It is finally time for gardening
The 2011 garden season is officially launched. The onions are up and growing well in a row of deep flats. I’ll transplant them into the garden soon.
One shelf of my basement light unit is filled with early cabbage, Chinese and Savoy cabbage, broccoli, parsley, lavender, coneflowers, peppers, and several other herbs and flowers that will fill the garden this summer. I sowed 17 kinds of tomato seeds and they have all germinated. These tomato seedlings fill part of another shelf and will be transplanted into individual pots soon.
All the seedlings will be moved to the hoop house as soon as the nighttime temperatures stay in the high thirties. We have invested in a small heater that can be left on overnight to keep the seedlings from getting too chilled.
In the garden proper a few of the raised beds are already workable so the Lincoln and Sugar peas, the shallots, and three kinds of lettuce — Red Deer Tongue, Yugoslavian Red and Matina Sweet — are already planted.
This spring, for the first time, I have use of two cold frames.
Greg built the sturdy frames last fall. He found cast off windows to make the protective sashes. He scraped off old weathered putty, put on new putty, and stored the sashes for the winter. This spring he primed the windows and put on a finish coat of red paint. The finished cold frames are beautiful. I use the frames to harden off hoop house seedlings and grow early spinach and lettuce. In the fall I can use them for growing late spinach, lettuce, and who knows what else.
The fruit trees and grapes are pruned. The raspberry bed has been thinned and the old canes removed. The bed is full of new canes and looks so healthy I know we will have raspberries to share this summer.
Something has invaded the elderberry plants. The stems are lying low to the ground and are spread hither and yon about the elderberry bed. A borer? Raccoons climbing through the plants? My gut feeling is that some sort of borer has invaded the planting. We lost one main stem last summer. It just turned crispy brown and I pruned it to the ground. All my research tells me that “elderberries have no enemies.” Well, mine certainly do. More research will follow.
While checking the blueberry bushes I discovered a few of the chicken wire cages that surrounded them had been breached by the bunnies and the plants were gnawed down. Darn those bunnies! I know the peasants have to eat but we are surrounded by woods and fields that offer a banquet of choices. Why the precious blueberries?
Last fall I covered the strawberry bed with a thick layer of straw. I’ll begin to slowly thin that cover of straw and allow more light onto the plants as the temperatures rise. Remember that the buds for this June’s flowers are already present and need to be protected until the danger of frost passes. I grow strawberries because the only thing better than strawberry anticipation is eating a just picked, sun-warm strawberry while sitting in your own garden. Heaven!
In the front garden the crocus and iris reticulata are shining blue, white, and gold against the cold winter ground. Daffodils are nosing their way through the leafy mulch. The slender green leaves of Scilla and Chionodoxa are just now beginning to show their tips through the mulch.
We don’t have many early flowering shrubs in our yard but one small magnolia is full of big, furry buds. The pussy willows echo the magnolia with smaller versions of their own. I found hellebores near bloom under the chopped leaf mulch, their reddish buds almost touching the cold ground. Miracles upon miracles are all around.
Oh, did I mention the peepers?! Wednesday, March 16 was the magic day. I stood on the porch and heard the first jingling sounds of the spring peepers flowing across the back field from the woods. When the house is closed up for winter warmth, I miss the night sounds coming in through open windows. Winter nights are so quiet, except for the howling coyotes. When the peepers start their spring singing it means the temperatures have risen enough to leave the bedroom window open. How sweet it feels to let the peepers lull you to sleep after a long winter.
The spring treadmill has started to turn. Attentions have turned to full-time thoughts of soil, seeds, and gardening to-do lists. There is no slowing down this time of year. The garden does not wait for slackers. Early cold season crops need to grow while it is cool. Warm season crops, meaning tomatoes, peppers, and okra, need an indoor start to be ready for the garden by mid-May. The calendar tells us that mid-May is only eight weeks away. Get going. Can’t you taste that salad of just picked baby greens and radishes? I almost can!