Thursday, March 30, 2006

Garden Prepping in New England, Part II

Well, we spent another day out in the abundant, though surprising, New England sunshine and warmth; a rarity in the last days of March. There was not a cloud in the sky, but in retrospect, we realized we should have started a bit earlier. Early in the morning, there was no wind at all, but by the time we finished our morning errands and indoor chores, we did not make it out into the garden until just after noon. A slight breeze had picked up, and gained a bit of strength throughout the day. It felt nice; it simply made raking and bagging leaves, grass, and debris, a bit more difficult.

Our first task today was to attack the pile of firewood. We had only about 3/4 of a cord of wood left over from the winter. Since April snowstorms are not all that uncommon in New England, we piled half the wood in our basement next to the wood stove, and stored the rest in the garage. Last year a neighbor generously gave us several large, downed tree limbs to chop up and use for firewood. We stacked those neatly on the beams used for the woodpile, after sweeping off the bulk of the dead leaves. With the woodpile taken care of, we could now attack our side yard and garden.

The side yard is only half the size of the front yard, and only has about 10 square yards of grass. The rest is garden area where we have several flowering bushes and a few patches of crocuses, narcissus and daffodils. Or rather, that's where many of them used to be. Two years ago we had the coldest winter our state had seen in over fifty years; but we also had very little snow. Consequently, many, many plants died without the snow as insulation. We lost all our rose bushes, narcissus and daffodils. Miraculously, the hearty little crocuses survived, as did most of the larger bushes and trees, but many were never quite the same after that.

We were hesitant, at best, to plant a whole new slew of rose bushes and daffodils, so for the past couple of years, we have simply made due with what was left: a large forsythia bush up front near the mailbox, a skinny, but healthy aspen tree, and three flowering bushes of unknown origin. Our garden prepping for this day was to clean out from the garden area all the excess dead leaves that were missed last fall, as well as any other debris, including branches, sticks, and scraps of old, dried-out cedar mulch.

It only took us about three hours to clean out and bag the entire space. A friendly neighbor popped over and helped us bag some of it. We had the radio playing our favorite tunes, and the weather could not have been more beautiful. When we finished raking up the excess leaves which had gotten stuck under some of the bushes, we were delighted to find new green shoots of flowers, parts of the bushes, or even weeds. In a still-brown early spring, with little or no evidence of green on the trees or bushes, it was a thrill to find that nature is working behind the scenes. We even found a few tiny periwinkles which had already bloomed.

Now that our side garden in the front has been cleaned, the next step is to plan what we will do with it this year. There are many open spots with all of what was lost in the freeze. We will begin with covering much of it with fresh, new, red cedar mulch. After that, who knows? More daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and perhaps even a rose bush or two. We can enjoy what we plant this year, as well as look forward to next spring (harsh winter permitting) to see what pops up under the few dead leaves that are left each year. Gardening in New England is a constant cycle. We cannot simply plant, sit back, and watch it all grow like we did in California. It is a way of life here to ride the tide of the seasons. But now, after the cleaning has been done, the planning and planting is the best part!

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