Scarlet cup mushroom in the woods near Osceola.jpg

Scarlet cup mushroom in the woods near Osceola. (Submitted photo)

We went to the woods on Sunday afternoon to enjoy fresh air, warm sun reaching through frostbitten air, and no other humans in sight. For the dog, it was just like any other day. She had no idea that the world was turning upside down as she galloped across the blackened prairie, still charred from a late fall burn. We followed an unmarked trail into the woods, tiptoed around patches of ice still clinging to the tops of the cliffs, and made our way down to clear rushing water, alive – very alive – at the bottom of the gorge.

In spite of a marauding virus, closed schools, closed everything, it appears that spring is still doing her thing, the same as she’s done year, after year, after year. The first green we found was the moss on rocks and logs, growing lush and extravagant like a psychedelic shag carpet. Next, we spotted green leaves of watercress poking out of the water. Watercress is an aquatic plant, native to Asia and Europe, that now grows in almost every state in the U.S.. It grows in clear, cold springs and can be harvested and eaten, similar to arugula. Finally, we discovered the best prize of all – a scarlet cup mushroom, folded gracefully upon a log like a flower in bloom. Scarlet cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca) grow in eastern hardwood forests and are one of the first mushrooms to appear in the early spring. Don’t eat them but do enjoy their beauty.

Because we’ll be home for a while, and because it is definitely spring, we decided that this week would be a good time to start planting seeds. Perhaps you’d like to do the same?

Here are some rough guidelines for when to start vegetable seeds indoors in Minnesota:

• Early February - Leeks and onions

• Mid-February - Celery

• Early March - Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and head lettuce

• Late March – Okra, peppers, and eggplants

• Early April - Tomatoes

If you’d prefer to plant seeds directly outdoors, the following can be planted in late April: asparagus (crowns), beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (early), carrots, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce, onion, parsley, peas, potatoes, and spinach. Onion and rhubarb plants can also be planted outdoors in late April.

The Blue Thumb – Planting for Pollinators workshops that were scheduled to begin this week will now be moving to online format. The workshops are free and offer valuable advice on how to plant native gardens that protect water and provide nectar for pollinator species. If you’ll be planting a backyard veggie garden, try incorporating native plants as well to attract beneficial insects and provide natural protection against pests. Here is the current schedule of workshops:

• March 19, Marine on St. Croix: Cancelled – will be rescheduled for May or June

• March 25, North St. Paul: Live webinar at 6 p.m.

• April 7, Woodbury: Live Webinar at 6 p.m.

• April 28, Stillwater: Live Webinar at 6 p.m.

• May 4, Mahtomedi: Currently scheduled in-person, as planned. Check for updates.

• May 14, Afton/Lakeland: Currently scheduled in-person, as planned. Check for updates.

To learn more about these workshops and register, go to mnwcd.org/events or facebook.com/mnwcd/events. Log-on information for the webinars will be emailed to registrants before each class begins.

Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water, a local government partnership with 25 members - mnwcd.org/emwrep. Contact her at 651-330-8220 x.35 or angie.hong@mnwcd.org.

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