(Imagine your arms wide open, head tilted toward the sky like the children from the Peanuts cartoon.)
If you linger for a moment, you’ll notice the trees are awake. These first leaves of the new season are a pale green, and will soon darken as the foliage matures.
Why do we love things that come and go so quickly — sunsets, rainbows, shooting stars … ? Maybe because we look intently when we know they will soon be gone.
If you take a drive into the foothills right now, you’ll note the “young” growth at the tips of the evergreen branches, creating a bi-color effect. This is especially true of cypress trees.
Just like puppies and the terms of our credit cards, plants change before we know it. One day we’ll gawk at almond blooms. After one solid storm, those almond petals cover the orchard floor.
Pink star magnolia flowers (http://tinyurl.com/h3whr58) will wow you today and look like sidewalk mush tomorrow.
Take pictures. They really do last longer.
In my neighborhood the lilac is on the scene and forsythia is heralding the season. Yellow petals of Virginia creeper are scattered across the yard, looking like confetti after Mardi Gras.
Its easy to get wrapped up in the rapture of new beginnings. Yet, there is work to be done.
This week I had two vacation days. I’d love to say I worked for hours in the yard. However, my chiropractor has warned me to take it easy. A recent vow is to yank at least one weed while walking to the car, and at least one weed when walking from the car to the house.
With the soil wet after recent rain, weed-yanking is an easy task.
In my yard, I have a new offender called little mallow (http://goo.gl/1SvwG4) also known as “cheeseweed.”
This garden bully has a sturdy taproot that is nearly impossible to yank once the soil hardens.
I tried last year and gained new respect for this plant as a garden foe.
Last year I spent a good deal of time yanking mature cheeseweed plants. This year hundreds of tiny cheeseweed sprouts occupy this same terrain.
Young seedlings, by the way, are a great job for the garden hoe.
WAIT A BIT LONGER
March and April are tricky months for the home gardener. We start seeing plants for sale in front of the grocery stores. Naturally, this makes us think its time to buy plants.
However, I warn you to be a bit more cautious.
Head for your favorite local nursery and talk with the knowledgable staff. Rather than planting warm-weather plants, what about lettuce and peas? The nursery crew may also talk to you about other plants that will fit the season and the current drought conditions.
You can also chat with Sherri Scott, who has a beautiful plant cart at the Saturday farmers market in Chico. She’ll set you up with vegetables and herbs suitable for planting now.
This reminds me, you can buy one-gallon containers bursting with tulips at the market right now, while supplies last. Charlie (and his son) were there last week, and I’m guessing they will still have tulips this Saturday.
I recently asked Charlie his opinion about my hyacinth bulbs.
Hyacinth bulbs can be grown indoors by placing the bulb in a specialty vase. The key is to have the base of the bulb just barely touching the water.
Most garden books suggest simply tossing the tired bulb into the compost pile. The reason is that the bulb has used most of its stored energy to produce the bloom.
Charlie agreed it can’t hurt to put those hyacinth bulbs in a the ground right now. The worst thing that can happen is the bulbs will rot in the ground. Best case scenario, I’ll forget about them and they’ll bloom next spring.
As with any spent bulb, remove the flower stalk. Keep the leaves. This is very important. The leaves contain stored energy that will be reabsorbed by the bulb.
This year my experiment is to place the bulbs, roots and all into a big pot filled with soil. The green stems are still poking above the soil. This way, the leaves will die back on their own. Later I’ll tuck the pot near the side of the house and let them go dormant over the next several months. Later this summer I’ll decide whether to dig them up for storage or let them remain in the pot.
My decision will be based on whether I need that particular pot to grow something else.
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