From The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on March 22, 2006

According to the Calendar...

The long wait is over. Or almost over. Or, soon to be over?

Spring, and nice weather, and the longing to get back into the yard and garden are the thoughts that preoccupy so many of us these days.

After the cold and dreary days of winter, we can almost smell the soil bursting with renewed life and increased vigor.

Or, ..., as I've often said, it is we who are the sentimental beings, the ones who invest so many aspects of our daily lives into a framework of wishes, desires, and dreams, hoping, somehow, to manipulate nature.

It is, rather, Nature which manipulates us, with no conscience or intention whatsoever. It is we who (maybe) smell the soil bursting ... Unrequited, as our love of the earth and the earthiness of our daily living might be, we forge ahead in the previously acquired knowledge that what is to come will enervate us and inspire us and recharge our very souls. It is a waiting game. All of the players win in the end.

Mother Nature renews all that she is able. We restore all that we are able. We settle into our annual spring rituals. They bring us untold pleasure. Recently mentioned, insects and diseases have as much right to live as we and our plants do. Striking a happy medium, finding the common ground, that is our challenge. Chemicals will never be the single answer, just as killing will never rid the world of our own personal demons.

With the advent of spring, I always find it humbling and useful to remind myself and my peers that 24 million years ago the first earthworms began turning deceased and decaying flora and fauna into humus. That said, I provide some suggestions to gardeners specific to this time of the year.

Now through mid-April is a fine time to prune apple, pear, grape, raspberry, blueberry as well as deciduous trees and shrubs that bloom on new wood (summer bloomers). As for stone fruit trees such as peach, cherry and plum, wait until they are in flower.

Ideal conditions of dormancy, cool temperatures, and moist soil provide an opportunity to renovate rhododendron, azalea, laurel, lilac, andromeda, and holly even at the expense of sacrificing some blossomsthis spring.

Soil is thawing and plant roots are beginning to grow. Be especially careful of deicing salts now.

Late season snows can be especially heavy and damaging to evergreens. Don't wait for snow to stop. Remove it as it accumulates.

When lawn areas are dry, stiff rake them to remove dead grass, leaves and tree debris.

As soon as bulb foliage appears, fertilize these beds with 3 lbs. of 5-10-10 per 100 square feet.

When temperatures are expected to stay above 40 degrees F for 24 hours or longer, spray fruit trees with dormant oil or horticultural oil to control eggs, immature forms and soft-bodied adults of very many insect pests.

It's a great time to plan your garden diary complete with before, during, and after photos. Include space for details, successes and failures, corrective measure taken, and anything else you think pertinent.

Plant as soon as feasible pea and spinach seeds, as well as onion, shallot and garlic sets.

With twelve hours of daylight now, your houseplants will reward you with a flush of new growth if rejuvenated with fresh soil, a good shower and a light fertilizing. Some may need repotting.

General garden clean up can be done now if not done in the late fall. Mulch paths now to supress early weed growth from getting established. Don't work the soil if it is still wet. But, if it's fairly dry, won't stay in a clump if you squeeze it hard, go to it with few consequences or problems. Overwintering insects brought to the surface can be removed by hand or left to the birds or subsequent frosts sure to still come

Dead and dried ornamental grass leaves, flowers and seed heads can be cut back close to the base of the plant. Leave a few short handles (4 inches is good) so they can be identified when everything begins to burst forth. These, as well as flowering shrubs and perennials can be fed now.

Rhubarb and asparagus can be fed, too. Use 1-1/2 pounds of 5-10-10 per 25 feet of row. Do this again in July.

Reseed bare spots in the lawn but wait until Memorial Day to fertilize.

After a winter with so many temperature fluctuations and often bare ground instead of snow pack, inspect closely your favorite perennials and shrubs for having been thrust upward out of their designated spot. This is called frost heaving, and it is likely you'll find some that need resetting. Do this carefully so as not to damage roots already beginning to grow. Mulch with at least two inches of material. The rains of April will likely settle everyone in just fine.

It is spring. Believe it and go forth as sentimentally as you please. Stretch and feel the sun's warmth twelve hours a day!


From The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on March 22, 2006

© 2006 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.