Sunday, March 20, 2011
Good morning readers. We have finally come out from under winter's oppression and into...
Woke to a dusting of snow but now clear skies and sun. Cold and windy but ever hopeful.
As I walk around the yard signs of life are starting to show themselves. Snowdrops are the first to emerge and bloom. The daffodils are pushing their way up through frozen ground and inches of leaf mulch that have protected them all winter.
Flamingos are shaking off their mantle of frosty white and showing their pink plumage. Pussy willows are fat and fuzzy and giving the earliest mason bees their much-needed sustenance of energizing pollen nectar. Buds are appearing on lilacs, cotoneaster, magnolias and fruit trees. Roses are starting to show some green along their branches.
I love this renewal of life and its ever hopeful push upwards and forward.
Lots of work to do this time of year. Outside yesterday we pruned, raked and explored. I lost several climbing roses this winter that have grown here for years. They grew alongside the pond and now the obelisks Dan made me for them stand empty. So, ruthlessly I pruned them out and their canes were carted away. But even in death the roses reached out. Neither my granddaughter Jessica or I escaped the experience unscathed.
We raked around the pond and down the long shrub bed, pruning back yellow and red twig dogwoods.
Last years hop vines were cleared. Some reached high overhead in the tops of the crabapple and sour cherry tree. Yews were trimmed up and irises were groomed. Grape vines were gathered up and rewound in the arbor. The wisteria which has for several years threatened to take down the overhang roof of the 'Love Shack' overlooking the pond was brought back under control (as much as anyone has control over a wisteria).
This is the time to prune and shape the fruit trees. Give them a good haircut and they will reward you with fruit. You should prune to allow for good light to reach the inner branches and aid air circulation which is important to minimize disease. Prune out any dead, diseased or broken branches and any branches that are crossing or bumping against one another. This is easier said than done and sadly my efforts often produce hilarious results!
March is also the time to spray dormant oil on fruit trees such as apples, plums, peaches and cherries.It is a practice even the organic orchards use.The spray is made from a highly refined oil that smothers any insects and eggs that may have overwintered. You can find it at local garden stores. Spray on a calm day when temperatures are above 40 degrees F, and make sure you hit all around on the branches. Be sure to follow the label instructions.
Also be sure to rake up any mulch or debris around the base of your trees.This will help deter insects, disease and the occasional mouse from wreaking havoc.
Now is also the time to start your cold frames. Lettuces, radishes, and spinach can be planted in them. Peas can be started in the ground, but be careful not to disturb the soil too much while it is wet. It will turn to cement and will take alot of work to fix.
Some of the evergreen shrubs in the back sustained damage from the weight of snow on their branches. We tied them up and together with twine.
Rake any leaves and twigs off your lawn to prevent damage, and scratch in lawn seed where there are bare patches. Trim off the old growth of ornamental grasses and check your perennial beds for any frost-heave damage.Add compost and bagged garden soil to cover any plants that are on the surface. I like to start removing some of the mulch in the beds but not all as night temps still dip low. Just enough to allow the tender new shoots a chance to poke thru.
This is the time of year I clean out the chicken coop. Manure, feed, and bedding from the floor and roosting areas has been continually turned by the chickens scratching about and has been composting all winter. This is raked out by the wheelbarrow-full and spread on the garden and flowerbeds. New bedding is replaced and the process starts over.
When those early Spring storms chase you indoors, there is still plenty to do. I inspect the houseplants for bugs. A good spray from the shower helps keep them under control or I use a insecticidal soap. Start feeding the plants with fertilizer at half strength. Repot any that have outgrown their containers. I also get ready to take cuttings or start new plants from seed. One can never have too many houseplants! Also visit your friends to see which plants they have that you can beg some starts from! (Thank you Karen)!
Get all your seed-starting equipment ready. We have already begun but that is because we want plants at the selling stage for early garden sales. Yours can wait a bit so the plants don't become too leggy. Make sure if you are reusing pots and flats that you wash or wipe them down with a diluted bleach solution. This helps your seedlings from developing damping off.
Budget in and start purchasing supplies for those garden ideas you dreamed up over the long winter days. The garden shops are gearing up and filling up the aisles with plants and hardgoods. Read the gardening magazines for new plants and outdoor decor.Keep trash out of the landfill by creating something new and unique for your yard.
Above all, get excited. The days are getting longer and hopefully warmer. Fill the world around you with beauty and color. Make your yard, deck or patio your oasis.