Spring Is Just Around The Corner
by The English Lady
Shropshire, England, my home county, has been having a really mild winter and my eighty-six year old stepmother and my ninety-nine year old father have already begun their indoor seed planting. It’s a very interesting arrangement as Dad is blind in the one eye and so he seeds one side of a tray and my stepmother the other. A few miles way in Cheshire, the next county north of Shropshire, my friend Ann was outdoors this weekend with the 40 degrees temperature pruning some shrubs, cutting down last season’s perennials, and adding a nice layer of manure to her borders. Of course I am looking out of my window and the wind is bitter cold and was blowing so hard that I thought that some of my roof tiles would tear off. However, that said, I can take heart because according to the Farmers Almanac spring temperatures will be warmer than normal this year and I can’t wait!
Now that I am a tad older winter weather brings me no joy, especially as skiing is not on my agenda any more. Although a walk around the lake with the winter sunshine and just a slight breeze is most refreshing. And before you know it, it will be time to get cracking in the garden. There are some chores you can do now if you were a bit lax at the end of last year. For example if any of your power tools require maintenance or repair, now is the time to get them into the shop, because as soon as the weather breaks the repair shop will be very busy and you may not get your lawn mower back until August and by that time you will be able to sell your grass as cow fodder to the farmer up the road.
Check your tools and if you did not clean them off at the end of last season, plunge the shovels, spades etc. into a bucket of sand (it acts like sand paper) and then clean the residue off with sand paper. Oil the wooden handles of tools with Linseed oil or some inexpensive vegetable oil; it will feed the wood and also smooth it so you do not get as many splinters. The blisters you may get on your winter-softened hands are bad enough when you begin in earnest outside. Also check your hoses and fittings, which may have sprung leaks since last year. Make a shopping list of new tools that you need as this time of year you can often buy bargains. But only buy quality tools and hoses, because the old adage always applies that “you get what you pay for.” Also check that you have enough twine, bamboo rods, wire ties, or nails.
Include in your shopping list any organic or eco-conscious sprays and fertilizers you use; we have enough junk in the air and our water supply, so organic is the way to go. Get bags of composted manure, unless you have a farm close by that will sell you a truckload. However, if you go that route ask the farmer to give you the manure from the bottom of the pile – aged stuff. New manure will burn your plants; it needs to be at least six months old. As I’ve said previously in my articles, blog, and radio show; Manure is like a fine wine, it gets better with age, just like me.
Take a look at the paintwork on your wooden fences, arbors, decks, outdoor buildings, etc. Look now so on a day for painting you will not have to make a special trip, as everything will be on hand. Then of course there are the paint brushes (your old ones that you forgot to clean off last year are stiff as a poker) so new ones are required, as well as sand paper and brush cleaner. If you are painting benches and garden seats make sure they are dry on the day you paint and put them under cover early. Make sure your greenhouse is getting as much light as possible. White walls reflect light. Paint over any areas that need retouching now and use low voc paints. I am always pleased how much brighter it becomes in there after the glass has had a good cleaning. Keep spraying in the greenhouse; however meticulously clean and tidy your greenhouse, whitefly, greenfly, and scale insects seem to find their way in. Mid-February is a serious seed sowing time.
Prepare now and make sure you have enough inexpensive envelopes for sorting the seeds, enough seed trays, plant packs, and seed compost. Remember that there are about five hundred seeds in each packet and if you end up with twenty packs you can seed the whole neighborhood. You can also have a seed swap & planting party and share the bounty with other gardener friends. Well enough about chores for it’s about forty degrees and I do need to stretch my legs and back a bit. It’s time for me to take a walk around the garden and then it’s time for my four o’clock cup of tea. I’ll see you in your garden next time.