Gardening Mid March 2008 In Chicago's South Suburbs and Northwest Indiana
The Dawn of Spring /Cold Lingers
Looking Forward To Spring Gardening
A new spring season is just around the corner and that means it is about time to start working in our yards and gardens, that is if you have a garden. Some of you may be thinking about starting a new one and that is why you are reading up on it. I want to post a series of HubPages this year that will be all about gardening.
Boy am I looking forward to spring. They are predicting a change in the weather so it should start to warm up around here. I am chomping at the bit to get outside and get busy in the yard. I walked around yesterday to see what was going on closer to the ground. I figure Mother Nature has a better insight about all of the weather business than we do. Look out the window and it looks pretty cold, that is not so encouraging.
I decided to take a good, close look. Here are photographs of some of my observations. This will tell me the story from Mother Natures point of view and,this is what I will be writing about. My information will be based on my growing zone but, most of it will be easily adapted to all growing regions. I operated a landscape/lawn maintenance company in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area and N.Texas for over 16 years. One of the things I enjoyed the most about that work was writing advice in our company newsletter. I am from the Calumet Region of N.W.Indiana and Illinois, that would be ZONE 6,in the Farmer's Almanac. I started 3 years ago with this garden so, to call it established, I think not. This is why I want to use it as the foundation for a garden studio. Many articles I see published are working with land that has been established for years. Mine is still in the development stages and I think this will help others understand my ideas and my attempts to create better micro-climates for cultivating your plant material.
Tried And True Resources
There are a couple of places I go for detailed information, that I always go back to and, would like to share those places with you. My favorite would be The Old Farmer's Almanac by Robert Thomas http://www.almanac.com/. Here you can find a list of things that will help you cultivate the best garden ever. Below I have listed sections of the almanac that I use most.
- Frosts and Growing Seasons
- Outdoor Planting Tables
- Winter/Summer Maps
- Weather Forecasts
- Secrets of the Zodiac
- Gardening by the Moon's Sign
- Plant and Flower Stories
- Information about Herbs
- Amusement and Folklore
Where To Find Gardening Knowledge and Helpful Guidance
There is an organization calledMaster Gardenersthat anyone, who is willing to fulfill the requirements, can join. Volunteering time and taking certain classes will put you in the ranks with these gardening masters.http://www.ces.purdue.edu/Grant/programs/anr/mgindex.htmThis is a good way to increase knowledge and experience but it will take some dedication.The thing is, you can access information and help from this organization. They are very dedicated and happy to be of assistance, with any gardening question. They have chapters throughout the USA and Canada.There is a map in the following link that you can click for your region.
Colleges and universities can provide help through some of there agriculture research and development programs.This can be a useful resource when you run into problems where you need soil analysis and disease identification.They have access to the most modern data and, usually have a program to help in their communities.
Your local landscape nurseries are always happy to help. Keep in mind that they are closly regulated in most areas and require licensing to be in operation. This helps control unwanted problems that could literally reek havoc in an agricultural way. Insects and other degenerative conditions that could be passed through transporting and selling plant material has to be monitered in our fast moving society.There are laws restricting plant transportation just because of risk factors that could become a serious threat to our agricultural communities. This is a good thing for you, as the consumer. It's reasuring to know that your local nurserymen are working within outlined regulations.
A Closer Look At Mother Nature's Schedule
Look Beyond The Obvious Brown of Late Winter
I took my camera outside in search of the less obvious views of Mother Nature at work.The gray appearance that we see when we cast our eyes across the back yard could be discouraging. I decided to look real close, to see what is really going on. Are there any signs of hope that spring is much closer than it feels? Low and behold! Very low, down there peering out from under the debris of mulch.There she is at work. Mother Nature has begun her miracle of seasonal reproduction, in my plant world.
I found the Houseleeks shaping up like little cabbage heads, furled together, in tight clusters. They are small now but usually get to be 15" or taller. I like having these perennials because they are very hardy. Houseleeks are a sure sign that warm weather is soon to follow. This is a form of Sedum and sedums are ranked on the top of my list as plants to LOVE. There are over 1000 varieties in the Sedum family.They are also known as Stonecrop plants. My intention here is not to get all into the botany thing but, I will make references to certain plants throughout my writing.
I really never liked to learn all of the plant names as my Mother did. I am more interested in their mechanics.That is to say, where they will grow and what they can do for me. Sounds a little selfish! My goal in life is to get things done. I do not have time to memorize information that I can look up if I need to. I want to make things grow and that is my bottom line, you know? Now, getting back to why I am outside, in the cold.
I came to take pictures but I am also making a mental notebook while I am looking for signs of life.This is second nature for me. My background has me trained to copy and file mental photographs. I attach all kinds of information to these visual images for later use. You might want to grab a paper and pen to jot down ideas you want to work on, when you look at your yard the first time this year. I will list for you some of the details I record.
- Look for winter weather damage that may be showing it's ugly face.The cold has a way of rearranging foundation materials such as stepping stones, edging material, mulch and so on. Make notes on anything you might need to fix.
- This is one of the best times to look for rodant activity and do whatever you want. I like to keep the little varments under control as best I can, There are more of them than me, so this is an on going task. I live a few houses from the Calumet River and that is a mecca for all of the native wildlife in this area. My main concern is with mice and voles. They have been a pain in my A&& in the past so...
- Look for holes and raised earth where rodants might be burrowing. Please try to be careful and thoughtful if you are going to use poison. I hate the thought of killing, even a mouse. I like the idea of discouraging their desire to come to my yard.
- Note any goals, you wish to accomplish with your garden and yard this year. Most people wait until the height of spring or even summer to start working the ground. This usually results in bad plant performance and can waste time and money. Try to plan ahead, even if it means waiting another year. Good plans will always pay you back when it comes to garden work.