Garden Lifestyle

Fickle Spring

This has been a topsy-turvy spring weather wise—-Mother Nature has certainly given us a rollercoaster ride of temperatures from 82 degrees one day plummeting to freezing the next day.

Fall-planted garlic is growing in leaps and bounds--it likes this cool spring weather. Just watered it with fish emulsion which really gave it a boost. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

This has been a topsy-turvy spring weather wise–Mother Nature has certainly given us a rollercoaster ride of temperatures from 82 degrees one day plummeting to freezing the next day. Bringing the Bonnie Raitt song to mind “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About…” Because what else would we gardeners, as well as neighborhood folks at our local businesses, not to mention the national weather forecasters talk about… if it weren’t for the weather?! Aahhh, the fickleness of spring!

The fairly hardy plants that I moved out of the greenhouse to the great outdoors when it was in the 80s a few days ago, have been shivering in the cold winds for the past few days making me think I should run out and bring them under cover, at least up on the back porch tonight what with the freeze alerts.

The pansies and violas and wild violets are stalwart souls. They bravely withstand the cold, the sun, the wind and even freezing temps, and then shake it off and stand back up the next day. I love their whiskered faces and spring colors and especially their resilience. I do not recall a more lovely showing of the hellebores than this spring; they too can withstand the cold, freezing and thawing. My daffodils are about half bloomed out; the later ones are now in full regalia. They can withstand the cold temps, though it does make them go by more quickly. What they don’t like is pounding rain (like the 3-inches we had night before last), hail and sleet–it beats them down and they aren’t likely to stand tall again with their faces on the ground. So, I gather them up, rinse off their petals and coronas if need be, and put them in vases throughout the house, bringing springtime indoors.

The vegetable garden awaits warmer weather and sunshine. The garlic has grown 4-inches in the past week–it is happy with its generous blanket of straw mulch and is doing well with a recent watering of fish emulsion. Nearly time to harvest the first green garlic to enjoy and savor as a gourmet delight.

Last week was the root moon and so time to plant root crops. The garden was tilled and we made a deep trench and planted potatoes. Half the row is ‘Yukon Gold’ and the other half is ‘Red Pontiac’. I also planted three kinds of onion sets-about two pounds did two 50-foot rows. I planted them close on purpose, about every 4-inches, since they will be thinned and some of them will be eaten when scallion-sized. The deluge of rain the other night washed some of them out, which I will go out and press back into the earth, however I won’t do that for another day or so since it is so wet right now.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” —Margaret Atwood

In a corner plot of the vegetable garden, I have some perennial plants; rhubarb, comfrey and horseradish are well leafed out and have set their intent upon the growing season. Scattered amongst them are welcome volunteers of chickweed, tiny, white-blooming field cress, dandelions, violet leaves and flowers and some henbit, which I bring in for salads, the soup pot or scrambled eggs.

Next to go in are the greens and salad. Now that we have passed through the new moon, it is time to plant the aboveground crops. As soon as it is dry enough, I will sow seeds of kale, arugula, spinach, chards, lettuces, other leafy greens and somewaht hardy annual herbs like coriander, chervil and dill. I will also set out some small plants of a few of the aforementioned that my diligent gardening friend, Deborah, begins every year in flats, so we have a jump on the salad season.

The peepers were giving raucous evening concertos, however they have stopped temporarily due to frigid nights. The birds are feeding heavily preparing for their first broods; their spring songs awaken me every morning and I find delight in their evening songs when they go to roost at dusk.

The woods are burgeoning; one can stand amongst the trees and feel the sap rising. Many trees are budded in hues of pink, red and lime green, while some are bursting in white bloom. Down along the Cattail Creek, the skunk cabbages have bloomed and are now showing bright green leaves, already nearly a foot tall. They make me think of the forest primeval. I can look into the woods and the understory of spicebush (Lindera benzoin) shimmers in chartreuse amongst the brown hardwoods.


“The country habit has me by the heart,

For he’s bewiitched forever who has seen,

Not with his eyes but with his vision, Spring

Flow down the woods and stipple leaves with sun.”

—Vita Sackville-West


I love all aspects of spring and my heart and mind are glad to feel the reawakening of all things in nature–even the snake wiggling along the wall of the greenhouse. Celebrate the glories of the season–in all of its guises–spring is poppin’ out all over!




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