Jumping the Gun

By fallspark, May 4th, 2011 | No Comments »

Shortly after rising on Saturday morning I noticed the gutter atop my garage wasn’t draining properly, and after poking at its ground level joint failed to repair the situation, I got out the step ladder, but then put it away, fearing a strong gust of wind would knock me down.  I’m no spring chicken, and notwithstanding, a broken bone is never an appealing thought.  Some short time later I opened an email from one of the Market vendors with an attached photo showing her reaching across her hoop house, balanced on the end of large hoist arm, patching a hole there, likely damage from the same weekend wind.  That image was enough to send be right back outdoors, and my gutter was soon unclogged and draining nicely. 

After twenty-four hours of sustained, storm-force wind, anyone who lives on the plains begins to understand a little known condition rarely mentioned outside of a classic American novel or two, wherein you think you’re going to lose your mind if the constancy of it doesn’t stop.  Sometime in the night over the weekend, I awoke to hear my old split foyer house literally creaking in long-sustained gusts that surely peaked over fifty mph.  The gutter outside my window began to whistle and vibrate, and at one point I actually got out of bed and walked around inside, shining a spotlight out the windows to see if the trees were still standing.  I also closed the bedroom window, as Saturday’s sixty degree temperatures had by that hour, plummeted to near freezing.  Fearful as I was for some spikes and asparagus ferns I had purchased at one of the big box stores on Saturday, I just didn’t have the fortitude to step out onto the maelstrom of my back deck to pull them into the fifty-five degree safety of my kitchen, reasoning that any damage had already been done.  Fortunately, the wind kept frost from forming.  I think they will survive.   

So Sunday was May Day, my oldest daughter’s forty-first birthday, and a frosty one it was.  The day before, her youngest, my Saturday companion, seven-y ear-old Piper and I potted what look like violas, delicate little blooms of violet and yellow that spent the blustery night indoors on my western windowsill.  We will give these as a birthday gift, as well as May Day tokens to some of the neighbors a bit later on.  At 8:45 on Sunday, it was still blowing pretty hard out there, so we had no choice but to protect them in sturdy brown bags for delivery– no ring the bell and run as in years past.  As we perused the nearby garden areas together on Saturday, searching for our plants, I was tempted to grab a cart or a box and just start loading up with flowers, loading up early vegetables in pots. I guess we stopped at four different stores and each had those selections for sale.  

Last year I purchased six Walls-of-Water on line, but I have yet to use them. Readers may be more familiar with these than I.  One fills them with water and allows the sun to warm them so plants are protected from overnight cold.  They are supposed to enable tender vegetables like tomatoes and peppers to be set out weeks earlier than recommended.  My late father swore by them for use in Indiana, and he was growing great tomatoes right up to the age of ninety.  Of course, he didn’t have to worry about them blowing across the fence into the neighbor’s yard.  Even so, perhaps I’ll get them out and give them a look this week. 

On can certainly do flowers this early, and I did see several shoppers buying these in great number.   As do many others, I keep a handy supply of old sheets, former shower curtains and similar coverings in a box in the garage for use on cold nights at both ends of the growing season.  Up north here, one has to be prepared to act quickly and not be taken unawares, something that is so easy to do as April turns the corner into May, much as I did Saturday evening. 

I tend to keep my large planters on wheels so they can be easily wheeled in and out of the warmer garage or in smaller, more manageable pots on the deck that may be easily brought indoors.  I find using former soft drink bottles in the bottom is a good trick, making them both lighter and hence easier to manage, as well as allowing one to use less planting medium (I’ve heard the use of Styrofoam packing peanuts is another good choice, but just try to clean them up when you want to empty the containers; they blow everywhere.  And a note to first time container gardeners, you wouldn’t want to do this when planting vegetables in pots, as they require all that room for their deeper root systems). 

If using covers for early flower plantings, one also has to rig up some kind of support so the covers don’t flatten the plants, and also be available the next day to uncover them as the temperature warms, and this can be a problem if you have to leave for work prior to that time.  Appealing to retired neighbors for help is one solution I have found. 

However, this year, instead of jumping the gun with all of this, I will wait until after the Market’s first weeks before purchasing my vegetable starts and most of my flowers; see what plants they have to offer this year and have the opportunity to visit with some people who likely know a lot more than me. The big box stores have a few nice deals, and their arrays are very tempting, but I’ve never been let down with a Market purchase. They do seem to be well suited for our growing conditions, and sure enough, I have learned from past years that if I run out and fill up on early bargains, I’ll regret my hasty decisions after I see what our local vendors have for sale. 

Again, as a Friend of the Falls Park Farmer’s Market, I’ll be there this coming Saturday for opening day at the conversation table from 9-11A.M., and look forward to meeting other people who like me, just can’ wait to get that first bit of dirt under their nails.  ~Georgia Totten-Sioux Falls

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