Garden Notes : Awaiting spring
Polly Hill Arboretum (PHA) has scheduled another blueberry pruning workshop at the Murphy blueberry farm in Chilmark on March 7, from 10 to 12 noon. Please call 508-693-9426 to register.
In the February 12 edition of Garden Notes, I mentioned the sighting of turkey vultures. At least one of those sightings, I now believe, was of immature eagles, immense and dark, with a flight profile superficially similar to that of turkey vultures. Would a turkey vulture take one of our hens while we were out on a walk, leaving poultry unguarded by dogs?
Photo by Susan Safford
Gardeners restlessly awaiting spring manifest many impatient behaviors. The maples are well into spring mode already this year. I took off a three-inch branch confident that it was too soon (February 13) and too cold for the sap to have risen, only to see next day the telltale flow of bleeding sap below the cut. Must mean sugaring time is here. Lack of a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) should not be a deterrent. A rural West Tisbury legend has Tom and Eleanor Waldron sugaring all sorts of maples years back, not only sugar maples but also swamp (A. rubrum), Norway (A. platanoides), and silver maples (A. saccharinum).
My method nowadays, to counter that yearning for spring, is to plant more for fall and winter interest. That is when I am home and can enjoy the effects and my own premises. I have been out in my back area, checking the Sarcococca (S. hookeriana var. humilis, also known as Christmas or sweet box), repeatedly hoping to catch a hint of the scent that the name implies. These are low-growing evergreens, almost groundcover, with slim, pointed, shining leaves. Stems have a yellowish cast that the small flower buds in the leaf axils repeat. Flowers are unspectacular though the scent is special - but not yet. Plant some in a location with high shade and add organic matter to the soil.
A further disappointment is that some felon, maybe my own poultry, has been carefully harvesting each and every tiny pink bell of the heaths, Erica x 'Furzey.' Loaded with buds in December and January, by now they ought to be early bee forage. Instead they are picked clean, though otherwise undamaged.
To do list
The impatient behavior to be wary of for gardeners is jumping the gun. Pay close attention to seed packets' sowing dates relative to "weeks before last frost in your area." Young, vigorous plants are better than older, root-bound ones. Vegetable seedlings started on windowsills very quickly need lots more room and light to continue their growth unchecked. They must be moved on to larger modules or pots, requiring larger shelf space, and in very good sources of light to prevent stretching and becoming spindly.
Seedlings to start early, those needing about 12 weeks, would be celery, leeks, parsley, and maybe some perennial herbs. Give peppers about 10 weeks, and tomatoes, eggplants, and basil, about eight. Lettuce, cabbage family, and spinach grow quickly; start them later. Use soil-less seed starting mix. It is a great asset to have a cold frame to move seedlings into to harden them off.
Pulling back mulch or leaf litter prematurely to clean around the crowns of perennials can expose them to freeze-thaw cycles that may be more harmful than staying solidly cold until spring is farther along. On the other hand, there are jobs that are pleasant to do now, and some that must be done now.