Many of us normally get a lot of gardening done in the winter, but not this one. So, I am hoping to say so-long to weeks of cold and wet weather and plead that the arrival of spring on the calendar means it is well and truly here.
Even if we all get to this starting point already behind, there are many weeks of good gardening time ahead. Hopefully the ground will dry out sufficiently for digging, but while it is still damp, seize the moment for pulling weeds. They come up pretty easily, roots and all, when the ground is wet.
But pulling up ivy is not enough to raise a gardener’s soul to the height of delight we expect in early spring. Several things that most people would see as real gardening will help shake off the doldrums and get us moving.
▪ Finish planting cool-weather crops. This includes lettuce, cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower. Young plants of these cool-weather crops are in the garden centers and ready to plant.
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▪ Prepare for an invasion. Wet weather tends to produce a lot of slugs, so assume they will be out there. If you see holes in leaves of pansies or slimy trails, slugs are there. Deal with them by setting out snail jails or trap them in shallow bowls of beer. They also go after young lettuce and spinach plants, so keep watch there as well.
▪ Shape up the house plants. The growing season for most foliage house plants is just ahead and if yours have been in the same pot for several years, it is probably time to move them to a bigger pot, about 2 inches larger in diameter. Fresh soil, house plant fertilizer and a roomier home are just what they need to start growing well this spring.
▪ Continue shopping for fresh shrubs to liven up the landscape. You can buy them now – the temptation of a shrub in bloom is almost irresistible – but wait for the ground to dry out a couple of days after heavy rain to plant so that it is moist like a wrung-out sponge but not dripping or soggy.
▪ Check out your perennials. Chrysanthemums, daylilies, Shasta daisies, asters and others are already showing signs of fresh growth. Clumps can be dug, divided and replanted now. But let the spring-flowering ones, such as bearded irises, stay put until after they bloom.
None of this should be too taxing but it will keep you occupied until tomato-time.
Q. My neighbor has so many hellebores that have multiplied over the years. He offered me whatever I wanted to take and replant . They are blooming (white and lavender varieties). I noticed that they tend to grow best around cedars in his yard and, of course, in shade.
A. I would say: seize the opportunity. My experience is that you can transplant hellebores, commonly called Lenten roses anytime but in the heat of summer. They require shade, especially in the hot summer afternoons. They are not particular about what type of plant shades them. You can expect to get seedlings of these plants in a couple of years that you can move within your landscape or give away.