Gearing up in garden season

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer 

This is the time of year when you can devote all of each evening to some garden task. Although I haven’t taken the total plunge, there has been plenty to do this week.

Tuesday evening found Beth and I transplanting some vinca minor given to us by a master gardener friend. It was placed under a magnolia tree, where nothing else seems to want to grow. These viny ground covers are shade lovers, and tough as well. There were plenty of roots, and since we also have experienced some soil degradation in that area we added a new layer of topsoil first, and dug them in. I brought a two-gallon watering can for this purpose as well. I was told, and experience confirms, that you can walk on this perennial with little damage; however, Beth and I agreed that the best course was to steer clear of this new patch this year.

I could smell it! While planting the vinca, I remarked to Beth that the magnolia tree had to be in bloom. And it was–kind of. Some of the buds on the south side had opened during the afternoon. It was a perfect day outdoors, with the temperature near 70–conducive to good magnolia flower development. One day later, with the temperature topping out at 75 degrees, the magnolia was in full bloom. I enjoyed their unique flower form, and their slight fragrance.

The quickest way to the garden is to walk the rock path, right past the  magnolia tree. And that is what we did on Wednesday evening, as the garden tiller had just left when we arrived home. The smell of the newly turned soil is always a spring joy, and I couldn’t resist reaching across the fence and playing with the fresh, loose soil. Beth proclaimed the job “well done” as I wasn’t about to venture into the garden and compact the soil. With luck, a dry crust will form soon, and planting time will commence. 

But not all of the garden is tilled. The west end is the home of a perennial bed that has been in place for six years. Beth happened to notice that the Virginia bluebells (mertensia Virginica) were blooming close to the house. Better yet, the yellow woodland poppies were blooming in the southwest corner, next to the fence. So naturally, we walked around to the south side of the garden, I reached across the fence, and found numerous small, round flowers present.

I had no luck on Thursday. When I arrived home it was blowing a gale, and Beth said it had drizzled all day. Good thing my heart wasn’t into planting, as the soil was more moist than it was during the previous day. But it wasn’t a wasted night! I figured out a mental map of what I want to plant first, and sorted out seeds. I also found four stout stakes that I will use for row markers. My string supply is adequate. My Braille yardstick, Lucy, is leaning against my storage cabinet, ready for action.

While watering sunroom plants on Wednesday evening, I was assailed by a citrus tree flower fragrance. I found buds on two of the citrus trees, but no flowers. So I asked Beth to take a look. She instantly noticed the pleasant smell as well, but couldn’t find the flowers. We know that the clivia miniata is slightly fragrant, but agreed that Mary is not the reason for the good odor.

Thursday evening in the sunroom was the occasion for another harvest. In two to three weeks I will be taking the citrus trees outdoors–an extremely happy occasion. The tangerines are ripe, they are a pretty orange, their skins are loose. Usually, you can test ripeness by a gentle nudge; if the fruit falls off, it is ready, and if not, leave it alone. Although some of the fruit was reluctant, we picked 10 tangerines, as I didn’t want them falling off and getting away during their upcoming move. Two were eaten for an evening snack, and two more served as a part of my breakfast this morning–tasty!!

I have also prepared Braille labels for the four scented geraniums that I plan to pot up later this month. They will remain in the drawer until I am ready. The pots are already outdoors on the patio table, almost half full of fresh potting soil.

A little good luck needs to come my way so I can plant garden on Sunday, perhaps in the afternoon. Friday has remained blustery, cold and rainy. Perhaps it’ll be a good night to take a day off from gardening tasks, and gather my energy for the pleasures to come. And come what may, it is our intent to begin our greenhouse and nursery tour for new perennial, annual and vegetable plants for the garden.

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