A furry of activity has been cut short by another spell of cold weather. Thankfully, we have not experienced a late frost, so around town, Serviceberry, numerous Magnolias, Redbuds and the infamous Bradford Pear (useless, exotic invasive species), are all in bloom. I love spring (summer and fall) in Pennsylvania! The succession of blooms starts early in February when our Hellebores and Crocus start pocking out of the snow, and continues right to fall.
I went back to last year’s blog about my spring chores and realized how late I am in starting my tomatoes this year. There is always the option of buying transplants from reputable greenhouses. It saves a lot of the work and space indoors and in the end, you only want one or two of each variety anyway. I do have several varieties of lettuce and many more of assorted greens coming up in my raised beds in the vegetable garden. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and kiwi are trimmed and got a nice dose of compost last fall, and the cleanup in the flower beds is slowly under way. Most important of all, remember to enjoy it all. Take some time to take it all in and marvel at the resilience of nature, the gift it bestows upon us each season and to remember to share out habitat (no matter how big or small) with the wild life around us!
Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party!’ Robin Williams
More on spring chores
More reading on pruning
What a wonderful feeling to be in the garden from morning to night! It is true, I can easily ‘pot around’ the garden all day… but not necessarily “work” all day. There is a lot of reflection, the observing of nature at work and the changing of the landscape day by day. There are breaks for snacks, planning and just finding a cozy spot to take in some sun. Oh, I don’t mind saying it, I love to stay home and just enjoy my wild space out back. Old friends come around again, Yesterday, the House Wren arrived from his winter home. Straight to my back porch to the trellis were their bird house hung last year and they raised their brood.
House wren and her brood
Could it really be the same bird? He knew exactly were to perch. There it sat singing loudly for his mate to come and join him! And then there is this squirrel that lost half of its tail last year, -to Misha, my neighbors semi feral cat- I saw it this morning digging around the garden for its forgotten acorns. The hummingbirds always arrive the first week of May. Last year, I was a bit late setting out the feeder and one hovered right in front of the french glass door for a good 30 seconds… right in front of me! it was magical, we stared at each other and it was as if it was saying: Helloooo, were is my syrup?
So besides all the chores, the garden cleaning and planting, the mulching and composting, the rewards are in the sense of creating a small habitat outside your door that is both healthy and inviting and in a sustainable way, harbors life for so many other creatures. Many we don’t even see or know are there. That is my reward. Every creature and plant a prayer of hope. Happy gardening friends!
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
First Day of Spring… Really?
And planning is all we can do at this point considering what is going on out side! I was expecting a balmy day. Huge contrast to the last two years when I wrote about out great weather in early march.
As a continuation of my last post: Anticipating Spring, I realized there are more garden chores to add to the list. After spending just one day doing much needed pruning on my shrub borders, I noted that the extreme freeze-thaw cycle we experienced caused many plants to heave out of the ground. It is advisable to tend to them as soon as you can. Tamp them back in and add a bit of good garden soil around the roots to anchor and strengthen their hold. It was also a good opportunity to fix some of the protective netting that shelter some plants or areas from deer browsing and retying the stakes of young trees that had come loose.
Lets not forget our birds! Best time to clean and repair bird houses is now. I go over the inside of the box as well with a bar of soap. A light coating prevents wasps from attaching their hives in the inside of the bird house. As long as there is a coating of snow in the ground I continue to feed the birds stopping when the ground is clear to encourage them to forage. They do tend to get “hooked” on the feeders! If you are interested on learning more about birds, go to my favorite site at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, were the experts really know their stuff!
It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens,Great Expectations
I don’t know about you, but every March I am filled with this sense of impatience, when will the warm weather break through the bleak winter and will this really be the last snow fall of the season? Getting a brief break does not help, the last couple of days for example, balmy, sunny and just beautiful. I was able to go for a walk in the garden and survey the damage. Today, back to single digits and snow back on the ground. Tremendous disappointment! The real test will be to see how many perennials will come back after sustained single digit temperatures and so many freeze and thaw cycles. So I grabbed a pad and paper and started to make a list of priorities:
My spring chores
- Start vegetable seeds. Since I grow Heirloom varieties I start long season vegetables indoors: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and leeks.
- Prune all broken or damaged branches of small trees and shrubs.
- Cut back any perennials and grasses left though the winter.
- Clean all leaves and other debris from perennial beds.
- Apply an organic seed germination inhibitor, such as corn gluten meal, under my Rose of Sharon, and any other prolific seeders.
- Prune Privet hedge and any other small shrubs that bloom on new wood later in the season. Delay pruning early bloomers which bloom on old wood, until after they bloom.
- Direct seed some cold tolerant vegetable varieties under cover in the vegetable beds. Usually this will be my leaf crops like Kale, Spinach and all salad greens.
I suppose I will tackle the lawn a bit later but when weather permits, it is time to start crossing off as many of these chores as possible. Happy gardening!
“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
I know many of you are out in the garden eager to see plants growing and blooming. I went out last week and started cleaning out the huge amount of oak leaves from my neighbors trees that end up in my beds. Even though they look unsightly, it is a very environmentally sound practice to let the fall leaves stay on the perennial beds thru winter. Many species of insect and amphibians find shelter and hibernate there for the winter. So now that the weather has finally changed, off they go to my huge compost bin designated just for leaves. In the fall leaves that lay on grass get mulched with our mulching mower as I explain here. Some more spring chores:
- Pruning. This is the best time to prune some shrubs and clean up any fallen branches from the yard. The general rule is to prune in spring only shrubs that bloom on new wood. Shrubs that bloom in early spring generally bloom on old wood or stems that formed last summer, it is best to wait until after they bloom to cut back. Some examples of early bloomers are Forsythia, Mahonia, Salix, Daphne, Deutzia, Azalea, Rhododendron and Weigela to name just a few. Read more about pruning in this post.
- Divide Perennials. Early spring is the ideal time to dig up and divide large clumps of perennials like Hostas, Iris, Pulmonaria, Brunnera and Lilly. Although you can divide some perennials anytime during the summer, it is much easier to do it now when the crown be easily seen. More here.
- Hummingbird Feeders should be out by April 15 when the first migrating hummers start showing up on their way north, sometimes so exhausted that a sip of nectar can replenish their energy and make a life or death difference. Some may even choose to make a home in your garden!
- Feeding and top dressing beds probably the best time to apply a bit of nutrients to the soil as needed. I use good organic products for my evergreens, Azaleas and Rhododendrons, a light layer of composted soil mixed with mushroom manure on the perennial beds and fix any bare patches of lawn.
We all know that the work seems a bit daunting at this time of the year, but it is thrilling to see plants spring into life and discover that once more the cycle of life continues. Enjoy the outdoors!
“Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day-like writing a poem or saying a prayer” -Anne Morrow Lindberg
Posted in Seasons, Spring chores, Uncategorized, Wildlife
Tagged Brunnera, Deutzia, Dividing perennials, Forsythia, Hummingbirds, Leaf mulch, Mahonia, Pulmonaria, Spring chores, Weigela