Plans for plants just part of irresistible force of spring

Posted March 27, 2009, at 6:37 p.m.

It smells like spring.

That’s all I could think last week just hours before spring arrived as the sun warmed the earth, the snow melted and the soil thawed.

It smelled like spring two days later as I stood in the doorway to a greenhouse at Glenburn Gardens.

The hot, humid air rolled over me as I spotted retired co-worker and good friend Dick Smith, who was wrist-deep in potting soil, surrounded by plants in varying stages of development. From the 5-gallon tomatoes — some already sporting blossoms — to the flats of just-planted seeds, I could feel spring’s arrival.

I spent a lovely couple of hours talking with Dick and his wife, LoAnn Green. We chatted about the new addition to my family, puppy Kai who had come along for the ride, and Dick and I caught up on what went on in our gardens last year, from an inexhaustible supply of cucumbers from a particular variety to a not-so-great year for tomatoes, at least in my garden.

Before I left, I ordered a tomato and a cucumber plant, those of the 5-gallon-bucket variety that will be 6 feet tall by the time I pick them up in late May. Last year was the first time I tried to stuff a 6-foot tomato plant into the front seat of my car; it rode home in a reclining position and emerged little the worse for wear. I suspect the cucumber cage will present more difficulties, but I am game to try it, especially since it means I’ll likely have cucumbers to eat during the month of June.

As the snow has melted and bare ground has emerged, my garden plotting has kicked in with a vengeance.

When I walk the dog about the yard, I am seeing not the dead grass and mucky ground but freshly turned soil and itty-bitty little plants emerging.

I can see a couple of the beds reworked by the gardening shed, a great place to start since it is dry sooner because it is high ground. I’m thinking sweet peas would be nice there, with maybe a border of zinnias and nasturtiums. I have to mulch a couple of the beds and work on the fruit bed with its strawberries and raspberries, which somehow was lost in the shuffle during cleanup last year.

Near the rhubarb and the grapevines I am thinking of permanently planting a hardy fig — yes, a fig — I have on order from Pinetree Garden Seeds. The tree needs protection in the winter and my mind has skittered ahead with the thought of purchasing a pop-up greenhouse to serve as its cover and perhaps extend the harvest on some items. I found a nifty conservatory-style greenhouse online, round with a steep, pointed roof that would keep snow from piling up on it. It’s something I can save for, and in a worst-case scenario, I can always dig the fig up and bring it inside.

As the dog was poking around one of the apple trees earlier this week, I had a brilliant idea for a space amid the apples that has been fallow for too long. Originally, it was meant for an apple tree, but we can’t seem to keep one alive in that spot.

So I could just picture a nice plot of greens whiling away their hours in that partially shaded site. I also could picture a rabbit or a deer having a field day chomping on them, too, but I think it might be an ideal location to get some things in earlier and to work on some succession planting: spinach, Swiss chard, lettuces, Oriental greens and more. They can tolerate a bit of shade and still produce well; most years I have to put up a piece of shade cloth to keep the lettuce from bolting too early anyway.

If I can do that, then it will free up room in the main vegetable garden. I have plans to plant more corn this year since I finally had success with it last year. It also would create some more elbow room for the tomatoes, which I tend to crowd too much because I run out of space.

I am full of plans this year. Sometimes it seems like I am just pulling these things willy-nilly out of the air.

I’m not. There’s an irresistible force at work here: spring.

Smells good, doesn’t it?

jpineo@bangordailynews.net

www.janinepineo.com

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