It is mid-January now, the heart of winter. Each year around this time I like to write one post that features some pictures from my gardens during the previous summer. Something to bring back memories of flowers, gardens, swimming, and summer warmth. I love winter, but even I am ready for a bit summer by now. The lush green plants and vibrant colors of the flowers bring me flashbacks to fun time spent on the patio last year.
Having the break of winter makes time spent on the patio, and gardening, that much sweeter. I would not enjoy either season as much without the break of the other. By autumn, I am tired from planting, splitting, weeding, fertilizing, deadheading, pruning, watering, and all the other work that accompanies keeping up multiple flowerbeds.
Now that we have had cold and snow for a bit, I am starting to think about planning for this summer’s gardens. What flowers to plant, where to put each and when. This month would be a good time to order any seeds that we need. Last year I made the mistake of ordering seeds when I wanted them. Everyone else decided to order seeds last spring too and garden while they were sheltering at home. I did not get most of my seeds until it was nearly too late to plant them. This year, I will order early. I would advise you to do the same.
It is always a gamble in this climate (northeast Ohio) on when to start seeds indoors. The start of warmer weather is never guaranteed by any certain date. Some years it is safe to plant in April, and other years not until late in May. Sometimes I get away with planting early by covering my seedlings with sheets if frost is forecast. Other years it is too cold even for that.
If I plant seeds in trays early and plan to keep them inside as long as necessary, many of my plants get too tall and leggy, and lack good support. If I start them in trays later, they are small when I put them in the ground or containers and more susceptible to bug and bird damage. I guess if I could plant the same way, at the same time every year, it would not be as much fun.
I do start my seeds on our enclosed porch so the temperature must stay above freezing there for me to get started. We have a vegetable garden as well so our porch can get quite crowded with the various pots, trays, and containers. It is always a mish-mash of saved containers, supplemented with assorted cans and bottles that I have pulled out of the recycling bin to augment my collection.
By the time I slip those little plants into the soil, it is reminiscent of sending a child off to school. I have fed, watered, and sheltered them for so long that I am invested in their well being and survival. When one is attacked by slugs or picked out by birds, I take it personally. Hopefully I will have more sprouts as back up replacements. Those I may cover at night with upturned soda bottle or little screen cages in an attempt to help them reach maturity.
We also buy new plants each year. Some are annuals and others are perennials to add to our collection. Even the perennials take work. Most of my perennials, I split or relocate in the spring. They also need pruning and shaping. Any dead sections that didn’t survive the cold must be removed. The roses need fertilizing when the time is right so they will produce blooms. I fertilize my roses monthly with a solution that also contains chemicals for fungus and Japanese beetles.
Trees may need to be trimmed if they have grown over plants that require full sun. Specifically, for the peonies and roses. They will grow but not flower if they do not have enough sun. Growing a garden involves a lot of doing your best to control nature. The growth of other plants and insects. Adding nutrients. Watering. It is an attempt to find a balance that allows your plants to thrive.
You can see why I am relieved when that first frost comes. Gardening is tiring work. But it is also rewarding and life giving. That is why so many people garden, and it is something that has lasted across the landscape of time. And that is why I plant.