Dear Carol and Dee March 29, 2009

Readers, during the winter, Carol (Indiana/May Dreams Gardens, Dee, of Red Dirt Ramblings, in Oklahoma, and I thought it would be fun to keep track of our gardens, in a weekly letter, from across the miles and weather zones.)

Dear Carol and Dee,
The only thing between me and April is the wicked month of March. It’s a darn good thing we have this correspondence going between us or I might just give up on gardening. I haven’t taken the time to verify the stats, but I would venture this may be one of the coldest Marches we’ve experienced here. When I gave it some thought, I realized it’s not the cold that gets to me so much as there is nothing to be accomplished in the garden when the weather is like this. It’s snowing and blowing again today, all of 38 right now, with a winter storm warning, the sun is struggling to make an appearance, and we have small waves on the reflecting pool. EGAD! Come on April!!!

I did very little in the garden this week. We (husband and I) cleaned up one long bed along the driveway, and yesterday I finally got the raspberry canes tucked in along the chain link fence. I hate chain link, it belongs to the neighbors and was there when we moved in, but it will be perfect when it comes time to wire the raspberry branches to it. When life gives you lemons…

I ran outside between storms yesterday, when the temps shot up to 60 for about an hour, and planted the rhubarb into the holes I had sited and dug the day before. Lots of composted organic manure, a little Bradford Organics fertilizer, a pat and a promise and a big drink of water. There was a groan as I got up off my knees and I recall saying something, like, “Grow dammit, you get one chance.”

While still giddy from the warm air, I sowed some Shanghai green pak choy (from Baker Creek) in my old English washing dolly with a few Touch of Orange-Red calendula seeds (Select Seeds) around the perimeter. I scattered the entire pack of Poppy ‘Black Swan’ in my triangle shaped bed, after I planted 7 digitalis ferruginea plants and two Crimson Cherry rhubarbs in there. This particular bed is planted with orange and hot pink tulips for early spring (ha!), echinops ritro, daylilies, ornamental grass, iceplant and agastache for later in the summer. I am literally cramming the food in with the flowers. Bountiful beautiful borders. That’s my motto these days.

This week I am going to lay out my dahlia bulbs in front of the fireplace in the garage, sort them, and pot them up in two gallon black plastic pots. It’s the best way I’ve found to get them off to a rip roaring start. I’ll try to find a place for them to sit in the sun, probably by the apple espalier. Its a very warm, south-facing wall, and it stays really dry there. It’s important to keep them dry until they have pushed a nice set of leaves. After that, I transplant them into the garden.

Better get the tomatoes and other hotties started, too. I am a slacker compared to the two of you, but I do have some interesting varieties of eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes (thanks Dee for the seeds) to get growing. A friend has offered me some specialty Basque cherry pepper seeds…better pick those up this week.

From the weather maps and the news, Dee, you’ve had your hands full, covering everything in your garden the last two days. Carol, I think you have been cheerfully watching your tomato seeds sprout.

There is really nothing to do but look forward to the coming season. I need to keep reminding myself that optimism is the gardener’s word of the day. Everyday. It’s going to be hell catching up when it warms up. We often go from 35 to 70 degrees in a day, so if I come up missing in action, you’ll know where to find me.

Til next week, my gardening friends,
Yours in wool and polar fleece,

Mary Ann