Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Shivering: A Spring Cautionary

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gray sky, sun peaking through two ominous clouds, winds at 7, bursting to 11 mph and back. It's spring! Yesterday's heavy rain raised streams and rivers and moved Lake Champlain to flood stage. Dirt roads like ours that last week held promise of drying out have returned to ruts and runoff. They remind me of my youth on Church Hill Road, Woodstock. Seemed to me that age six was too young to learn about building temporary corduroy roads to get the old Chevy home for the night. There was no choice and we all pitched in to find old tree limbs along the roadway to fill in ruts and get the car, equipped with tire chains and already well muddied, home again.

Spring looks different around New England today. In Burlington along Lake Champlain, the hellebores slow significant bloom and draw many "What is that?"s from still unfamiliar gardeners. Ours here on the mountain are still buried under a couple feet of snow and are weeks away from bloom. And it's this disparity of garden images that's important to remember as gardeners, with pent up energies, want to get busy in their gardens.

Like the hellebores in some gardens, hosta pips rise from still-cold soil and give encouragement of luxuriant growth soon to come. Garden lovers often get a little hasty in the spring and on that first warm day rake leaves and want to begin to fertilize. This is not good thinking as fertilizers spread before the last threat of frost has past encourage quick leaf growth of weak, thin, susceptible leaves that will get nailed day after day by subsequent frosts. Here on the mountain I make myself hold back on the leaf raking in the hosta gardens for this very reason. The tree leaves blanket the emerging growth and offer some protection until we get closer to the first week in June. Where you live it may well be a different world but to stave off disappointment here, we have to be patient. Give this reminder some thought and temper it with your knowledge of your last frost date.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the winds have blown every last seed off the platform bird feeder. The ground is covered with finches, some bullied back and forth by mourning doves scratching for millet seed. Karl the Wonder Dog is begging for a second opportunity to sniff spring.

George Africa
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1 comment:

Mother Nature said...

I use leaves as protection as well and leave it in beds till I'm sure everything is safe from cold. Then it is a race to get it off fast enough.