Words of Wisdom from a Master Gardener

From the February 2014 edition

We count ourselves fortunate to have a total of 47 hours of balmy weather in April and thrice that in May. Rarely do any of those hours correspond with the amount of time required to handle even a quarter of the yard-chores list.

Relax. There’s no law that forbids planting after Memorial Day, much less Mother’s Day. Indeed, tomatoes, peppers and other tropical plants enjoy warm weather as much as sunbathers. Rushing things by digging our clay soil before it dries to a crumbly, workable state produces adobe-like clods that defy you all summer.

Instead of braving a meteorological stew of sun, clouds, and winds, give yourself permission to catch up on any missed chores in autumn. The weather and soil are generally warm and dry in September. Can’t say that about April most years.

Spring, however, has it all over autumn in one important aspect—that magical sense of renewal. On a short-sleeve afternoon, when the birds put the best human choirs to shame, it’s impossible to avoid grabbing a trowel and a few packets of seeds as an excuse to enjoy nature’s bounty.

Should spring fever strike in March or April, indulge your fancy in sensible ways: whack back dead perennial tops, shear ornamental grasses and prune out dead and crossing branches on shrubs. Get the mower tuned, tools sharpened, patio furniture washed. Sow seeds of lettuce, kale and other cold-tolerant characters if the soil is dry. Spread the crabgrass preventer about the time the forsythia blooms, which often occurs when the IRS insists on hearing from us.

Then, when a couple of those rare hours of perfect spring weather come along, you can do nothing but savor the warm caress of the season.