By Phyllis Galowitz

The sun is shining. The hills are blanketed with the remains of the light snow that fell a few days ago. It barely covers the dirty look of ashes strewn along the roadsides and driveways, to keep the ice that never melted, following day after day of freezing temperatures, from causing dangerous driving and walking conditions.

There isn’t much to do in the garden except to enjoy the comings and goings of the birds. A cardinal, that I mentioned last month in my column, has been a regular visitor. He perches on the same branch every day and is that speck of bright red in an otherwise green, gray and white landscape. He never comes to the feeder and he’s always alone. How sad for him. Where is his partner?

The aloes in my indoor garden keep reproducing. One tiny plant, in a 4″ pot, that fell over because it had become top-heavy, created six plants when I finally had to separate them, each in its own pot. Another pot is waiting for me to do the same. All of these plants were from the same great-grandmother. Friends and relations politely refuse my offers of another aloe plant that I insist they must have; one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen, to use for first-aid treatment of cuts, burns and bites, not to mention their unusual shapes and texture, placed among other houseplants.

It’s hard to imagine, looking out the window on this mid-February day, that spring will be here soon. Just the anticipation makes me dream of all the unrealistic things I’d love to do in my garden, knowing, of course, that I can no longer do all that I wish to do. Instead of what I dreamed of eight years ago, when we moved here, but never accomplished, I’ll have to simplify my ideas to fit what I’m capable of doing.

Hostas fill a lot of space in a shady area and are easy to care for. When they begin to emerge, in the spring, they are easy to separate creating more plants. Pulmonaria or lungwort is another shade loving plant, valued more for its decorative leaves that remain attractive all season, and bloom with dainty clusters of small flowers in mid to late spring, covering the unattractive remains of spring bulbs.

Three to four inches of mulch, spread over several thicknesses of newspaper or landscape fabric, will keep down the weeds between perennials. Add agricultural or dolomite lime to the soil and dig in compost and bone meal. Add polymers for water retention.

Do some stretching exercise to loosen up your joints before attempting to work in the garden after these lazy winter months of sitting by the fire. You’ll save yourself from muscle and backaches.

Dress comfortably for working in the dirt. A kneeling pad helps to keep knees from getting coated with mud. Rubber dishwashing gloves, with a shake of talcum powder for ease in sliding them off, will keep your hands dry on damp days.

A well-organized basket of gardening tools will save trips back and forth between wherever they’re kept and where you’ll be working.

Don’t try to do everything in one day.
Isn’t it exciting; spring is almost here!

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