Spring at last!

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer 

The vernal equinox has arrived!!!!! Time to gear up, and get outdoors!

And on Saturday, March 19, that is exactly what Beth and I did. We first determined that we needed a little potting soil, so off to Earl May we went. Four bags of potting soil, plus other goodies, traveled home with us. I had a Braille list, Beth had her own list, so I was on my own.

Earl May is a great place to shop, as there is always someone to help me with knowledge, unless they are very busy. First on my list was a bag of onion sets. I prefer sets over plants, as if the garden is late, the sets will keep better in my garage storage cabinet. I am trying something new and chose a bag of red sets this year. Over the winter, I read where onions should not be thinned, as this disturbs neighboring onion roots, and interferes with onion bulb production. So, I’m going to plant them 6 inches apart. I will only plant the larger sets in this matter. The smaller sets will be planted about an inch apart, and thinned for green onions later in the spring.

 By nature, since I use my hands so frequently in the garden, I am an organic gardener. However, when insects get into the fruit trees in the sun room, when all else organic fails, I like to use a powered or granulated systemic insecticide. They had what I needed, and I purchased three small containers. While in the same area, I also purchased four packets of Miracle Grow houseplant spikes; again, not organic, but it works.

Just before venturing to Earl May, I watered my houseplants. While in the garage, I noticed that my dwarf potted nectarine tree was sprouting. It is a month too early to place this outdoors. So, it’ll need to spend some time in the sun room. This pot without a saucer is just fine on the concrete garage floor, but will not do in the sun room with its porcelain tile floor. I first took my Braille yard stick and determined that the diameter of the pot was 16 inches. So, an 18-inch saucer was also on the Braille list.

And most importantly, I needed–badly needed–a 10-pound bag of seed potatoes. They are one of my favorite crops, and easy to raise. I asked the store clerk for their selection of red skin varieties, and I was rewarded with a wide selection. I have raised Norland, Viking, May Fair and LaSoda. I was absolutely elated when I heard the word “LaSoda” and said enthusiastically “Throw them in the basket!” I raised this variety for the first time two years ago, and was rewarded with great baking potatoes. If by chance you get the garden tilled early, Norland is your best bet.

The day was sunny, about 40 degrees, with a slight east breeze. Time to get out the rake and lawn bags. Beth raked, I picked up the piles of debris–leaves, sticks, rocks, soil, dead grass. We decided early on that this material should be placed in recyclable lawn bags, but we would not use it as compost in our gardens. We use our yard debris in the garden immediately, and this would not give the contaminants a chance to break down. We also have plenty of mowed and raked leaves in bags stashed all around the outside of the  house, awaiting their permanent home in our gardens.

First we work, then we play. Well, not exactly play, but more on the light side anyway. One of the reasons we needed potting soil was to cover the larkspur seeds which we planned to plant. These flowers are part of “Beth’s space” so I let her do the honor of the planting. I followed around with a 32 quart bag of potting soil, and tipped the bag when Beth said “dump.” 

Before lunch we walked around the yard to see what was up. I showed Beth the spring bulbs I mentioned in the previous post. Our lycoris squamigera were also up. This plant’s common name varies–magic lily, surprise lily, resurrection lily, hardy amaryllis, and (my favorite) naked ladies. They will greet us with a profusion of growth until June, go dormant, and bloom in August. 

The iris have sprouted, and garlic and chives are growing in the herb garden. I couldn’t help eating a few sprigs of the chives as an appetizer for lunch.

With gardening, you take the good with the bad. My helliboris (Lenten rose) had been eaten, probably by a deer. Rabbits gnaw off plants with a nice angled edge; deer are rougher browsers. It was obvious this carnage was recent, and the dead leaves were not eaten. The stems were not chewed off cleanly. Fortunately, new growth is already commencing. I’ll look for flowers soon.

Spring is also alive and well in the west kitchen window. The early double tulips are in their prime, but will probably be mostly dead within a week. By the time you read this, the “hollyhock” hyacinth cultivars will be history. However, the last of the tulips, the “gudosnik” have sticks and tied strings in their pot. They are developing tall leaf spikes, and I noticed this morning that the buds are ready to pop forth from their leaves. I can’t wait for these large and fragrant flowers to grace our kitchen. It’ll be the last of the forced bulbs for this year.

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