One of the downfalls of living in New Hampshire is that the snow arrives as early as October and hangs around until as late as April. After such a long winter, there is nothing I love more than when the leaves start to bud and the first flowers start to push out of the ground.
As soon as the temperatures start to rise and the days begin to lengthen, I get the itch to start planting: flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Our last frost date isn’t until Memorial Day weekend however, which means that aside from planting pansies, my planting endeavors have to wait.
That does not mean I can’t get out into the yard and get my hands dirty in the meantime.
There is plenty of work to be done around the yard and gardens in preparation for the planting season to begin. I like to begin with what we refer to as the “great stick round up.” Our property is only a quarter of an acre, and our house takes up a rather large portion of our lot. Around the edges, however, are a good number of old maple trees and one large tree with some type of small cherries on it. Living at the base of a mountain, we get windy days during the winter, which equals many sticks on the ground in the spring. Before we rake up the leaves that blew in after the fall clean up, we walk around and pick up all the sticks that are too big to be raked.
This is not my favorite chore, but it is better than fighting with sticks in the teeth of the rakes.
After the sticks have been disposed of, and before the raking begins, I clean up the smallest garden. There are two reasons for this: instant gratification of a competed job, and so I can plant flowers into the ground as soon as possible.
My smallest garden is in front of the fence between the sidewalk and the bit of yard next to our driveway. For years it sat empty and sad looking, with a few clumps of rogue grass and some weeds. One spring I was inspired and toiled until I had a strip of weedless, tilled soil. I planted pansies that first year, and it made my heart happy. You see, I walk by that little garden each day on my way in from work. Several years ago I planted irises that came from a school garden that was being redone, and those come back better every year. Starting here lets me clean up the garden while the irises are barely peaking out of the ground. I weed, clean up the leaves, and remove the dead leaves from last years irises. When I’m done, I plant a dozen pansies which provide color in the early spring, and will still be blooming when the irises push forth their flowers. The whole job takes less than an hour, and it provides visual and spiritual nourishment while the rest of the yard is being cleaned up.
The next task on my list is to rake the leaf cover off my gardens. In the fall, I rake a light cover of leaves over my herb and flower gardens. This helps to insulate the plants from severe cold and damaging weather. Uncovering the plants early in the spring allows the sunlight to warm up the soil and encourages new growth.
Once this task is done, I move on to raking the yard, and weeding the gardens. I start with the enclosed herb garden boxes first. These garden boxes used to house my vegetable garden, until I realized the area didn’t receive enough sunlight. The herbs don’t mind, and in fact they are thriving better than any other area of my yard I’ve tried them in. Because I use organic compost and topsoil, I get more weeds than if I used something different with chemicals and other things I would prefer not to have in my garden. To combat this, I weed in here early and often. This also allows me to keep a close eye on my herbs and their growth, trimming as needed.
The final task on my list is to rotate the compost. I won’t lecture you on why you should be composting if you aren’t already (you should though), and some of you might have a composter that just needs to be turned. I got my composter from the local cooperative extension, and it was a bargain. Every so often my
hero husband goes out with a pitchfork, or a garden shovel, and muscles the stuff in there around. At the end of the winter it’s a particularly hard job, because unless our cover freezes shut, which it hasn’t yet, we compost all winter long.
Once the yard has been raked fully, it gets mowed for the first time and I move on to planning my gardens.
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