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Gardening in the Time of Pandemic

 Crocus have no fear of the pandemic

Crocus have no fear of the Pandemic

The spring equinox, the first day of spring, arrived on March 19 this year, the earliest it has been since 1896! Clearly Madame Spring was not happy about being called to duty so early. She arrived with snow and rain and gloom. A pandemic also arrived.

Spring arrived just as people were beginning to really understand what the presence of Corvid-19 means. It means “sheltering in place,” and observing ‘social distancing,” which means staying home and keeping six feet away- from everyone.  None of this is easy in a time of pandemic.

So what can I do every day?

I can look for pleasure. I smile at my crocuses, purple and gold. I admire the daffodil shoots. I get my rake and feed the compost bins with wet leaves. I am amazed at all the other green shoots hiding under the leaves.

When I take my rake out of our shed I blush to see the disarray. This is the time of year to get really organized! Now I have no excuses. I have time to organize. I have time to give the tools a good cleaning, and sharpening when necessary. I have time to categorize the organic fertilizers. I have time to clean the flower pots and set them outside. I have time to consider which of those-too-many pots can be given away.

I have time to work with my husband setting up grow-lights in the basement. I have an array of seeds chosen at the Cabin Fever Seed Swap and they can be started now.

My husband and I both have time to move the delicious delivery of compo-soil from Martin’s Compost Farm that has just been delivered. Our wet garden always needs a topping off.

raspberry patch set up

Raspberry patch set-up. The leaves have been left as mulch

Over the past three years the raspberry patch became more and more difficult to harvest. How could I have forgotten the need for posts and wires to keep the canes in place. I knew how to do that in Heath! Oh, well. Onward!

My husband had put up stakes last year, and a couple of weeks ago he put wires around the stakes. This will keep my three raspberry rows in line. So to speak. This week I cut out the dead canes, and cut back the canes that will bear berries this year.

I’d like to tell you which raspberry varieties I grow, but the list is lost. I tend to like heirloom varieties like Latham and Heritage, so I might have at least one of those. Latham bears in mid-season, and Heritage in late summer into fall. I was picking well into fall last year so Heritage might be what I planted. Prelude is a variety that bears early which is always happy. And Boyne raspberries gets Excellent grades for flavor, freezing quality and winter hardiness! I might very well have chosen Boyne, but I don’t know for sure. I keep promising to keep better records, but . . .

I only grow red raspberries but Nourse Farms also offers black raspberries, yellow raspberries, and Double Gold with “a deep blush, golden champagne color” and very sweet.

The raspberries are just showing swelling buds, but what I call the herb garden, is getting down to business. I have a large sage plant right outside the kitchen door. It does not shed all its foliage during the winter. Unless it is covered with snow, I can harvest a few leaves if my fall harvest has been used up. I love that sage plant.

The wind had deposited lots of leaves on the herb garden. When I raked them off I revealed clumps of chives, ready to be put to use. I also have a clump of alliums.

Chives

Chives and allium. The wind keep blowing the wind around and it loves this spot against the house. We are working on collecting the leaves!

Chives, of course, are also an allium. The chives are for using in the kitchen, but this other allium is mostly decorative. The foliage is heavier, and the white blooms wait until mid-summer to appear. I do not use them in the kitchen.

Thyme grows near the chives. Both are ready for use in the kitchen right now.

Oregano

Oregano – and leaves

The surprise was the oregano. I forgot how large the oregano plot was last fall. That patch had been covered with leaves all winter. After clearing the leaves the cheerful sunny green foliage was revealed. It too is ready for use.

Removing leaves revealed another green surprise – mountain mint. I actually have two varieties of mountain mint which attract many pollinators including flies, beetles, wasps and bees. They are such good pollinators that the Garden Club of America chose it as the Plant of the Year in 2018. The particular mountain mint that I uncovered is Pycnanthemum muticum which has ‘short toothed’ foliage. It is green and growing.

Mountain mint

Mountain mint – Bees love mountain mint

I do also have narrow leaf mountain mint, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, but it is still sleeping.

The excitement in the garden did not end with the delightful uncovering of green, but with a quiet, beautiful snowfall. Always a surprise in the garden.

This is how we are gardening in the time of pandemic.

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This past week I learned about the 1001 Pollinator Gardens project. Amy of the Wing and a Prayer nursery in Cummington told me how to join the crowd.  I sent in my application that included a plant list.  Amy wrote back and told me that she was happy  that I had trees and shrubs in our garden. She was especially happy that we had planted two river birch trees. She said that river birches can host nearly 400! Species of caterpillars. I had no idea.

Check out https://1001pollinatorgardens.org/ and think about joining this great project.###

Between the Rows  March 28, 2020

2 comments to Gardening in the Time of Pandemic

  • Yum, the fresh herbs will be so delicious! This time is so strange. It’s hard to imagine the future, too, and how we move forward. Gardening will always be good therapy!

  • Pat

    Beth – So good to hear from you. The garden is a great refuge – and things look greener every day. If only we would get some sun!

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