Spring has finally arrived, and some might say it’s about time. Sometimes during the past couple of months we weren’t at all sure that it would. But now, my glorious pale and bright yellow daffodils are merrily blossoming, with the tulips not far behind. Just a short time ago, the daffodils and tulips were under five feet of snow from all that slid from the roof onto the stone planters.

But they are there, the grass is green and almost ready to be mown, and much of the garden has been planted.

Our magical earth has again come through for us, as she always does, and the soil is ready to grow vegetables and flowers with just a little help from us.

For those of us in Zone 4, planting potatoes, onion sets, lettuce, spinach, beets and radishes went in last week. The vine crops, tomatoes, beans and corn will likely wait until Memorial Day weekend.

Until our climate started to heat up a few years ago, virtually no one north of Lewiston-Auburn planted their gardens before Memorial Day, except perhaps for peas. Now, with the warmer weather coming earlier and staying later, we can begin several weeks earlier. But there are still some of us who refuse to plant until Memorial Day weekend, and that’s OK because the frost rarely arrives before the end of September now.

Notes on flowers

* Once the tulips, daffodils and other bulb flowers have gone by, wait a few weeks before cutting back the leaves. Let them turn brown first. Allowing the dying main plant to remain lets its energy filter into the bulb for next year’s blossoming.

* We have several shaggy, green perennial poppy plants in our stone planter in front of the house. In a few weeks, huge, luncheon-plate-size bright red blossoms will bloom. But the unfortunate thing about perennial poppies is that they bloom for a precious few days, then only the prickly pods remain for the rest of the summer.

* To make your flower gardens beautiful throughout the season, plant annual seedlings among the daffodils, tulips, poppies and other perennials. Weather-hardy pansies and geraniums are good choices because they can be planted early and they will blossom all summer long. Planting flats of zinnia, nastursium and marigold seedlings also add color to the perennial garden throughout the summer.

* In the main garden, if space allows, try to plant calendulas by seed. These are another very hardy flower in varying shades of red, orange and yellow that will survive and blossom well into autumn and withstand several light frosts.

The vegetable garden

* Some vegetables require more fertilizer than others. Among the heavy feeders are onions, corn, tomatoes and both summer and winter squash. Be generous when fertilizing them when planting the seedlings or seeds. We use a considerable amount of pigeon poop because my husband keeps a rather large flock of these birds. But nearly any other animal manure will work, as well. Chicken manure, despite its smell, can sometimes work miracles in vegetable gardens. Other vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, want just a bit of fertilizer to get them going.

* The specially treated blight and fungus-resistant tomato varieties I started from seed inside several weeks ago are nearly ready to place in the garden. To further help these plants resist fungus, I have also purchased an organic copper spray that is supposed to help ward off blight. Once in the garden, tomatoes should not be watered from above, but at the base of each plant. If any fungus is lurking in the soil, it will be less apt to splash onto the main plant. Use a fertilizer with a high phosphorus content (the middle number listed on a bag of fertilizer).

* Some plants that would normally be set out or planted at the end of the month can be planted now if row covers are used.

* Other vegetables that can be planted now include dill, peas, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli seedlings, radishes, turnip, parsley and parsnips. Wait until late May or early June for peppers, eggplants, winter and summer squash and pumpkins.

* Mix lots of compost into each bed or row before planting seeds or seedlings. Compost provides nutrients as well as lightens the soil.

* Although sheets of newspaper or carpet remnants may not look all that gorgeous in your garden, consider using them just the same. After all, with a vegetable garden, the resulting fruits are what are important. Line between the rows and around plants as much as possible. Doing this results in far fewer weeds and less grass that has to be pulled or hoed out. It also allows moisture to remain longer.

* If crab grass, witch grass or other hard-to-remove weeds are growing in the garden, pull them out, roots and all, as soon as they can be seen. If allowed to stay longer, their sturdy roots will dig deep in the soil and not only spread to other parts of the garden, but also become extremely difficult to pull up.

And most importantly, try to take time to just walk around and in your gardens. Not only is this a time to marvel at what the earth can do and provide a sense of relaxation, but also new ideas for what to plant and how it will be nurtured and enjoyed may come to mind. Even when I don’t have time to work in the garden, I nearly always take a few minutes just to look around, observe what’s come up, whether planted or wild, and to enjoy my time with our magical earth.

It’s a lovely feeling.

Eileen Adams has been gardening for decades and is always amazed by what gifts our magical earth can provide. She may be reached at [email protected]

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