The Early Gardener

After a relatively mild winter (although we have had plenty of moisture, more than our average), by mid-February, it was obvious that we were going to have an early spring.  By first of March, I was able to walk around in my back yard barefoot without getting cold, which in my mind means the ground is just about warm enough to plant.

In a previous post, I talked about some of what I was doing, and included some pictures.  I added a new raised bed last fall (about 4 foot by 12 food), and added manure to both the existing raised bed and the small garden bed by the back door.  Then I got really crazy and planted seed for kale, peas, lettuce, and radishes.

A month later, I have kale, peas, and lettuce seedlings, although the radishes seem to be a no-show.  I also have herbs starting to show life.  The lemon balm is already looking good (even though it’s supposed to be an annual), the thyme is starting to show new green leaves, and the chives never even died back.  The rosemary still looks like a dried up stick, but the parsley that re-seeded itself is doing great.

This is not to say that we haven’t had some return of winter along the way.  We had 7 inches of snow in mid-March, then another 17 inches of snow on March 23.  What we haven’t had is temps lower than about 24 degrees.  Most of my cold-weather seedlings are in the warmest bed – the one next to the house that gets all the reflected heat from the southern sun.  The snow melts, nice and slow, and all that mineral-rich moisture just soaks in and gives those cold-weather seedlings just what they need.

Having this mild of a late winter/spring is not the norm, at least in the five years I’ve been in Colorado.  Two years ago, it snowed heavily and was bitterly cold every Tuesday into Wednesday in the month of April, and the first Tuesday into Wednesday in May.  It even snowed on Memorial Day that year.  Most of the time, I don’t even think about doing anything outside with the gardens until mid-April.  There’s no point to doing it.  I know I took a big risk this year declaring that spring had come.  But I think I made the right call.  I know it is rather unscientific to judge readiness of the ground and arrival of spring by the feel of the ground under my bare feet, but it seems to work, so why not?

This morning I woke up and it was 58 degrees, and humid.  We are supposed to get rain later, as much as a half-inch.  My seedlings are going to love that, even if the temps are going to drop a bit for the next couple of days (lows in the low 30’s).  I planted beet seed a week ago, and will be putting in turnip and basil seed today, and probably more lettuce seed.  I will start indoor seeds now (squash, mostly).

It feels good to be gardening again.  It is the only thing I miss about winter – no gardening!  And yes, my garden is messy and I have allowed the leaves, leftover straw, and whatever other winter detritus that has come along to remain.  I think it adds to the nutrients already in the soil.  And if you’re paying attention, you will see the rabbit poo sprinkled all over. :)

Lemon balm (left) and my chives, which have been with me for about 10 years now)

Lemon Balm and ChivesThyme.  It is finally starting to show some leaves.  I actually dug it up from its previous location and moved it about a month ago, which I knew was a dangerous act.  But it seems like it is fine! Funny how something that is an “annual” can end up being a perennial after all.

ThymeParsley seedlings.  I let them reseed every year, because they are a biannual, they just keep coming back this way and I never have to actually buy another parsley plant.

Parsley seedlingsKale.

kale seedlingsPeas.

Pea seedlings

Butter Lettuce Seedlings.

Butter lettuce seedlingsApple tree getting ready to bloom.Apple Tree budding outWith spring comes the dandelions.  I fight these things all the time.  Yes, I know about the bee/dandelion thing, but it doesn’t matter.  I’m in an urban area and I need to get rid of them because I don’t need to be spreading them to my garden OR to my neighbors.

spring dandelionA sure sign of spring – daffodils!

DaffodilsBonus if you made it this far… My mother comes to stay with us every summer or fall, for a few weeks.  I love having her here, and she helps with the gardening.  The garden along the side of the house is where I put pole beans on a trellis.  It provides shade for the southern-facing window there.  Her responsibility while she is here, since her bedroom is on the other side of that window, is to pick the beans.  Invariably, some get missed, because pole beans are notoriously known for being able to camouflage beans.  Last summer was no exception, and I guess one of those unpicked bean pods made it to the ground.  We have a volunteer pole bean.  I sent her a picture of it in email, and this was our email exchange:

Me: You missed a bean last summer.  Now look what’s happened!  Any day now, the Giant is going to climb down that thing, looking for Jack.

Mom: Oh Gad! It will pull down the house!

Rogue volunteer pole bean seedling.

Pole bean seedling

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