By Phyllis Galowitz
There’s an enormous cottontail rabbit chewing on something that only he can see growing in the garden. He and his wife have been living, all through the winter, well hidden under a huge, spreading juniper. From time to time they emerge, sometimes together and sometimes separately. They blend in perfectly with their surroundings and even when they’re right in front of the window, twenty feet away, are hardly perceptible.
One day, when our daughter Amy was visiting, she saw the rabbits and quickly cut up some carrots and threw them near their hiding place. Maybe rabbits don’t like carrots as much as we think they do since they didn’t come running out of their nest to eat them. It snowed that day and most of the following days. Today the snow is gone but the carrots are still there. Their bright orange stands out, lying in the hay-like grass of mid-March, but the rabbits look healthy and fat. Obviously, rabbits find plenty to eat that lies dormant in the grass even in winter.
The ground is wet, as it always seems to be at this time of the year. It’s too early (and too cold) to work outside, but according to my garden journal, there will be some warm days very soon when we’ll be cleaning up the yard and getting it ready for spring planting. Yes, there will be more snow, cold days and even frost at night, but in between, there will be glorious garden days; days to cut back and divide perennials, days when the warm sun will bring forth surprises each morning. Early spring bulbs will burst from the ground and, if we can identify the weeds from the perennials, we’ll try to get rid of the weeds and mulch and feed the beds. If we’re planting vegetables, we can cover the place where they’ll be with landscape fabric to get a head start on warming the soil.
I’ve never grown beets before but I do love them and will plant them this year. Cover the beet plants with a floating row cover as soon as seedlings emerge and tuck the edges into the soil to keep insects from sneaking through. Remove the cover when the weather gets warm. Beets are so versatile. The greens are wonderful, sautéed with olive oil and garlic, like spinach, and the roots, shredded raw for salad or boiled and served with butter, are delicious. Make into borscht for a wonderful summer soup.
The spring birds are coming back. Today I saw a tufted-titmouse and goldfinches are getting their spring feathers of bright yellow. Bird feeders empty quickly as the birds compete with the more aggressive and gluttonous red squirrels. Chipmunks, which I haven’t seen all winter, are back like “dustbusters”, cleaning up the seeds that drop from the feeders, onto the deck.
It’s time to freshen the soil in containers and decide what to plant in each, time to shop the nurseries, if you haven’t ordered from catalogues, time to walk the hills and roads to see what’s happening outside of your own garden. It’s time to get those lazy muscles moving. You’ll need the energy for the spring chores ahead and the warm spring air will be a wonderful tonic! ~