So last Monday it was 25 and we had 8"+ of snow, and by Saturday it was 65 and sunny. Go figure. I have many household repair projects that need finished, we are renovating our laundry room among other things, and the inspectors (my mom and dad who are helping us renovate) are coming to visit next week. But in working in the laundry room, slaving away at scraping 2 million layers of paint off of the door, I could see outside and how nice it was. So I decided that paint striping and spackling could wait until after dark and I headed outside. Ahhh.... paradise. I dug my shovel into the earth and discovered that all my enrichment is finally paying off. I could get it in with little effort and when I turned it over, I only got a few lumps of ugly grey dirt, the rest was nice dark, almost fluffy black stuff! I rearranged the brick edging so that I now I have a narrow front bed, and what will eventually become a deep, raised bed in the back. I have found in years past that all the flowers end up buried underneath the bushier tomatoes, so I devised this layout as a way to hopefully combat that. Also, when it comes to feeding, different plants like different things and I figure that with that brick separation I can help direct the nutrients where they belong.
Spring is the time for pruning most plants, and I figured, what better time than now! I uncovered the miniature rose that I planted for Paul last summer and was happy to see that its tomato cage full of leaves kept it from freezing too badly over the winter, and that it was fairly healthy and green. I trimmed it back so that only a few short stems with leaves remained. I think it needs fed since the leaves have a tinge of red around them, but I need to wait a few weeks so that the food doesn't encourage tender growth that can be bit if frost strikes again.
I also cut back my butterfly bush. This always pains me because I fear I am going to kill it. My mom assures me that hacking it back to 1/2 or less of its original size will actually help it grow, but it always is daunting to cut back something that you nurtured so diligently the summer before. It never really died of this winter though, so at least I know that there are several good branches of green leaves left.
Butterfly bushes tend to get leggy and tall, leaving all kinds of space near the ground to look bare. I decided that this would be the perfect place to group my irises. I have two types. Great big bearded irises that come from rhizomes and smaller Dutch irises from bulbs. I have had the bearded irises for all three summers that I have had the garden, and last summer was the first year they had really produced. I hope to get as good of a showing this year! The Dutch irises I got at a garden shop early in the winter. I bought them late because they were on sale. But buying them late meant that it was too frozen to put them in the ground to get the several months of cold weather they need to bloom correctly. I hope I fooled them.... they have been in the back of the refrigerator for 3.5 months! I also noticed that the single hyacinths came up again. They have also been in the corner of the garden for 3 years. I am not actually sure how I have managed to not kill them! They are already up and healthy looking, but since they are early spring bulbs, they die off early and seemingly disappear, leaving them susceptible to my over-eager spading of the dirt to put something in a seemingly bare corner. They are in front of the rose bush, interspersed with the other half of the Dutch irises. On the other side of the garden are the calla lilies. These tend to get out of hand greenery wise, but they do produce pretty flowers, especially since I have large and small whites and small reds, that keep nicely in vases in the house. I kind of hemmed them in between the end of the bed and a tiki torch. Any of the bulbs that stretch past there will have to be given to friends, potted as house plants or unfortunately relegated to the compost heap. I like them, but they can only have so much garden space!
I also pulled the finished product from the bottom of the compost bin. I forgot to feed and water it a few times over the winter though, and the end result isn't quite as rich as I would like it to be, but it still looks like a better thing for the garden than the original dirt. While I was digging it out, I have a bin that kind of looks like a trash can, with a flapper lid at the top and a slide cover at the bottom so the finish product can be scraped out (I will put up a picture on a later post on composting) I found what gardeners like to call 'volunteer plants'. These are things that you thought were dead, threw in the pile, then found a month or so later growing like weeds and healthier than any of your other plants. They can be seeds that blew into, or a squirrel or bird deposited on one of their visits, that sprouted and became a mystery plant, that then goes on to produce vegetables or flower. Or, in the case of potatoes, garlic and onions, scrap pieces of vegetables that you threw in the pile that sprouted roots and a few weeks later you find finished produce in the middle of the compost pile. This was almost what I found. I had thrown several cloves of garlic that had sprouted beyond use into the compost bin, and Saturday, I found garlic plants! So I pulled them out and stuck them in around the rose bush. I've been wanting to try to grow garlic and they should make a nice surround of green to set off the rose. I think I have even heard that roses and garlic should be planted near one another because the smell of the garlic wards off bugs that may want to eat the rose bush. I guess we'll find out!
I can hardly wait! Thursday or Friday night I will get to sit down and put seeds into dirt to start to grow and produce. I can almost taste that first tomato... still warm from the sun, not even bothering to wash it off (hey, I garden organically and I do rub it on the cleanest part of my shirt to get any mud splash off) and biting into it. Standing there in the sun, enjoying the warmth and smell of damp earth..... July can't come soon enough! But in the mean time, my cold frame is laying over part of my garden, warming it up for a pre-tomato crop of lettuce and perhaps radishes or carrots. I should be able to get that in next weekend as well.
My fingernails are shot for the next 6 months, but for the fresh picked produce, I'll survive.