by Kevin Neary
First crocus, how you make my heart sing!
Sunshine and warmth with you bring.
Oh, harbinger of that glorious Spring!
Snow and ice are melting away
Light grows brighter each lengthening day.
The soil grows warm and though you will not last long.
Behold, you are such a welcome little song!
Spring is such a wonderful time of year! The harsh cold of winter has faded. The air is fresh and signs of life, like the little crocus, indicate to gardeners that the time is drawing near to break the soil and once again, begin the worthy task of sowing and cultivating the garden. The onset of spring is a time for renewal and rebirth. The circle of seasons progresses into a new year of life and rebirth in the world of nature.
Here are some of the things I have planned for my garden this year.
Cold frames can help to extend the seasons. A simple cold frame can warm the soil and protect tender young plants and crops that are sensitive to cold snaps. Using a cold frame can permit the gardener to begin a month or so earlier in spring and allow the harvest of some food crops a month or two later at the end of the growing cycle. I will be using simple cold frames more this year to extend the growing season. The picture below is a make-shift tarp cover cold frame over my main raised bed. It was sufficient to shield the late season lettuce from the first heavy freeze at the end of last year’s growing season.
Bats are very beneficial to humans. For example, a single bat can consume 600 mosquitoes in one hour! Unfortunately, bats in North America are dying off in massive numbers due to a mysterious fungus called White-Nose Syndrome. Last year, Diane had the great idea to look for directions to build a bat house. My son, Robert was kind enough to build the bat-house, while he was here.
The picture above is the Bat-House that Bob built. It is rather large and I am having a difficult time finding a place that would be suitable for it. I will wait until I find a suitable spot to install this large Bat-House. In the mean time, there are others available that are much smaller and Diane has ordered a smaller one here.
It was snowing when I put the new smaller version Bat-House up in the tree. Added–3/25/13
The intention is to try and attract bats to my yard and garden and offer an alternative habitat. Apparently, the caves in which they normally hibernate are where the fungus is spreading most rapidly. Another benefit to having bats nearby is bat guano is a source of organic fertilizer to add nitrogen and phosphorous to the soil. I will be placing the Bat-house in one of the trees near the garden.
One of my Chinese students has recommended that I plant some Hong Kong Lilies, also known by the botanical name, lilium brownii. From my reading I have learned that this lily has many culinary and medicinal uses. Unfortunately, I can not find that specific bulb anywhere in the U.S. Perhaps one of my Chinese students can find a source for me.
For folks who are limited on space, container gardens can be a good alternative to a plot of ground. Many city dwellers choose to grow a few types of vegetables in containers on the deck or window sill. Here is a link to a very cool container made by a Danish company. There is nothing else like a fresh tomato in your salad! Herbs are also popular items for growing in containers. Here is a source to trade seeds for free. There are many wonderful varieties of heirloom vegetables and herbs. The internet is a terrific place for finding sources of these varieties. Basil is a wonderfully fragrant herb and I love to make Pesto every summer and save it in the freezer for use in pasta dishes after the garden is shut down for the year.
Rodale is a terrific resource for the organic gardener. They have articles about gardening and food preparation and food preservation/storage methods.