Michelle Owens is right. As soon as spring has sprung, I’m already behind. I used to think, “Oh, there’ll be plenty of time for that later.” This kind of thinking explains why I was always planting stunted seedlings in July.
And then there’s the climate. Discerning when mud season ends and spring really begins–well, that’s not always so easily discerned. This year, I think I picked the exactly right time to rake my beds. It only took me fifteen years to figure this out. The soil has to be most of the way thawed but not yet to the point where the crocuses are blooming, otherwise the rake shreds the crocuses. I’ve decided not to worry about the advice not to rake your beds too early, because you’ll expose the tender growth to freezing. If the plants can’t take the exposure, it’s time to find new plants. It seems more important to me to uncover the vole runways as soon as possible, so that vole predators have an easier time whittling down the rodent population. And a raked bed makes the wintered-over weeds more visible. Of course, if everything was mulched as it should be, there wouldn’t be any wintered-over weeds–but the voles would be so much more comfortable. All right, I’ll confess: it wasn’t because of voles that there is no mulch on many of my beds. It’s because I just didn’t get around to it.
Of course, figuring out the best time to rake is only part of it. The weather has to be nice enough to entice me out, and I have to find the time to rake. It is not unusual to have a birthday celebration or a dental appointment or some other errand scheduled months in advance, only to realize as I tool around town that this is probably the one day this week when the weather is suitable for gardening, and here I am playing chauffeur . . .
But last week I did manage to rake. The debris is still all out there, waiting to be wheelbarrowed to the compost pile. But wait! Before I dump the debris into bin A, the present contents of Bin A should be forked into Bin B, and what’s in Bin B should be dumped into Bin C. But right now Bin C has the last of the municipal “compost” (actually partially decomposed wood chips) that Rundy got for me last year. So, before all the debris gets cleaned up and put on the compost pile, I have to get all the semi-rotted woodchips out of Bin C, and get a nice, young, healthy teenager to do the Bin B-to Bin C, Bin A-to Bin B shuffle. And there’s a 90% chance of rain today, and snow predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Yesterday (Sunday) was gorgeous. I could have gotten started on the wheelbarrowing (when not making roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy), except I came down with a cold last Friday. As colds go, it’s not the worst I’ve ever had, but I’ve got a wicked cough, the kind that keeps you up at night and hurts your chest and makes your head pound. All I managed yesterday was a walk around the house, mentally noting what was in bloom (snowdrops, crocuses, and the very first Siberian squills) and what needed to be done.
The raking? That was but a drop in a very big bucket. Every bed I’ve ever created needs weeding–and mulching when the soil warms up a bit more. And did I mention Fedco is sending me some shrubs sometime in April? My sister gave me a Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ for Christmas, and Talitha is giving me an Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’ for my birthday, and I ordered 3 more myself, because I’ve wanted a winterberry hedge since forever, but they’re dioecious, which means they need a ‘Southern Gentleman’ to keep them company. Six shrubs needing six holes dug. And Fedco was a bit vague about their arrival. They’re shipping “between April 5 and April 17.” And what about that rose I wanted but have yet to order? And what about the Styrax obassia seedling that I planted last year, which looks to be dead? Should I wait and see, or assume the worst and order a replacement? And what about all the indoor projects I was going to do this winter, that still aren’t done? Where are the kids’ summer clothes that I packed away last fall?
Must. not. hyper. ventilate. Drink plenty of fluids. Get plenty of rest. (Ha!) And remember my first rule of gardening: “If it’s not fun (in a gardener’s perverse sense of the word), don’t do it!”