Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Chores at 45 degrees??

I suspect all New England gardeners have been waiting more impatiently for warm weather than kids wait for Christmas.  After the monster winter we've suffered through, the hunger for spring has become more and more painful as the temperature refused to get beyond 50 degrees.

When the day finally arrived that I didn't have to put on a woolly hat and mittens, I went out to face the winter's destruction.  I knew exactly what my first job would be - picking up the bark and branches my dying sugar maple had been shedding all winter and the stubby broken limbs littering the lawn from the Carpathian walnut, riddled with holes made by the sapsuckers.

That debris will make good kindling next year for the wood stove, but picking it was a full morning's work and not what my bad back needed.  In fact the only other job I could tackle that day was one that didn't 
involve leaning over - cutting back the autumn clematis beside the front porch.  It always amazes me how fast  the new stems of that clematis will sprout and climb and even reach the porch roof by June. That is 
not true of my other clematis vines which I must cut back in a very limited way.                                      

Since my back is still in bad shape, I was relieved when that one warm day was followed by more cold  and rain, but how to finish the rest of this column presented a problem.  I decided to fill it by mentioning a few of the other jobs I will tackle when my back and the weather improve.  You probably won't learn much, but it   might make you thankful that your own garden chores aren't as major as the ones I'll face on Locust Hill.     

As you can see, I don't tidy up my 100-foot perennial border each fall.  The big reason I wait until spring is because the stalks of all the tall plants, phlox, asters, daisies, etc. if removed in late September or October must be individually clipped, while in April they can be broken off by hand, a dozen at a time.  Plus the fact that doing the job in April is much more fun - discovering the first green leaves of a lupine pushing up through the debris, uprooting a thistle with ease from the wet soil, or releasing a struggling daffodil of the old dead leaves strangling it.

There are scummy birdbaths to clean and all that tired ivy on the wall behind the birdbath that needs to be clipped - so much prettier when you can see the stone wall.  There are also many shrubs that need pruning and as you can see below, hunks of lawn uprooted by the town plow to replace.


And lest I forget - there's the yearly chore of mending the sheep fences.  This is usually not a big job, but after the winter's heavy snows, our fences, as you can see, are showing their age.  Hopefully you will not have quite so many spring chores to tackle when warm weather gets here.  Surely we will wake up to      beautiful sunshine on Easter morning. 



  1. Mama Mia ~ what a lot of work you have ahead of you, and some of it rather heavy... is there any help nearby for fence repair, at least? Enjoy pulling out those dead stalks when the weather improves - as it surely will. Hope your back does, too!

  2. I've noticed how easy the spring cleanup of perennials is too and similarly enjoy the bits of green you get to see while clearing things out. I have no fences to mend or ivy-covered walls to rescue, just some lovely hydrangeas to move out from under the Norway Maple and some dwarf variegated willows to move out of hte perennials garden where they looked sweet when saplings, but showed sure signs of taking over last summer! I too, here in coastal Mass., await the days over 50 degrees! Perhaps today, Easter Sunday will bring such a gift. thanks for your blog; it inspires and reminds me of the garden's joys.

  3. I am only Anonynous because I have no idea how to use any of the other choces offered!

  4. Hatsy, you're an inspiration! I could almost smell the cool spring soil.

  5. Greetings from Brownsville Hatsy. After reading your column I feel so much better about the dried helianthus stalks around the pond staring at me everyday.... waiting. They can wait until I can walk in that part of the yard without sinking to my knees in mud. I shouldn't complain though. We're having a glorious spring - no wildfires, no tornadoes, no floods - just exuberant blooming of everything!

  6. Nice info. Thank you.
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