The earth is muddy and the soil very heavy right now thanks to the recent rains. But what I had planted during the previous few weeks is growing. The onion plants are gorgeous and the radishes are ready to add to a salad.

My usual tradition of getting the last of my seeds and seedlings in the soil during Memorial Day weekend is a bit behind. Too much mud.

But the vegetables I planted earlier are doing well, and the perennial flowers are more gloriously colorful this year than in many previous years.

It’s like Mother Nature is making amends for last year’s disastrous lilacs, in particular. When the temperatures reached into the 80s in March 2012, all my lilac bushes, as well as many others I’ve been told, started swelling with buds. Then the normal cold March temperatures returned, killing them and preventing any blossoms whatsoever from blooming. But this year – ah! They are gorgeous and full.

The daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, as well, are much more numerous, and are about to pass by for yet another year. Except for a lovely cluster of yellow tulips I tossed over the banking after they died back last year. I had placed this brightly colored potted plant on the altar at my church during Easter.

It seems that nature does what it darn well pleases. Often times what we plant refuses to grow, but when we discard something, such as these tulips, they become beautiful flowers. That’s happened before with pink tulips and white ones.

These persistent yellow tulips are growing under the protection of our wild Concord grapes. An abundance of tiny clusters of grapes-to-be are growing over the old foundation of the 150-year-old barn that once stood on that spot. It’s been years since we’ve had any grapes, but this will be a year when grape jelly and grape juice will be made, I feel certain.

A friend commented last week that the colors of all the perennials, from forsythia to the bulb blossoms, are brighter this year than she has ever seen. I tend to agree.

Cutting back bulb perennials

With the bulbs dying back, it’s important to take certain steps to assure they will reappear again in the spring of 2014.

Don’t be too hasty with the removal of the leaves of the daffodils, tulips and other similar bulbs. Those browning leaves must stay where they are until they are completely dead. They are needed to provide food for the bulbs buried beneath. Clipping them too early almost always assures a sparse spring blossoming.

They do make the flower garden look more than a bit shabby. This is the time to perk it up by planting annual seedlings as close to the dying bulb leaves as possible. My marigolds and bachelor buttons have been growing inside for several weeks and are about ready to take the place of the bulb flowers. I also stock up on bright red, so-called seed geraniums to fill in the spaces left by the daffodils and tulips that go by.

My huge perennial poppy plants are now filled with 1.5-inch-diameter pods. Any day now they will burst open to reveal incredibly red, 6-inch-wide poppies. As much as I love these flowers, I wish they blossomed longer. The blooms last but a few days, then there’s only greenery for the rest of the summer.

I’ve transplanted some sunflower plants that I found in the vegetable garden. They seeded themselves and will become bright yellow-and-brown sunflowers in August. Most gardening guides tell us that sunflowers won’t transplant well. That’s true if they are started inside, but those that seeded themselves outside will do very well if we’re sure to dig up a substantial amount of soil with the plant, then water them frequently.

Our rhododendrons, one on either side of the front of the house, are ready to burst open, as well. This year’s bushes promise to be outstanding. And they will blossom for several weeks.

As with so many other perennials, this will be a spectacular year for them. All the organic, pigeon poop we spread around the perennials in the fall certainly has helped everything grow.

Must do’s now:

* Have as many pairs of garden gloves and trowels on hand as possible. You can never have too many for digging, clearing out weeds right down to the roots, or planting vegetables or flowers. I’m not a gardener who stays spotless when working in the garden. I usually am as dirty as the soil when I finish a session.

* Fertilize the vegetables already planted in the garden, then mulch. To keep the weeds down, we use newspapers and straw or hay around tomatoes, peppers and anything else that could benefit. Some people gather carpet remnants for placing between vegetable rows. This, too, is a great help. It may not look all that “Better Homes and Gardens,” but it works well.

* Keep pansies well watered, particularly when the sun grows hotter. With good care, these marvelous semi-perennials will blossom until a really hard frost in October or even November. One year, we had blossoming purple pansies on Christmas Day.

* If you’re going to plant potatoes — and it’s still not too late — consider planting them under layers of hay or straw, instead of in hills. Just be sure to cover them thickly with the hay so the potatoes, as they grow, aren’t exposed to the sun. When it’s time to harvest – Norlands will be ready by the end of July, while Kennebec, Yukon, Katahdin and others need a few extra weeks – just roll back the hay and gather the potatoes.

* Pumpkins, winter and summer squash, cucumbers and corn should go into the earth this week. Also, this year I am experimenting with “three sisters” gardening, similar to how many Native Americans grew crops a century or two ago. This involves planting pole beans around corn stalks for the beans to climb on, then encircled by pumpkins.

Fresh, homegrown salads are about to be harvested. From now until October, our daily salads will come from the backyard garden and not the grocery store. In a few weeks, the greens and radishes will be joined by super-fresh onions, then a little later, homegrown tomatoes.

This magical earth is a joy.

Eileen Adams of Wilton has been gardening for 40 years and continues to be amazed by the bounty of color, beauty and nourishment offered by the earth. She can be reached at [email protected]


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