Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mud Season...

The spring thaw seems to be coming and going and coming back and then going. Needless to say…we’ve got some mud out there. With mud season upon us it is easy to jump the gun and want to get the garden ready for planting cool weather crops. There are several that can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.

I suggest waiting. The ground can certainly be worked. All I have to do is stand in my rubber boots and I begin to sink in. It is still too wet to do much in the garden. Tilling or turning of the soil too soon will result in poor conditions later. Wet soil will compact easily and plants will have a difficult time getting established when planted after the fear of frost has passed.

Brussels sprouts, onions, rutabagas, carrots, spinach, turnips, cabbage, peas and broccoli can all be planted two to six weeks before our region’s frost date but until some of this mud dries up you don’t want to get ahead of yourself.

Soil can only take in and hold certain amounts of water. Recent snowmelt and heavy rains have saturated my garden, yard, driveway and pretty much every surface I need to walk on. Even the deck and porches have a nice covering of mud thanks to the four legged creatures I so graciously allow to live indoors with us humans.

I don’t pay much mind to the groundhogs in captivity. They are just an excuse for men to don a top hat and get on television. I know spring is just around the corner as the musty, putrid scent of skunk is apparent every morning. Skunks don’t actually hibernate in winter but they do get very lazy. Once they emerge from their dens you know spring is near as they begin their breeding season.

So March brings us mud and skunks? Sounds like a winning month. It’s not as bad as it seems. There is much to be done to prepare the garden and armchair gardening is just a small part of it.

Indoors you can repot houseplants that will eventually make their way outside in two months. You can also start feeding houseplants at this time. If you overwintered any herbs indoors you can repot them unless, of course, you plan on putting them in the garden. Don’t despair if they look really lousy. I have a 13-year-old lavender topiary that comes in every winter, mutters insults under its softly scented breath all winter and then thrives the moment I put it back in the garden in May.

If you mulched the garden, now is a good time to start peeling that off. Pull any weeds you see now before they go to seed. Trust me, you’ll see some. Don’t walk in the garden while it is wet if you can help it. Tools have long handles for a reason. You don’t want to compact the soil.

Cut back ornamental grasses left from last year. They have proved to be great hiding places for wildlife all winter but it’s time to give them a haircut. Compost the cuttings or scatter them about the yard if you want to provide material for the numerous birds beginning their nest building season.

Finish pruning trees. Bring some inside for forcing. Pussy Willow, Crab Apple and Forsythia will bloom in short order when placed in a large vase of water. What better way to get in the spring mood.

Invest in a good boot scraper. Trust me, mud season doesn’t pass quickly.

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