Getting Closer

Well, a few days of higher temperatures and a bit of sun make a big difference in your outlook at this time of the year. Of course, opening day of the baseball season and a few straight weekends of Kentucky Derby prep races doesn’t hurt either.

The dry days gave me a chance to get out and prune some shrubs back, loosen up some mulch, and chop down the ornamental grasses. The ground has that spongy spring squish to it, so most other spring tasks will have to wait. The three fine days were followed by three of fog, drizzle and day long dusk. So once again I am reduced to playing around with lettuce seedlings in the basement and the sunroom. That is beginning to get old.

For something new, the Iris reticulata poked through this week.


Waiting on warmer weather.

There must be something wrong with my calendar. March and February have switched positions, at least weatherwise. The past week daytime temperatures barely crept above freezing. My plans for some early pruning have been pushed back. My to-do list looks like a departure list at an east coast airport, everything cancelled. I am not a winter gardener.

There have been a few jobs I got out of the way. The tools are sharpened, their handles sanded and oiled. In the basement some early vegetable seedings, mostly lettuce, have sprouted.

Once they get large enough they will go into pots, spend a couple of weeks in the sunroom then go out to the deck. Due to the local population of rabbits and rodents most of my leafy vedge is grown in containers on the deck but even there, raised up on benches, I have to cover the pots with chicken wire as the ground hogs have been known to stand on their back feet and pull themselves up to the salad bar.

The forecast is for a slight warm up this weekend. Forty degrees is my minimum temperature for working in the yard, so I might get working on that to do list.

Return to Normal

After a warm, wet February seasonal weather returned to NE Ohio this week. Hopefully this will bring more moderate soil temperatures and slow was was looking to be an early spring. Snowdrops, blooming since mid-February, have only now begun to show some signs of wear.

Crocus, along the front walk, have begun to open on sunnier days. Tulips, daffodils and primrose have broken through the mulch. When they begin to stir you know spring is near, it is just below the surface ready and waiting.

My winter sowing experiment.

This year I am trying something new, I sowed seeds in plastic take-out containers back in January and put them outside along the southside of the house. I concentrated on annual and perennial flowers. Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea cyanus) and Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) have already sprouted.

Well, that’s it for now. Down to the basement to get some lettuce going.

Native Plant Resource

I use shrubs quite a bit in my garden. They provide privacy along the property lines, act as backdrop for perennials, shelter for wildlife, look good throughout the year and are relatively low maintenance (just some strategic pruning once a year). Many of the flowering ones can be purchased at discounted prices at nursery centers after their blooming is over for the year. My interest lately has been native shrubs, but these are harder to locate in the nursery centers and if they are found are prohibitively expensive. The past few years my go to supplier has been my local soil and water conservation district. Here in Ohio the Dept. of Natural Resources operates these district offices in each county. Most offer spring tree and shrub sales where you can purchase rooted cuttings. These are basically a 12″ to 18″ pencil thin stem with a few scraggly roots. Not much to look at initially, but I pot them up in soil dug from the yard and plant them pot and all along the the northside of my garage for a season or two after which they are transplanted into the yard. Not instant gratification by any means, but consider this, two years ago I purchased 5 Spicebush (lindera benzoin) cuttings for 8 dollars total. They were transplanted last spring and are 18″ in height this year prior to leafing out. I saw them in a native plant nursery catalog for 35 dollars (plus shipping) for a one gallon pot! Prices very depending on the species and county offering them but the savings are just to hard to pass up, besides watching things grow is one of the reasons I garden in the first place. Check out you state DNR website to see if you have similar programs where you live.

Winter, the best season

Winter is the best season to be a gardener. That may sound strange coming from someone stuck in the midst of a northern Ohio winter. However, I am a lazy gardener. I prefer nothing more arduous than sitting on the deck and sipping wine. A fine spring day or a long summer evening would seem the best time for that, but the realities of the garden do not allow it. There is always an errant branch to cut back, a weed to pull, a plant to deadhead or an inquisitive rabbit to shoo from the lettuce patch. Contemplating on the tasks to be done impinges on the enjoyment of the wine.
In winter there is none of that. The leaves that I did not get to last fall are covered by the snow, projects not completed or started are forgotten. From my chair in the sunroom near the small heater I can look out across the yard and plan new projects, leaf through seed and nursery catalogs, read garden books, and enjoy the wine in quiet contemplation of the coming year