Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Now welcome, somer

Now welcome somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres wedres overshake,
And driven away the longe nyghtes blake!
- Geoffrey Chaucer, The Parlement of Fowls

Maybe it's not quite summer here yet, but the long black nights have been driven away.  The daylight hours exceed the dark.  I'm trying to see April in a positive light, but it's a tough sell.

April is a month of anxiety, injury, and anticipation.  First I fretted about the asparagus, which didn't show any signs of life until a few days ago.  Had I killed it with the fall pruning, which some gardeners claim leads to water getting down into the hollow tubes of the stalks and rotting the crowns?  I dug around in the heavily mulched raised beds, looking for little nubs of asparagus stalks.  They eluded me, and I had to curb the overwhelming urge to check the bed every. single. day. Then I worried about the ramps that I planted in the shade on the north side of our shed.  Were they goners?  I've been patiently waiting three years now for them to reproduce themselves by division, so that I can eat some of them.  They were very slow to emerge too.  And I still judge that there are too few yet to harvest.  Another year of postponed ramp harvest.  We may yet this year receive some more ramps for transplant donated by a relative.  In any case, I'm determined that we'll harvest some next year, whatever their reproductive rate.  Maybe some of the seeds set last year will result in more ramps too.

And the injuries, yes.  Plenty of those.  I posted about my bashed thumb, which has stopped hurting, and mercifully hasn't cost me my thumb nail.  But I now sport major bruises in all sorts of inconvenient spots, and my right hand and wrist are still strained from not working carefully.  Spring garden work is awfully tough on a body softened by winter's indolence.  This is not a season conducive to rest and recuperation.  I'm getting my calluses back fairly quickly.

Oh, and rain.  April's rain is proverbial.  I try to see it as beneficial to the garden, and all the seeds that I've sown.  It does make for easier weeding, but somehow that's not my favorite chore. And between the all too frequent downpours, we've been seeing near record temperatures in the last week or so.

So enough whinging.  Spring is here, even if we're not out of the woods yet with the risk of frost.  That could come back and bite us where the sun don't shine well into May.  But the spring blossoms have started, and it's a joy to watch the trees of the neighborhood put forth their various hues.  The maples start with a gossamer veil of red, whatever color their leaves will eventually take on.  The plums are blooming pure white, while our two different magnolias have lush blooms of extravagant pink and white.  The neighborhood redbuds are lovely with their thick purplish-pink blooms. Our young pear curtsies to the older pear across the way, with synchronous buds of palest pink.  It's nice to see that our pears will not lack for pollination services.  Other trees put their leaves on first, starting with a yellow-green haze that seems to float around the still bare branches.  Our figs and hazelnuts are slowly leafing out.  The irises (pure ornamentals for which I have a secret weakness) planted near the front door look like they'll blossom this year.

To prevent a repeat of this month's anxiety over various crops, I've finally started keeping a garden journal.  I had thought it would be tedious, which is why I didn't start years ago, as I should have.   But I find I enjoy jotting notes on what I'm doing and observing in the garden.  It makes me more aware of the daily changes that happen so quickly in spring - all in a seeming blur if I don't pay attention.  These notes will give me reference dates for events such as the first robin of the year, or when the violets bloomed, our last snowfall - a handy tool for next year and in all subsequent years.  I can see how comparing this sort of data could become a bit addictive once you have a few years of documentation to play with.  But even one year of data will remind me not to expect asparagus in early April.


louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife said...

I started a gardening journal at the start of my sowing this year but I only kept it up to date for about a week before lapsing. Naughty me. I really should dig it out and try again - as you say, our future selves will thank us for the information!

Sandy said...

Kate, I have a secret wild ramp-spot. I'm planning to harvest some next Saturday. If you like, I could bring you a clump or two to plant.

Unknown said...

I love watching the Spring Blossom. Just beautiful.

Sft x

teekaroo said...

I do really well keeping notes until things start to get busy and then I kind of forget. It sure is handy to have though.

Pomona said...

I have found it really helpful to record sowing dates and emergence with a note of temperatures - it does give a guide to what works best. It has been far too hot for the time of year here, so we have been eating asparagus for a while, but I suspect the season may be rather short as a consequence.

Great to discover your blog and a like-minded soul!

Pomona x

Paula said...

It seems the springs are coming later and taking longer to leave these past few years. I suspect that it's part of climate change. The author of one of the gardening books I've reviewed who lives on Victoria Island in British Columbia noted in the book that she's noticed the same thing.

If it's true, that means that early varieties of the summer stuff will be all that more important. It sure makes figuring out what to plant and when a puzzle. Glad to know that your asparagus is alright, and I sure wish I had ramps in my yard!

Kate said...

Louisa, that's pretty much how I expected my garden journal keeping to go, based on plenty of past experience of my own habits. No idea why it's going better this time. Perhaps it's the anxiety of waiting for so many things this spring.

Sandy, that would be awesome sauce! I would happily offer to come with you and do the footwork myself, but I see you designate it as your secret spot. I know enough to respect closely held foraging ground knowledge. So yes, please! I'd be delighted with whatever you care to share. And if there's anything at my place you'd like to take a cutting of, I'd be happy to donate to your garden too.

SFT, indeed. It's one of the consolations (for aches and pains and hard work) of spring.

teekaroo, I'm sort of okay with it if my record keeping peters out. I feel like the really critical part of the year is spring, which I've already covered a good chunk of anyway. But I hope I'd resume next spring at least.

Pomona, welcome! Yes, I'm trying to include those sowing and emergence dates too, though I didn't make that clear in my post. It's been very warm here already and it just doesn't seem right. It seems that nothing weatherwise is even broadly predictable anymore.

Paula, here in the east, our springs seem more abrupt - too warm too quickly. We're seeing temps in the 80's and high 70's in April, which just shouldn't be, at least not as anything more than a one-day fluke. That's what we should be getting a month or six weeks from now. I think what we're going to need, in every place, are new genetic lines that are selected for adaptability to unpredictable weather.

Unknown said...

Wow, those trees are utterly gorgeous! I'm jealous. We have blueberries and strawberries in the garden, and a blackberry bramble just a small walk away. I've got a grapefruit and sour orange tree nearby, as well as persimmions and date palms - but this is Florida. What I am unable to grow are cherries, apples, pears and others that I miss dearly when they aren't in season and because they aren't locally grown!


Kate said...

xysea, thanks, they came with the house. And I have to say that the display is an incredibly ephemeral phenomenon. Unless we have a very cool spring, there are about 36 hours in the year when such a picture could be taken. All those pink magnolia blooms are now a rapidly browning carpet on the yard in front of the house. As for jealousy - it's all relative. Tropical fruits are largely out of the question for us here. I'm jealous of those who can grow mangoes and avocado. But I try hard to appreciate our pears, apples, and cherries.