Signs of Spring

Siberian squill ready to bloom
Siberian squill ready to bloom

Sunday’s gorgeous weather had me outside at last, flinging caution to the wind and raking a few spots in the lawn, cleaning out some of the beds I can reach from the sidewalk and looking for signs of life.

The Siberian squill, which have long been one of the plants I measure spring by, are just one day away from blooming and the miniature cabbage heads of sedum can be spotted under the leaf-mulch. I’ve been looking for them, but there’s no sign yet of the Iris reticulata that is usually the first plant blooming in my yard. Perhaps it is a victim of the long winter. It may still appear yet. Last year, it was April 22 when I first spotted them. They’ve bloomed as early as March 25 in the past.

With the forecast calling for decent temperatures and occasional rain this week, we could see a burst of bloom by next weekend. Here’s hoping!


Opening Weekend for Gardeners

For instant spring, plant some pansies. Garden centers are full of them now.

Imagine if the hunter or fisherperson in your household was told that the opening weekend had been moved back two, maybe three weeks? Anxiety? Disappointment? Lots of pent-up energy? Yes, to all that, as we gardeners well know having endured one of the most protracted ends to winter that I can recall. But, this weekend is it! The weather promises to be pleasant and warm. So, here’s what I plan to do:

  • Clean up the gardens you can reach easily. You don’t want to be tramping around the yard too much (something I’ve been guilty of already this year). And you absolutely do not want to rake — let the soil firm up and dry out. But, if you can reach a bed from the sidewalk or other terra firma, clean up spent perennials and uncover any of those plants that want to grow.
  • Buy some pansies! If you think you have been anxious to get out in the garden, imagine how nursery and garden center owners feel. Many garden centers will be open for the first time this weekend. Visit them, enjoy the beautiful plants they have in their greenhouses and buy some pansies to pot up for instant spring.
  • Plant a little lettuce. I’ve started some lettuce indoors and those plants have been moved to pots and put on the front porch. But it should be warm enough now to  plant out lettuce or even start some from seed. Hold off on tomatoes or any warm weather crops.
  • Prune Annabelle hydrangeas and other plants that bloom on new growth. Hold off on pruning lilacs and other spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom.
  • Build a raised bed. Easiest garden project ever. I’ve built several and have a new one in the garage ready to go out to the vegetable area in the next week or so. (If you want to get really fancy, check out my brother-in-law’s deck garden.) You can fill your bed with compost and soil to create a fabulous environment for vegetables. If you are not sure what to grow, check out Chiot’s Run’s 5-by-5 Challenge, which gives you suggestions and planting tips to grow a simple 5-by-5 foot vegetable garden.

What will you be doing this beautiful weekend?


Our Fast-Forward Fall

How fast has fall come on this year? Check out the three photos below, each taken about one day apart last week. I took the first one because it seemed the ash tree out my kitchen window had gone from green to gold overnight. Then the wind started blowing and the temperatures dropped and, in a little more than 48 hours, nearly all the leaves fell from the tree.

fall 1
Wednesday, Oct. 3, approximately 7 a.m.


fall 2
Thursday, Oct. 4, approximately 8 a.m.


fall 3
Sunsets on summer, Friday, Oct. 5, approximately 7:30 p.m.

Planting Peas with the Peepers

This morning while walking the dog around the ponds near our house, I heard a chorus of squeaks and peeps. The spring peepers are finally singing. This is late for them, but within the range of when peepers herald spring.  Phenology — the study of nature signs — recommends that peas be planted when the spring peepers start singing. I planted mine yesterday. How about you? What have you planted? Do you use nature signs to determine when to put in your garden?

Garden Time Management

The truly unpleasant weather we’ve experienced the past few weeks — snow flurries on May 2 with constant winds above 15 mph, no thank you! — has put me a little behind in my garden chores. I’ve been nurturing along my seedlings indoors, some of which would prefer to be in the ground now, and on Sunday, I spent a couple of hours working on my new compost bin, but otherwise, trips into the garden have been short, perfunctory and not that enjoyable.

The weather dudes are predicted an extended streak of temps in the 60s for the rest of the week. Rain, of course, is also predicted, but I can work around that. So, the question becomes, what are the priorities?

I often refer to Melinda Myers’ Month-by-Month Gardening in Minnesota when I’m in a what-to-do frenzy, and more recently, I’ve been checking out Margaret Roach’s Away to Garden blog for her lists. She’s a couple of zones ahead of us, so I consulted her April list for things to do in May. It’s not a perfect match, but she has lots of ideas, so you can pick and choose.

What are my priorities for the week and weekend ahead?

  • Get out my lettuce starts and seed other cool-season vegetables;
  • Set up my new compost bin;
  • Haul branches to the compost pile in Northfield and pick up a load of compost to spread on the gardens;
  • Edge three of the flower beds where grass tends to invade;
  • Prune or cut back perennials that need it and apply a little fertilizer to them.

What will you be doing now that the weather is improving?

Daffodil Days

Fritillaria bows its blooms in the cold.

The spring bulbs are slowly starting to bloom. On Sunday, I noticed the fritillaria, a small, but unusually colored bulb was blooming. Monday, the daffodils that brighten up my raspberry bed also opened up. In the dim light before sunset, they seemed especially cheerful. The tulips in front remain shut tight, but one pleasant aspect of this slow spring is that the Siberian squill are having a long bloom season. A few yards in the older part of my town are a sea of blue blooms this time of year.


Bud Break

The trees and shrubs are trying — really trying — to open up and welcome spring. We can hope that yesterday’s snow was the last of this long, long winter.

From left to right above are: Red twig dogwood leaves about to unfurl, a catkin on a willow, and buds of a ‘Bali’ cherry tree. The dogwood and cherry are in my yard, but the willow is on the bank of a stream near our house. Willows are part of the genus Salix, which includes about 400 species. I don’t know which this is, but like most willows, it grows well in moist soil.

What buds are about to break open in your garden?