“In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” said Alfred Lord Tennyson. But WE all know that spring is when a gardener’s fancy turns to thoughts of planting! Spring is so short and fickle here in the midwest that I have to watch the weather reports and check my schedule carefully in order to use the few available good days as wisely as possible. And as for the snowy and rainy days, I just continue with my indoor seed starting projects.
Every spring is challenge, and this spring was a greater challenge than normal because last fall was a failure. We hardly had any fall at all here at Chez Rea, and the cold winter weather set in before we could do any fall clean up, let alone properly prepare the beds for winter. So I had to devote the first warm days this spring to garden clean up rather than early planting. I started in the backyard flower garden because I was most concerned that I had not cleaned up the peonies last fall. I went back later and sprinkled some Gardens Alive Soap-Shield around where the peonies would be coming up in the hopes of preventing powdery mildew. Perhaps this precaution will be sufficient as my peonies have not been prone to mildew. I remember only one year in the last ten or so that they really had a problem with it.
The next step, a few days later, was cleaning up the herb bed in the kitchen garden. This did not take too long. I was glad to see that the garlic I had planted last fall was coming up, and so were the chives and chamomile.
Then I worked on the front yard perennial garden. I got it done before the next snowfall (see pictures at top). One thing I did differently this year was to cut all the Annabelle hydrangeas down. I had tried that pruning technique last year on just the one Annabelle to the right of the front door, and sure enough it had bigger blooms last year. The whole thing flopped after a big rain, however, so this year I plan to put supports around the Annabelles before their branches get too big this time.
As I was cleaning up the front yard, I discovered snow drops already blooming, and I uncovered them. More things have been popping up since then.
Other Spring Activities
Meanwhile, my husband took some time off work and prepped all the kitchen garden beds for me. He also built new tuteurs for my bean vines. I seeded cool crops in the newly prepped kitchen garden beds, and I spread corn gluten over our lawn and–for the first time ever–the perennial kitchen garden beds: asparagus, strawberries, and raspberries. Another first for me was applying an organic dormant oil spray to my apple trees at green tip stage.
Indoors, I’ve kept working on seed starting: watering the babies, transplanting them into cells and small pots, and planting more seeds. Yesterday I set up the shade greenhouse tent and moved the hardiest seedlings out there to harden off–broccoli, shallots (more recently started because earlier ones kept inside have faded away) alyssum, and violas (the 8 precious viola plants I succeeded in starting this year). I also moved out the small trees started last year and–ta da!–the rosemary. Yes! This year’s rosemary challenge was a SUCCESS–my rosemary is still alive!
Spring is also a busy time for going to special gardening events. This year, as usual, I went to Joliet Garden Day, the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, and the Midwest Fruit Explorers grafting workshop. I didn’t actually stay for the workshop this year; I just picked up rootstock and scions and then grafted several Asian pear trees at home. I have also been going to my own garden club‘s meetings and speaking at others–giving my presentation on Organic Kitchen Garden Maintenance. I have honed it down so well since my first time giving a garden talk that my most excellent master gardener friend Donna has been publicizing it, and she got me in to do for the Southern Cook County Master Gardeners and the Orland Park Garden Club.
I have more pictures and information to share about all of these spring activities, but I have to get back into action. There are more seeds to be planted and more little sprouts to be transplanted. Let me know in the comments if you want me to post more about any topic in particular.