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Early spring, exhausted gardener. March 20, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading.
Tags: , , ,

Happy spring, everyone! Our friend Ben read a cartoon in today’s paper with this quote from Robin Williams: “Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s party!'”

Ha. Robin Williams clearly is no gardener. Our friend Ben would put it quite differently: Spring is nature’s way of saying “Hurry up and get your lazy butt out here and start cleaning up and planting before you have weeds up to your neck, a full-on case of poison-ivy, and your visitors are all saying ‘Garden? What garden?!!'”

An early spring is certainly a beautiful thing. In our yard, the forsythia and daffodils add their cheerful sunny hues to the last of the snowdrops and crocuses, while the hellebores are in full bloom and our island bed is a sea of blue Siberian squill. Silence Dogood and I are very aware of them, and everything else that’s pushing through the soil (not to mention the budswell on the trees, shrubs and vines) as we frantically try to compress what should be a couple of months’ cleanup chores into a couple of weeks.

As everyone with a yard knows, if you wait too long to clean away last season’s debris, it takes twenty times as long to do the cleanup, since you’re desperately trying to avoid hurting the plants’ new growth. Many people take everything back to the ground in fall to avoid the spring rush, but Silence and I prefer to leave the plants up until spring to provide winter shelter and food for birds and overwintering beneficial insects.

We do clean out our veggie garden in the fall. But if your garden is like ours, you’ll know that, try as you might to eradicate them, lawn grass and weeds have an amazing way of not just sneaking back into your raised beds but coming up and spreading before you know it (and sneaking back and sneaking back and…). So in addition to clearing out all our ornamental beds, shrub and tree borders, and Cultivated Wild Meadow, we’ve been frantically weeding the veggie beds. And conditioning the soil. And sowing cold-tolerant greens, onions and radishes.

And the fun is just beginning. There’s also the little matter of what’s dead and what’s alive in terms of our rose and raspberry canes. The need to prune fruit trees and vines before the sap really starts running (good luck with that this year!). And the need to get any new fruit trees, shrubs and vines ordered and planted ASAP so they can get a decent start on the growing season.

There’s also the little matter of our 100-odd container plants. Most of them spend the winter in our greenhouse, but Silence insists on keeping a couple dozen or so in the house at all times for our visual pleasure and the oxygen they add to our indoor air. Our friend Ben and Silence have noticed that most of these plants fail to appreciate the low-light winter conditions coupled with our warm and welcoming 50-degree winter thermostat setting. (We can only sympathize.)

So now Silence is adding to the spring-gardening chaos by rushing these valiant but depleted plants out to the greenhouse and replacing them with stout, hardy specimens that will brighten the house and clean our indoor air. (Our friend Ben suspects that this is just a scheme to buy new plants, but Silence has such an eye for gorgeous container combinations, and selecting the plants makes her so happy, I figure the better part of valor is to just shut up and enjoy the results.)

We’re still facing the Herculean task of hauling all the plants that have spent the winter in our greenhouse out to the deck, but even Silence and I aren’t such optimists that we’d dare to do that in march here in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6! And then we’ll give the greenhouse a thorough going-over, and maybe plant some crops in its in-ground bed.

Just thinking about it all (plus several hours of early-morning yardwork) have yours truly craving a nice, long nap. But before I fall over, let me mention one of my favorite cheap, dual-purpose tips for adding spring color to your home and landscape: Buy pots of “Tete-a-Tete’ mini-daffodils (available here now for as little as $2.50 a pot). These little yellow daffs are guaranteed to brighten any winter-weary home. Once the blooms fade, plant them out where you’d enjoy their color each spring. We buy two pots each spring for our kitchen table, so our early-spring landscape display now boasts many bursts of sunny yellow blooms. It’s the best $5 investment our friend Ben can think of, since returns are guaranteed!





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