Are You Ready For the Great Earth Awakening?

Are you ready?

For the past three or four months now, the earth’s surface has been in a cold, snow-packed hibernation. The color white predominates and there is little, if any, green to be seen. Woodchucks, ground squirrels, frogs, turtles, and bats lie dormant in deep hibernation, while we humans hunker down in our dwellings and turn up the heat in an effort to stay warm.

But soon, winter will loosen its grip, and the earth will once more begin to awaken. Hibernating animals emerge from their long winter sleep, while we humans clean out our homes and begin putting away our winter clothes. And from deep in the soil, roots begin to develop and green shoots begin pushing their way through the surface. No doubt about it. Spring has arrived! Soon it will be time once again for gardeners to take up the spade and the trowel and begin another season of gardening.

Are you ready?

Like most events in our lives, spring has a way of creeping up on us. Before we know it, it’s here. And before we know it, it’s gone, and we are left to lament missed opportunities and unfulfilled plans.

So I ask once more – are you ready? In case you haven’t guessed it by now, my query is directed to you, my fellow gardeners. We all know that there is a certain window of opportunity for certain plants, especially if you want to start them from seed. And we also know that if you don’t act fast, that window will close, and your chance to plant those particular crops will fade away like tulips in June.

I ask yet again – are you ready? Have you ordered all of your seeds and supplies? Have most or all of them arrived? Have you planned out your garden so you know what will go where? Are your tools cleaned, oiled, sharpened, and ready to go? Are your seed starters washed, sterilized, and ready to receive soil and seeds? Are all the lights in your grow light setup all working, with none burned out? If your answer to all of these questions is yes, then three cheers for you! You are poised and ready to do whatever is necessary to assure yourself of a bountiful harvest of sweet, crunchy, flavorful, and nutritious fruits and vegetables. But if your answer to any of these questions is no, then it’s time to step it up and go! Order those seeds and supplies! Sketch out that garden plan! Wash out those seed starters and make sure all the bulbs in your grow lights are shining brightly!

This is not the time to dicker and hesitate! The great earth awakening that I spoke of will be coming soon! But the awakened planet only yields her bounty to those who prepare and act. So your choice is clear. Will you be among the gardeners who come away with armloads and basket loads of fresh, mouth-watering fruits and vegetables? Or will you be channeling George Gershwin and singing “I Got Plenty of Nothing?”

Jump the Equinox

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Don’t try to tell her she has to wait for robins to sing.
Don’t ever say she’s jumping the gun by pushing the spring.
She’ll wave a dirty trowel and say, “So what if I do?
If you had spent your life fighting winter, you’d push it too.”

Pushing Spring Tango, by Peter and Lou Berryman

It’s coming. In fact it’s “just around the corner,” to use the cliché. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the vernal equinox (a.k.a. spring) will arrive on March 20th at 12:15 PM EDT. Oh happy day! Spring will be here at last! Time to put away the snow shovels and winter clothing! Time to dance in the sunshine and warm weather! And, of course, it’s time to get out in the garden, dig up the soil, and begin planting!

Uh, not so fast. We humans with our artificial time measurements may have decided that spring has arrived on a certain day, but Mother Nature may be a little behind us. It is still possible to have snow in March and April and even remotely in May. And temperatures have not yet risen to “let’s hit the beach” levels yet. The soil will be too cold and hard to dig, and even if you do succeed in planting something in it, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to get a whole lot of nothing.

“But I’m so tired of being cooped up in the house and being surrounded by nothing but snow, cold, and miserable wet weather,” you say. “I can’t take it anymore! I want to get out and plant – now!”

Oh ye of little patience. But fortunately there are solutions for eager beavers like you. They are called season extending devices. Collectively, they are physical structures designed to insulate tender seedlings from harsh weather and allow you to get an early start on the growing season and keep on growing after the season officially ends.

There are many examples of season extending devices.

Plastic milk cartons – These are probably the simplest and cheapest types of season extending devices. Simply take a washed empty plastic milk carton, cut off the bottom two inches and use the remainder to cover each individual plant.

Plastic Milk Carton

Bell cloche – These are structures made out of glass and shaped like a bell. They work the same way as plastic milk cartons. They are beautifully constructed and tend to be more aesthetically pleasing than plastic milk cartons. However, they are still glass and will still break if you drop them, so be careful.

Bell Cloche

Row covers – Row covers are fabric blankets that come in a wide variety of thicknesses. They are placed over growing seedlings and supported by metal or plastic hoops. Heavy fabric row covers are used to insulate plants from cold temperatures; lighter weight fabric row covers are used to protect plants from insect pests.

Row Cover

Cold frame/hot bed – Cold frames are mini-greenhouses. They consist of a wooden structure with a hinged transparent lid (the transparent portion is usually made of glass surrounded by a wooden frame. They function the same way as true greenhouses, namely that sunlight shines through the glass top and warms up the inside. The heat cannot escape so the inside remains warmer than the surrounding atmosphere. On warmer days, the lid is opened slightly to allow excess heat to escape. If supplemental heat is provided, then the cold frame becomes a hot bed.

Raised Bed

Wall o’ water – These consist of series of plastic “pockets” that, when filled with water, create a teepee-like structure that surrounds the plant. The water filled tubes absorb the heat of the sun during the day and releases heat to the plants at night. If the temperature should drop to zero and the water freeze, then more heat is released to keep the plant warm (remember, water has to release heat in order to freeze). On some cold nights, it’s not unheard of to see steam rising out of the walls o’ water.

wall-o-water

So if you truly cannot wait for warmer weather, then go ahead and plant. But if you want your seeds and seedlings to actually grow, then I strongly recommend investing in a season extending device such as the ones listed above.

The Fleeting Joys of Spring

spring

So now I have sung you a little short song
I can no longer stay
God bless you all both great and small
And I wish you a happy May

― May Day Carol

 
The month of May is a prime time for experiencing all of the beauty and joy of spring. Spring flowers are at their peak, the weather is beautiful (not too hot or too cold), and every morning the air is filled with the melodic chirps of all manner of songbirds. And, of course, soil and air temperatures are just right to begin planting your garden — that is, if you haven’t started already with cool season crops in March and April.

 
There’s so much to enjoy and experience in the month of May. Go for a walk in the woods and see all of the emerging wildflowers. Migratory birds are passing through; you might see an Eastern bluebird or a hermit thrush. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the warble of the red-winged blackbird. At dusk, you can watch the elusive woodcock as the male does his mating dance. Butterflies and hummingbirds are emerging, and if you plant a garden of native plants, you’ll be seeing a lot of them, as they’ll be hanging around your yard.

 
But if you’re not careful, the month of May can slip through your fingers, leaving only regret at the hikes not taken and the sights unseen. So don’t let May’s joyful parade pass you by without experiencing the offerings of as many floats as possible.