Garden Preparation

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

The warm March continues, and so does garden preparation.

Last Friday, March 23, when I got home from work I placed dinner in the oven, so Beth and I could make a trek to a local garden center for garden supplies. I had a long list of items in Braille. When we arrived at the center, Beth took a quick look, and thought she found the employee with the most experience, as he was training someone else on the job. Her spot judgment paid off, as we were soon rolling through the garden center, checking off my list–seeds, elephant garlic, a 10 pound bag of my favorite seed potatoes (Norland), some marking sticks, houseplant spikes, etc. My list also included several items in a nearby yard–topsoil, sand, composted manure, and container mix potting soil. I love to stop by this garden center. Yes, they are a bit more expensive than some, but I love getting good competent assistance, and my time is worth something, too. And it allows Beth to browse around the store and actually “shop” while I get my way as well–get in, get what you need, and get out. There was enough time left on the oven timer when we got home to enable me to put all my goods away as well.

During the week Beth had received a couple of raised bed frames, and she set one up for me in the back yard, adjacent to the herb bed. While she assisted in the show house at the Botanical Center, I enjoyed the remarkable late March weather that Saturday morning to place soil and amendments in the frame. She had begun by placing an ample bed of leaves on the bottom. I added topsoil, manure, sand and potting soil to the mix, then planted fifteen elephant garlic bulbs around three edges.

Saturday afternoon consisted of removing more mulch from the garden after eating a late lunch. Exposure to sun and heat continue to enable this space to dry up for tilling.

I ordered four daylilies from a new firm to me on Tuesday. I first Brailled their catalog numbers, description and price on a piece of Braille paper. This list also included my customer number, and their telephone number. The daylilies were ordered, and I placed dymo tape labels on four wooden sticks in anticipation of their arrival.

Each evening after work I wandered out to the garden, grabbing a fistful of earth and testing its water content. On Tuesday evening, part of the soil was still too wet, as it stuck in a ball in my hand. My soil has too much clay, so I was not surprised by this. Part of the soil was ready for tilling. I saw a vast improvement the next evening. I had called Steve, the man who tills my garden, to say that Wednesday would be good to till, but Thursday would be better. And Thursday morning the garden was tilled.

I like to wait for the soil to settle a day or two before I plant. I did go out last night with my Braille yardstick and marked off 18 inches from the north-east corner, where I placed a plastic stick into the newly tilled soil. I did not walk across the garden to the south end. I noticed in the north-west section of this part of the garden that the soil was not tilled. Perfect, as this is where I’ll place some large pots that will hold individual peppers later in the spring.

My Dutch gardens order also arrived yesterday. There are several packages of gladiolas, but they will remain in their bags until May. Four packages of Oriental lilies arrived, and they will be planted soon. The Orientals are already up in my various gardens. I had made the dymo tape labels earlier, and I affixed them to wooden sticks last night.

Thunderstorms began at 9:00, and since it is dry, the rain is definitely a good thing. This means that unless it rains again, I can look for a dry crust on the garden soil by Sunday afternoon, and I can commence planting. I will plant the potatoes first, then progress on to other cold weather crops. I thought of planting these crops adjacent to the potatoes, but I may plant them just east of the old perennial bed, as that area is a bit more shady. If it gets hot, the shade will benefit these early crops which do better in cool weather.

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