Well, friends, the groundhog did not see his shadow this weekend, and his prediction for an early spring coordinates perfectly with all of the almanac’s long range forecasting as well as with all of the gardening sties I follow, and their guesses for our last likely frost date. Here in Oklahoma, we can feel pretty confident about seeing above average temperatures for the rest of February and possibly a true spring by mid March. That’s just a few weeks away!! I don’t know about you, but the older I get the shorter that seems. Now is the time to focus and get to work. And I could not be happier about this.
This is how I will spend the next few (or several) weeks:
- Reading. Every winter I like to brush up on a few favorite books. Barbara Kingsolver’s localvore memoir, Animal Vegetable Miracle, my friend Dee’s instruction book, the lighthearted classic by Dick Raymond Joy of Gardening, and this year, also, some various paperbacks. The internet is brimming with great resources, too. I found a woman in Arkansas (same Zone 7 as me) who has the most luscious You Tube channel called, “Roots and Refuge.” I want my brain and my imagination filled to bursting!
- Hardscapes & Prep Work: These are the weeks to finish repairs to arbors and raised beds, though thankfully those tasks are minimal this year. My general leaf-and-debris cleanup is about two-thirds done now, too, which puts me ahead of my usual game. And while I promised my husband, “No new gardens,” I did ask for some trellises, ha! And he lovingly obliged. This weekend we bought several used cattle panels and erected tall, arched trellis shapes between the three pairs of raised beds, and I am so excited!! One of the spots needs some adjusting, but overall they are ready to grow stuff. This simple change has basically doubled our vegetable space.
- Planning & Scheming: My 2019 growing lists and earliest seed orders have been done for a while, and in fact I have several trays of seedlings growing nicely already; but there is still some exact garden bed planning to do. I want a clear picture in my mind of which veggies will go where, decide how to do some crop rotation, do some strategizing about squash bugs, and generally know how much of flower beds need filling (especially the big New Orleans shade garden and three flower trough containers). This will all help me spend money wisely when the nurseries and hardware stores lure me in with their oceans of color. Overall, just some critical thinking and getting clear about my wishes and our needs.
- Plan to Prune & Plant: I have lots of question marks in my brain about some of our trees and when they need pruning, so I’ll read up on that. Also the roses?! And I have a short list of new shrubs and fruit trees that might get added to the collection this year, but I want to shop around first. I have a little slice of time to do that. (Do you have any thoughts on cherry trees in Oklahoma?)
- Compost: This ongoing project has been progressing nicely for months now, and it’s finally time to put it to good use. As I have an hour here and there I will cart the finished stuff uphill to all the readied beds then continue flipping, refilling, and flipping again the three large compost bins. Each stage of decomposition has its own personality, I swear. My husband (via his friend Brandon, thanks Brandon!) recently gifted me with a brand new red wheelbarrow, boasting ergonomic handles (I can’t even believe what a difference this makes), so I get really excited to do any jobs that require using it. Regarding compost: If you have even just a little space, I highly recommend building a permanent composting area for your gardens. It has been one of my most valued farm improvements, ever in the history of my gardening adventure, ever. If you don’t have this much space, but you still want the benefits of compost, options abound. Let me know if you’d like a post on this topic!
The week days stay full, and my husband and I both love staying busy on the weekends, so I am thankful for our ever-increasing daylight hours and the mild weather forecast. With plenty of focus and a little luck, the farm will be spic and span and bursting with fresh color by Easter weekend (April 21st this year). We will probably be harvesting salads and strawberries by then, too, and maybe hatching baby chicks! If I am very, very spoiled rotten by the Universe, then late April will see baby tomato vines and pepper plants taking shape here and there. I predict, yes. Yes to that miracle and much, much more.
Okay, happy seed starting, friends! Happy garden planning and soil flipping. Happy daydreaming about warmer days and the smell of basil and the sound of cicadas. Seize your days. Know that they are fleeting. Accept each one as a beautiful gift.
“One kind word can warm
three winter months.”