Faux Spring & a Saving Tool. By G. Totten, Sioux Falls

Clearly, we had a faux spring this year.  Almost everything is up and lilacs are blooming, but aside from that, or at least for gardening purpose, the season is right on track.  Although some early peas and other cold weather crops may be able to withstand the current freezing dips in temperature (and possibly a bit of snow overnight and into tomorrow) it is much too early to put out flowering annuals or warm weather vegetables.  Although I did cover my early emerging carpet roses and some tender-looking perennial shrubs with large upturned pots a few evenings, I think they would have withstood the cold just fine; still, better safe than sorry.   Although it’s 72 degrees outdoors at this writing, I’ll likely take that precaution again tonight.

In the yard, it has been a perfect time to get winter debris work out of the way, get the lawnmower in working order.  Long evenings and cool temps with nice breezes make it a comfortable time, and each year I feel a sense of urgency to get as much done during these days as possible before we are socked with doldrums of humidity and heat we asthmatics dread.  I also see the die-hard lawn enthusiasts around town keeping busy with their de-thatching rakes, and although I have one, this year I will opt for the labor-saving lawn-mower attachment. It’s a bumpy ride, but they work pretty well.

I said hello to a near ninety-year-old neighbor yesterday who was digging dandelions with the best looking weeding tool I’ve ever seen, as it had a long comfortable handle and good eight inches of a below the ground tine, but as it was obviously an antique, I didn’t bother to ask where she had bought it.  I did offer to help dig them, of course, but she wasn’t about to let me have her digger. I hope I’m doing as well at her age. 

It’s also a good time to divide certain plants, and I have an abundance of daylilies this year that need this action. As the area in the back of fence is getting too much for me to handle, co-workers and neighbors will benefit, even casual passers by will see those divisions marked “free” at my curbside in a week or so. I always save the containers my plants come in for this re-use and recommend the practice. I’ll keep a few here and there in my beds, of course, along with some Stella Doro lilies and a few sweet little red varieties, but most of them are destined for give-a-way.  As lilies require fairly frequent division for good blooms (especially the Stella Doro’s), it’s time for this aging gardener to have a few less of them in the yard. 

Here’s something I’ll share that worked for me last fall. We all know it’s a bit of a quandary, trying to save hardy chrysanthemums that late into the year.  One likes to have them in containers and on the door step for decoration, but by the time that season passes, in most years it is way too late to get them rooted for over-wintering in the yard.  Well, I used several of those portable greenhouses (I had bought one on clearance a few years back, one at a yard sale, I think), and honestly, at first considered them something of a white elephant purchase, but have finally found a good use. 

I secured them by taking off the bottom crossbar and shoving them a good six inches deep around my planted mums as well as a few additional late season purchases, then put on the zippered plastic covering and kept the plants well watered until the ground froze.  It was a long shot, but apparently created enough of a greenhouse effect to save them, keeping them (and possibly the immediate soil below) just warm enough to allow the plants to establish in the new area.  I am pleased to say I was able to keep several mums, a small lily and a Limelight hydrangea in this way that may now be transplanted into the yard. 

One other thing I’ve done is to get my pots ready, pots for the peppers and tomatoes, trellises in place, potato containers ready, and fill them with a lightweight planting mix. I find the lighter the bag the better. One can always add in a little compost, and it certainly makes the lifting and pouring a back-saving operation.  Now, when those warm weather plants arrive, I’ll be ready to tuck in a few along with the spikes, herbs and flowering annuals and just enjoy that process.  

The Market opening is rapidly approaching, so mark Saturday, May 5th on your Calendar.  I’ll be there on opening day with my Minneapolis daughter and her family and look forward to showing it off.