Spring feeds body and soul

By Vivian Lawson Hogue

Every season has its own related sort of fun, and my least favorite — summer — is coming up.

To give spring a great amount of credit before I begin whining, it does encourage planning and looking forward. Except for occasional wild tornadoes, the weather can be amiable in April and May. Even insects are not so present these months, although I hear mosquitoes are out very early this year.

It is always a pleasure to dig up the raised beds and smooth them out like display bedding in a furniture store. They have sat all winter uncovered and unproductive, and there is hard evidence that either raccoons, squirrels, or feral cats have considered them convenient and roomy litter boxes. The bird netting has now been laid down, but animals are crafty. Full-size bricks fill in gaps void of netting. One morning I discovered that a critter had actually flipped over a brick, dug up an onion, and made itself at home. We have our share of illegal night-wandering cats, but we assume this had to be an animal with cute little hands, thus a raccoon. Incidentally, raccoons do not have thumbs, opposable or otherwise!)

Purple “Dead Nettle” weeds.

In our raised beds, I have planted green peas for the first time, as well as two rows of Egyptian Walking Onions mailed to me by a friend last year, and green onions purchased from the grocery’s produce section. Poke ’em in the ground and they’re off! A 5-gallon pot is sown with seemingly invisible lettuce seeds, the directions stating to plant them an inch apart. I found I cannot do that without a magnifying glass nor can I pick up just one. They are like grains of sand, but a sudden gust of wind can settle the issue.

The Ozark Beauty strawberry bed is full of beautiful plants that made it through teen and 0 degrees and 8 inches of glorious snow. White blooms are peeking up from the bottom, and a few green berries have been spotted. We will be mulching them with straw soon. Potatoes will be planted, then will come green beans. Marigolds have been sown around the edges as “they,” whoever “they” are,” say it deters insects. We’ll see.

The Earthboxes, which I call “set-it-and-forget-it” planting systems, are being readied to accept seedlings of okra, tomatoes, and cucumbers. These are plants that will first sprout under our homemade, husband-made, indoor grow light. While we wait for great growing to take place, I’ll dead-head bulb plants in the yard and encourage the peonies. My nearly dead amaryllises from my grocery store’s after-Christmas sale have sent up healthy buds. A gentleman’s gift of many caladium bulbs is my next highly anticipated project.

In our yard, the tiny, pink Spring Beauty blooms arrive first, escorted by the young forsythia bushes. Jonquils, tulips, and hyacinths join in the competition for beauty and sweet scents. There are no Miss Congenialities or runners-up as all are equally beautiful. As I survey a row of empty caladium pots, I suddenly spy an 18-inch garden snake draped over one as if deceased. The next day, the “corpse” was gone. I know they are beneficial, but regardless, their cousins of bad repute cause me alarm. I chose to leave and check the fig bushes to see if the freezes killed them. Right now, on first glance, my friend who likes to make fig jam may be disappointed. Those who like them raw, including myself, may have frowny faces.

More unwelcome interlopers are black flies (gnats or “no-see-ums”) that leave large knots on one’s face and neck. They recommend applying smelly mouthwash as a repellent for those areas, but after a while you get sick of yourself. Mosquitoes are universal pests. “They say” (again!) the way to get rid of them is to put up a bat house on your property. Perfect. Substitute blood-dripping fangs of bats for blood-sucking mosquitoes. My husband gave me tiki torches for Christmas so we’ll see how that goes.

The only things that devour chiggers or ticks, or that can even see them, are guineas, a type of fowl that is forever bug-hungry. I would love to have some as they are as effective as guard dogs at making racket and being aggressive.

Cut “seed potatoes” being dried 24 hours before planting.

Besides growing and harvesting vegetables, I enjoy mowing, weed eating, and chopping down whatever unwelcome overgrowth grows where it shouldn’t. This includes a neighbor’s wisteria vines growing on top of and through our chain link fence, then slithering down and underground. You feel the need to watch your ankles. It is surely of the kudzu family.

My favorite weeds to whack are stick-tights (which harmlessly stick to your flesh or clothing); henbit (which has nothing to do with hens); white clover (where the four-leafed are found); Johnson grass (which looks just like corn leaves); and hairy bittercress (which is not hairy and I’ll never know about the “bitter” part). Regarding the last one, pull up or cut off the long seed pods while they’re green. If you wait until they are brown, they will shoot 16 feet away when disturbed because they usually disperse when walked on or brushed against, even by an animal. You can actually see and hear them eject themselves!

The remaining three beloved seasons feature things that fall – leaves, winter precipitation (maybe, maybe not), and rain. Most of those times are full of fun for all. Piled-up leaves, piled-up snow, and piled-up raincoats and boots. I can whine all I want about summer, but we can’t do without it. As that ultimately wise book says, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, [and] summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” [Genesis 8:22] All whining aside, I can’t argue with that.

Vivian Hogue
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