It feels odd to write about Spring gardening tasks while most of North America is still under inches, if not feet of snow. And I realize that many of you in the UK are still dealing with flooding. But this is the time of year to think about getting your garden ready for Spring planting.
Here, Spring bulbs are blooming and those mid – late bulbs are emerging from the ground. If you haven’t already, prune your roses by cutting them down to about 18″; but at an angle just above an outward facing bud. Be sure all the dead canes are removed as well as any canes or branches going through the middle. With roses, I consistently make each cut angled. This encourages the rain drops to drip off instead of entering the cane core, preventing some rose diseases.
In addition, I have begun to break down my cover crop I planted last fall. I first chop up the cover crop with a sharp shovel, then cover it with newspaper, then cardboard. I want the nutrients of the cover crop to be incorporated into my vegetable beds before the flowers appear. That way, I have the nutritional benefits without additional seeds that sprout and spread more plants I don’t want.
What are your garden dreams in this pre-Spring season?
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
by Wallace Stevens
Such a strange country
I live in
- the rest of the nation
in snow and ice,
I came across
a cherry tree
already in blossom.
I tried to take
a photo to show
but the lighting wasn’t right.
The gloomy clouds
behind the blossoms
made them appear
Soon, the blossoms
will cast themselves
- a whitish brown carpet
covering the grassy mud,
the crocus buds
Maybe tomorrow I’ll find a different tree with better light.
by Tea Leaf Gardens
I’m always looking for news on organic gardening and how to create gardens that support garden creatures. The Xerxes Society is looking for the public’s help in recording any sightings of bumble bees in North America. Their website has all the details of how to report a bumble bee sighting, assistance with identification and verification; and details on how to create a bumble bee habitat in your own garden.
Want to be a Bumble Bee Ambassador? Go to: http://www.bumblebeewatch.org/
Here are the calendula blossoms after they’ve been infused in olive oil for 6 weeks. I’ve strained them into another jar for storage until I’m ready to create some healing skin balms. I’m not sure you can tell in this photo, but the oil has turned a beautiful, golden color.
Then it turns out my cat is fascinated by calendula blossoms. After I strained them, I accidentally tipped the strainer and the blossoms fell onto the floor. Perhaps she thought they were new kinds of squishy, little insects, but she was fascinated, watching them and pouncing.
What would you like to use calendula oil for?
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a fan of the slug. No one is more surprised than me. Seems I am not alone – at least by their cousins, the snails. This BBC Radio 4 program features amateur scientist, Ruth Brooks, who was inspired by the snails in her garden to conduct a study on them. She was curious how the snails kept returning to her garden after being chucked over her garden fence. In her study, sponsored in part by a science program on Radio 4, she discovered that snails had to be taken at least 30 meters away (nearly 33 yards) before they couldn’t find their way back.
This inspired her to examine other garden creatures’ homing instincts. It’s impressive to hear the results of dung beetles (using astronomy), butterflies, cats, dogs, pigeons and finally humans. I encourage you to listen. Ms. Brooks is charming and I enjoyed hearing about the fascinating adaptations made to find the way back home.
If you don’t have time, at least listen to the discussion on cats’ homing instincts. The clip link is on the bottom of the Radio 4 page. You’ll see the beautiful blue-grey cat or http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01p33yk
If you live in the northern part of the northern hemisphere, these days gardening is something you primarily dream about. Lately, short days with freezing temps (below 0C) and snow, I haven’t been able to prune. I’ve been enjoying the sun while cleaning spent needles out of pines and hinokis.
So on this shortest day of the year, I’m dreaming about those sunny, healing flowers of orange, yellow and red. Today, I’m going to strain the calendula blossoms from the oil they’ve been in the last few weeks. This infused calendula oil will make healing salves throughout the year. I expect to use them for all the little nicks and cuts I get while gardening. Last winter was temperate and the calendula made it through the winter. But in Spring, I’ll need to begin again as it looks like most of the calendula plants didn’t survive this month. Good thing I saved seeds.
Happy Winter Solstice in the North and Summer Solstice in the South. May you enjoy this beautiful day, no matter your its length.