not have stingers, so they make great garden visitors. Also, they do not move on to new sources of food. They stay in ones garden in close proximity from where they were hatched. They are considered solitary bees. They do not live in hives or colonies. Rather, they lay their eggs in cracks and crevices and remain there until next spring, when they hatch at the first sign of spring heat.
We have ours next to our blueberry bushes, and rely on them to pollinate the berries. To ensure they are around at bloom time, it is suggested that the pupae are harvested in the fall, and stored in a refrigerator. At the appropriate time the pupae can be placed back in the hotel. Once the pupae have hatched they spend their time collecting nectar and laying eggs in cracks, crevices or tubes we have supplied in the hotel. These tubes make it easy to harvest the pupae in the fall. Separating each egg in the paper tube, the mason bees add a layer of mud. To facilitate this a small bird bath, filled with mud, is kept near at hand.
Life-long Gardener Don Rampone shares his tips and advice for gardening