Monday, February 9, 2009

Garden Wake-up Call

Today is the fourth day in a row with highs above freezing. The weather report claims we may get to 60 degrees before nightfall.

Hmmmm.... feels like Spring, doesn't it?

Well, my plants will sure think so.

The snow is all but gone, and there is mud everywhere. We took full advantage yesterday evening, wearing our boots for a puddle-splashing walk around town.

It is February Thaw, when the earth telegraphs a message to every plant in my garden that it's time to wake up! ... but the Winter is far from over.

The snowdrops and crocuses will foolishly start poking their heads out of the ground. If the thaw lasts more than a week, they may be joined by the tips of my tulip bulbs. Grape Hyacinth mounds from last year are already up and greening, even though we won't see blooms on them for another two or three months.

As a gardener, I have to force myself NOT to get out my rake and peek at my carefully tucked-in beds of bulbs. It is so tempting to get outside and get muddy cleaning up all the winter debris from the last few months.

But I know better. Regardless of the gentle blush of green the grass holds, the shrubs are still sleeping. The robins haven't arrived. I know it's best to wait and keep all the beds well-mulched.

It is so hard to be patient.

I have been taking daily tours of the garden. The only signs of life come from the indestructibles. The ground-covers -- creeping charlie and goldilocks. Some of my strawberries are peeking out, too. But my large perennials, my sage and azalea and lavender and clematis are all bare. They are survivors, waiting until the warmth feels real and lasting.

All that's left for an impatient gardener to do is to peek at seed catalogs instead of the garden. I use a few companies that cater to areas with cold-winter climates. My favorite is Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine.

When I think about what I want to plant, it helps to make a diagram of my garden space and to think about what worked or didn't work last year. Since times are tougher these days, I think I will devote more garden space to vegetables and less to ornamental plants. So I'll make a list of what I want or need to move and diagram how much space I have in sunny, part-sunny, and shady locations.

As I look at seeds, I will think about what will mature early, mid-season, and late. I'll do my best to arrange my plantings one after the other, to make the most of my garden space and provide the most produce for my family. I'll look at the calendar and plan our when to move the compost pile and when to till the garden. This year, we may make a few raised beds. I'll set a date to build them well before planting time.

To me, planning the garden is the best way to spend these few warm days in February. As the children play in the muddy sunshine, I can dream.

In a week or two, it will be cold again, and our bodies may forget this warmth ever came. But I'll be watching the mailbox more than the weather-channel. And when my seeds arrive, we'll have our own miniature garden growing under the lights downstairs.

Call me crazy, but I can't wait.

- Midwest Mom


  1. I wish I had a green thumb, I could garden year round here in FL. My mom is a horticulturist so hopefully when we move she can help me obtain a green thumb. I will stick to my potted no fail plants for now!

  2. These are hard times indeed. I have to lock myself in the house so I don't kill my plants with eagerness!

  3. LOL! Green Girl, I never knew eagerness = herbicide!

  4. I have the itch, like you, to get OUT of the house and into the yard. I got away from gardening for awhile but this year I really want to grow some good old Big Boy tomatoes and a few other veggies. Your planning today inspired me! Thanks!

  5. Great post, I can totally relate to how you are feeling.

    We still have lots of snow but the last three days have felt spring like and I'm ready to chuck my boots and turn on the hose water.

  6. I am like you, I can't wait for it. Last year we had so many veggies I am getting way too excited now :) LOL


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