Temperatures are in the 60s this week and the sun is finally out. I walk every day to see what flowers are in bloom. So far, I only see crocuses and snowdrops. Daffodil buds are fat, though, and they’ll open any day now. I bought a small flat to plant in our garden because the only early spring bulbs I have are the ones our mail carrier gave me — a crocus and a snowdrop.
I think by next week the daffodils will dot gardens with happy yellow, and maybe the forsythia will pop as well.
This is the time of year where I walk the garden every day to see what shoots are emerging from the ground, what’s about to blossom, and what’s already in bloom. I also like to admire the garden overall with all it’s tidy mulch I spent a week spreading.
I happened to check my viola seeds yesterday, and they sprouted! After a week in the fridge, and then a week out of the fridge but still in darkness, I opened the egg carton lid and saw these little yellow sprouts, trying to find some light:
We hadn’t set up a light for them yet, so my husband hung the shoplight while I figured out the timer, and after one day under lights, our little sprouts are greening up. They’re the only seedlings under the light right now — the bluestem and purple vervain seeds are still in the refrigerator — but soon they’ll have company.
We had a run of above freezing temperatures last week (highs in the 50s and 60s, lows ranging from 29 to 55), and today is bright and warm. There may be some new grass growing — I see green out there where there was only brown last week. I strolled the garden, comfortable in a long sleeved shirt and vest, and saw that tulips are pushing up down by the mailbox:
I should have fertilized before putting the mulch down. That was a dumb mistake.
I dug in the fertilizer by troweling through the mulch, dumping fertilizer into the canal using a plastic cup, and covering the canal again with mulch on the following plants:
Joe Pye weed
Rosemary under the stairs
Lilac and hydrangea by stairs
Echinacea in milkweed bed
My back was breaking by that point so for the remainder of the garden (and the remainder of the 18 lb bag of fertilizer, which was probably 3/4 full when I began), I dumped fertilizer on top of the mulch using a plastic cup:
“You know how you can spot a dogwood tree?” I ran my hand down the trunk of one at the Duke Gardens.
“By its bark,” I said. And then giggled. It’s dumb, I know, but it’s one of those things I remember from my ecology classes at the University of Georgia.
I can identify dogwood trees now, thanks to that joke, and ours is finally blooming. When the cherries, pears, and redbuds were blossoming, I couldn’t figure out why our dogwood wasn’t full of flowers too. Shouldn’t it come early with the other blooming trees?
In my home state of Georgia, I remember dogwoods being my favorite part of spring. They were the only flowering tree I knew, and when I was in college in Athens, where trees stripped bare in winter, dogwoods flowered before any green reappeared in the woods. I’d drive the three and a half hours from the foothills of the Appalachians to my home on the Georgia coast, and all through the forest, in the otherwise brown understory, I would see small trees dotted with white blossoms. Dogwoods.
I photographed our dogwood here in Virginia during the time of the cherry, pear, and redbud blooms. The dogwood flowers were small and green.
I thought they’d be peaking the same time as the other flowering trees, so I wondered, Do we have a different kind of dogwood? I had never watched a dogwood flower up close before, so I didn’t know if that was all they’d do, or if the flowers would grow.
The flowers grew. They took their time. Over a period of three weeks, they slowly spread their celadon petals, and they deepened to a rich white.
Maybe I’m remembering wrong about the earliness of dogwoods in Georgia. Maybe they seemed first because they were only. Either way, I love that we have one in our garden. I’m sitting with it now, in fact.
Birds trill, a breeze moves the branches, white clouds drift in a blue sky, and we have a flowering dogwood tree.
My skin is pink and warm. I spent all weekend outdoors, in the garden and on the soccer pitch.
The fresh air, dirt, and blue-sky matches were totally worth the sunburn.
Our neighbor has a farm truck and told us these past weeks that he would soon fill it with a (literal) ton of mulch; he wouldn’t need it all, and would we like to split a truck load with him? He dumped the mulch Wednesday, and on Saturday, our daughter and I drove around town collecting cardboard and newspaper: we were going in for round two of killing the lawn so we can put in a flower bed.
Our first attempt at killing grass with garbage bags failed, so we pivoted. We did some research, and I think we have a better chance of succeeding this time with compostable materials that worms can eat instead of ugly black plastic.
In preparation, my husband lowered the mower blade as low as it would go, and cut a curved shape in the lawn where the flower and herb beds would soon go.
Our daughter has been as eager to get out in the garden as I am, and she helped me cover the soon-to-be-dead grass with cardboard and newspaper.
We watered the cardboard to soften it, then covered it with mulch. The mulch weighs it down and will also hold moisture, hopefully keeping the thick paperboard damp to help speed up the decomposition process. We covered gaps and filled out the shapes with layers of newspaper 4-6 sheets thick, then watered the mulch and papers again.
We ate through half the chipped bark and wood before our neighbor even touched the ton pile. Even though I hated to stop, we got through two rows of cardboard and newspaper before I reluctantly quit working so we didn’t use all the mulch.
Our neighbor has said he will gladly get another truckload to split with us, so I’m excited for next weekend, when I hope to get through another section of the soon-to-be flower bed.
I was so happy to be outside, I barely remembered to eat. I made a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich and ate it on the front steps. I wanted to look out over the yard, what we’ve done, and what we’ve yet to do. Each time we drove up to the house — after soccer, after our daughter’s hair cut — I smiled and did a little dance for our house and garden.
Our daugher and I spent a lot of labor mulching our new plantings, laying biodegradable cardboard and newspaper over unwanted grass, and watering everything in. It’s going to be important that we stay on top of it — keeping everything wet to encourage both growth and decomposition.
I’ve been ignoring those mid-morning calendar reminders to “Water plants” every day for months. We didn’t have anything alive at the time I created the reminders, but I set them knowing this day would come, and I’d need to make sure I made time to nurture plants.
It is spring now, and the weather is beautiful. I’m ready to start taking a break each day to get outside and tend the garden.