Homeyer: Signs Of Spring

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(HOST)  Commentator Henry Homeyer says that despite the cold weather, signs of spring are beginning to appear.  And he has a few tips about how to help the season along.

(HOMEYER)  It seems to me that even the old timers, those people who never complain about the weather, are sick of winter.  Everyone I know is saying it’s time for spring.  Nobody wants more snow or cold.

Here’s my theory: January and February were cold – as to be expected – but we never had a thaw.  I counted 7 weeks below freezing starting in early January.  A cold spell that long tends to wear us all down.  Not only that, we expect warm temperatures now, so we’ve stopped wearing our woolies.  Of course you’re going to be cold if you aren’t wearing long johns when you walk the dog on a windy day when the temperature’s 35 – even though that would be considered balmy in January.  So we shiver – and complain.

How does all this affect our gardens?  Not much.  We’ve had good snow cover, which is good for our perennial plants.  Winters with lots of freeze-and-thaw cycles are bad for plants.  First-year perennials that haven’t extended their roots far and deep into the soil suffer the most.  Freezing and thawing can push them right out of the ground, exposing their roots and killing them.  But that shouldn’t be a problem this year.

This is the time of year to walk around the house and look for those spots where the snow melts first.  That’s where you should plant spring bulbs this fall, so write yourself little reminders on plant labels and put them in the ground now.

My snowdrops came up late this year because of all the snow, but their merry little white bells are showing now where the snow is gone. Next will come Glory-of-the-Snow and Scilla, both with small blue to purple flowers.  Crocus will be along soon, and then the early daffodils.  Later will come the tulips and late-blooming daffodils.

If deer have eaten your tulips in past years, try this: cut small branches and use them to form an informal barrier of some sort.  Pile them right up over the foliage so the deer can’t easily get to them.  And then, when the buds are almost ready to open, cut them and bring them inside.  You’ll see the flowers 100 times more often inside than if you leave them outside – and they’re deer safe.

I started my onions and leeks by seed indoors on the first of March this year, and peppers and artichokes by mid-March, but I haven’t started tomatoes yet.  I like to plant my tomato seedlings outdoors later than most people – around June tenth – and I don’t want to tend and coddle them indoors any longer than I have to.  Seven or eight weeks is plenty of time to baby a tomato seedling, and they won’t get pot-bound.

So go ahead, complain about the weather if it helps. Or start some seeds indoors or pick some snowdrops and think about spring. It’ll be along soon.

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