Sprinting Through Spring

How about this weather, eh?

I spent all of Monday getting the garden in order. Or, I should say, beginning to get the garden in order. Digging, cleaning, ripping out dead annuals, sowing seeds… my arms, shoulders, neck, legs, knees, everything are creaky, stiff, and sore. I did not stretch before I started. To be honest, I never stretch before I start, probably because I always fail to remember that gardening is hard work.

[Aside: Some of the pain was caused by lifting heavy luggage on and off of the train 4 times on Sunday. I brought home two cases of Ball quilted canning jars from a trip over the border. When is Berardin going to start offering the nicer designs here in Canada? Am I right, my fellow canning Canadians? Enough with the ugly crest and fruit designs! I am tired of stuffing my luggage full of glass whenever I travel to the US.]

I left home very early on Friday morning to catch a train to Rochester, NY where I was speaking at the Rochester Flower Show. Tee shirt weather persisted through the weekend and I was pleased when I stepped outside on Monday morning and found that the garden had exploded into life over three days of temperatures around or above 60F.

The Iris reticulata (above) were only just showing their leaves above the soil line at this time last year. Back then they were grown indoors in a pot — the fact that they are in full bloom outside is a testament to how far ahead of schedule we are this year.

This is my garden as of this morning. As you can see it is still a mess, but I’m getting there. Compare to what it was on this day last year. p.s. Look at my scruffy muppet dog at the back. She eats EVERYTHING.

Last year at this time I did not have a garden. All I had was a smattering of pots, and a lumpy bowling alley of scrubby grass, dotted with pervasive weeds that had been grandfathered in. It’s so nice to have workable soil in the early part of the season again. I typically begin to direct sow outdoors around this time of year, but with this weather I could have started much sooner. I have never felt so behind so early! So far I have direct sowed lettuces, arugula, mustard greens, spinach, mache, and cress into the raised beds and big pots. Pea seeds are soaking to be planted next, and I still have a few more spots that can take salad greens. And with the weather so ahead I am also experimenting with plants that are not typically started so early. More on that to come.

I’m achy and stiff, but it feels so good to be out in the garden again for another year. Winter is behind us. It’s all sunshine and roses from here until November.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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21 thoughts on “Sprinting Through Spring

  1. Wow – how nice to have such great weather! We’ve taken a step backwards & have a light dusting of snow on the ground which doesn’t encourage garden work.

    We are very much behind schedule here on the wet coast – the hummingbirds have yet to make an appearance, but that’s a good thing a not much is in bloom.

    Can’t wait for warmer weather to return so I can get my fingers dirty too!

  2. Ha! As a Canadian living in America, I love the Bernardin crest–those are the special jars, and I always bring back a ton when I drive across the border. The fruit though, that’s ugly.

    • I’m not putting in anything crazy like tomatoes… just tough plants that can withstand cooler night temperatures and a freeze if it happens. I also have plenty of protective materials on hand if the weather turns.

  3. The abundance of lettuce seeds one gets in a single pack, and this post, inspired me to rustle up some pots and my last bit of soil and start some of my own seeds. Of course, one quick look at last year’s planters and I noticed that a single little nub of oak leaf I never cleaned out is coming back! This weather is crazy and I think I love it.

  4. Nice! Still a few weeks before much can be done here in Cowtown. I AM building a coldframe this weekeind tho’.

    What are the dimensions of you garden? It seems crazy productive. I have a 40′x 28′ plot with a cut off corner – around 1000 s.f. that i built a deer fence around, but it never seems like enough space to grow everything i want. Do you have room for things like squash, corn and pumpkins?

  5. I fear it may soon to be too warm for all of my cool season vegetables! I can never complain about warm weather, but I am thoroughly freaked out. The mosquitoes will probably eat me alive this year.
    By the way, seeing your dog makes me so happy.

  6. I’m glad I am not the only one feeling so behind, because I sure did feel ahead in January and February, getting all my seed and supply orders in etc. We have been hitting in the 80s here in central Alabama, flip-flop and tank top weather! My roses all started to bloom over the weekend, and I expect them to be in full show in two weeks at the latest. That usually happen mid-to-late in April.

    I had a lot of catching up to do, Last year’s garden went wild when I had to spend the time taking care of pressing family issues. It’s crazy how much more work that creates now, there is already an out break of powdery mildew in my neighbor’s yard. We don’t usually see that until summer, but had almost no freezing weather this winter, so I suppose I will need to start early to suppress it. Ugh!

    But fresh onions, garlic, and tomatoes will hopefully be early, too!

  7. My garden is in London, Ontario and I’m in Ottawa for another month! I’m aching to go home right now to start seeding (it’s torture being away), but I console myself with the knowledge that there are bound to be a few more frosts and things will catch up if I plant in late April.

    Sure would be nice to put a few things in this weekend, though.

  8. Chicago Botanic Gdn rep spoke on public television site last night on pea germination before planting in soil last night. After horrendously early HOT weather I planted mine in a slurry of innoculant last week. Most have emerged even Snow peas which have had poor yields and germination in past.but so interested to learn CBG rep germinated hers first–why?–I googled pea germination and read your article from 2002 I think EXCELLENT and informative to this old lady gardener, Thanks for new info from your website which I printed out.

  9. I would second having more variety in jars available in Canada. In particular the pint and a half ones that they’ve re-released in the US would be neat. Maybe we should get a petition going… they did bring back the Gem lids as a result of public pressure.

  10. This post has inspired me to plant my lettuce and other greens, and maybe direct sow some peas too. Since I’m new at this, I even sprouted some peas indoors. Would it be too soon to put a plant oe out, once develop true leaves?

    Just got your second book Gayla – the one on gardening in small spaces! It’s a wealth of knowledge and it makes me so excited to start container gardening in my new place :)

  11. Oh no. They are calling for a low of -6 C on Tuesday here in Toronto, and i am really worried it will do serious damage to all the buds and shoots that have gotten so far ahead of themselves. Are there certain early perrenials more susceptible than others? How do you mitigate it? What about explorer rose bush, magnolia & stewardia tree buds. Are the lilacs and elderberry ok to tough it out on their own?

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