By Phyllis Galowitz
It’s the middle of February as I’m thinking of March in the garden. The wind is howling and snow is falling lightly but the thought of March coming soon lifts my spirits and I begin to think SPRING! I also realize that winter makes me lazy. I sit too much and read a lot and my bones will need some stirring up to get ready for the activity to come. Pruning, planting, raking, carrying gardening supplies from one part of the garden to another, bringing compost from up behind the trees where it’s forming to where it’s needed to amend the soil for new plants, takes lots of energy after I’ve been hibernating over the winter.
The first thing that I must do, therefore, is to get back to the exercise mode, to avoid the muscle, knee and backaches that come with the first back-to-gardening days. Even though I exercise for twenty minutes every morning and try to swim three times a week and walk when weather permits, that does not seem to be enough on the first warm day that I decide to work in the garden. I must remind myself to work from short periods to longer ones each day. Could it be age? I just can’t seem to do all the things I dream of doing anymore and I have to learn to recognize what my limits are.
I’m hoping to get a head start by planting seedlings in my plastic, portable, mini-greenhouse, which I’ve learned from last year’s experience, to place against a wall, facing southeast or southwest. On a windy day, it’s apt to blow over if it isn’t anchored with a few rocks, until the weight of the growing seedlings takes over. It did extend the season for tomato, pepper and eggplant growing, to start them in the greenhouse. They need a long, sunny season, and I also found it very useful for storing garden tools, gloves and bags of soil right where they’re used.
If trees have grown and shaded much of the bed areas, think of planting shade-loving and short-season plants, like salad greens, spinach, kale and Swiss chard, as well as other cool season crops. Plant greens in early spring and harvest continuously, by cutting the outer leaves, before the very hot weather, when they begin to bolt. They can be planted again for a second, early-fall crop.
Container gardening is easier. There’s not as much bending. They can be placed where the sun is, and near the water source… no dragging the hose, running back to the faucet to turn it on and, after watering, running back to turn it off, then rewinding the hose. To set the containers up for a new season, remove the top few inches of last year’s tired, depleted soil and fill the top two or three inches with polymers, to hold moisture, fresh soil, humus, fertilizer and mulch. Some soils come pre-mixed with everything. They’re more expensive, of course. It may require some energy, but seeing plants grow right outside the kitchen window, picking the makings of that night’s salad, or flowers for the table, is certainly worth the effort! ~