Grow: Primers & Projects
Preparing for Spring
Spring is coming ... so get your garden ready!
When people find out what it is I do to earn a living, it's only a matter of time before I am asked, "And what do you do all winter?" Winter is a great time to dream — and design. But the truth of the matter is that by the time one gardening season has come to an end, the next one has already started.
If you haven't already cut back the dead growth in your perennial beds, it's time to start — come spring there are too many other things to do to be bothered then with unfinished tasks left over from the previous growing season. If there isn't much snow cover, and the air warms up a bit, snatch an hour now and then and get the job done. If you intend to fertilize your perennials or top-dress them with compost, late winter — before new growth occurs and the bulbs begin to emerge — is a good time to do it.
Late winter is also the perfect time to do most of your tree pruning, whether in the orchard or in the landscape. Shrubs that flower on new wood (such as Spiraea japonica cultivars, Rose-of-Sharon, Hypericum, Callicarpa, etc.) get pruned at this time as well. With certain plants, such as grape vines, it is a very good idea to prune before the sap starts to flow, to avoid inordinate "bleeding."
We hope you have sown winter rye or some other appropriate cover crop in your vegetable garden. If you have, then begin turning it under as soon as the ground thaws. Use a spading fork and invert large chunks of it at a time. And take it easy until you get used to the heavy work: You will need a sound back the whole season long.
Part of getting ready for spring consists of planning new projects, addressing deficiencies in your landscape and preparing for the activities you carry out every year. Order seeds and plants early, in January if possible, to ensure the availability of the varieties you choose. If you have an indoor growing space, get it ready for production. We begin sowing seeds indoors — starting with leeks and Spanish onions — by February 15, three months before our frost-free date here in Massachusetts.
Two more things: Sharpen your tools, and have your blister liniment ready.
New Year's Resolutions
For 2004 I've made several resolutions:
- I will grow less zucchini, or at least pick it smaller, courgette-size.
- I will reduce the number of tomato and pepper varieties I grow. To make this easier the next time I want to pare down, I will replace self-indulgent episodes of tomato frenzy with serious taste trials, and take notes.
- I will encourage more people to grow a large pot of fresh culinary herbs near their kitchen door.
- I will try to put more color into the winter landscape. Drifts of red-twig dogwood (Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'), pockets of winterberry (Ilex verticillata cultivars), stands of multi-hued conifers,...
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This segment appears in show #2810.