There is a tendency in human beings to rush into the garden as soon as the temperatures warm and, with nothing but the best of intentions, wreak all means of havoc. Soil is overturned, whether soupy or solid, perennial clumps are unceremoniously divided and tossed into crypt-like holes, and spring bloomers are given drastic haircuts that should have waited until school was out.
To all those weekend warriors out there I have only this to say: Stay calm and sit down. To the experienced cool season gardeners: Go for it.
Which are you? Just ask yourself the following questions: When thinking about the new season ahead, do you think “tomatoes” or do you think “spinach?” Do your early spring shopping trips involve margarita glasses, or are you buying bamboo to stake the peas? Is your gardening wardrobe made up of an old sun hat and a pair of shorts, or a well-worn barn coat? I think you know where I’m going with this.
Quite frankly, many of you cannot be trusted to do right by tender tomato seedlings and burgeoning forsythia once the mercury starts to climb and the sun goes to your head. For that reason I have put together a list of jobs that you can do whilst enjoying the heady feeling of early spring sunshine – without causing too much trouble out there.
1) Clean up your shed/basement/garage. Nothing feels better than reaching for a tool and finding it. Do be aware that there is always the danger of cleaning up the shed just to find that doing so inspired the spouse and various children to start an outside project (with associated mess). You may want to use the mower to block access to the workbenches and neatly arranged tools – or use a lock.
2) Sharpen your tools. Slicing through lavender stems like they were blades of grass is a fantastic feeling. It doesn’t take much to sharpen and oil pruners, loppers, spades and saws. There are even little pocket tools available to sharpen serrated blades.
3) Re-gravel or re-mulch your pathways, playways and driveways and stand amazed at the transformation a bit of landscaping material and a rake can bring to a tired, over-wintered landscape.
4) If the temperatures remain steady around 40 degrees, re-paint or re-stain doors, fences, retaining walls, patios and decks. Once vegetation starts to grow, this job gets much more difficult, and your focus tends to be elsewhere. Also, this gives you a full three seasons to enjoy your work before winter dulls it.
5) Take your pots out of storage and start to place them in the various arrangements you have been envisioning all winter. Taking them out now allows you to inventory what you have and what you need (both pots and plants); and helps to curb impulse buying in the days ahead.
6) Clean up patio and deck furniture. This may involve buying a can of cast-iron spray paint and a mask, or just a rag and a bottle of teak oil. Putting your furniture out now makes it truly feel like spring, and gives you a great place to relax at the end of a particularly warm day. You may want to wait a little while on the pillows though.
And yes, there are seedlings be planted and dirt to be sifted and compost to be turned; but if you find yourself turned off by the cold and turned on by the warm, it’s probably best that you wait a few more weeks before running out there with shovels blazing. For the rest of you hard-core, battle-scarred, green-fingered veterans? Carpe diem. The season is upon us.