Ahhh - it is March 4th and 88 degrees here in North Texas today. It is definitely a day that will promote a little Spring Fever!
Incidentally, while researching how the term Spring Fever was derived, I learned its meaning is contradictory. Spring Fever is generally considered a state of renewed energy, high spirits and anticipation. I've often equated it with Spring Cleaning, as most of us come out from the semi-hibernation of winter in a restless state - having the need to tidy our surroundings and pack up or discard that which we will no longer need for the upcoming warmer weather. However in past times and other cultures, Spring Fever has been known to be a time when a person may, in contrast, feel lethargic and achy. Spring is the common season for measles and other childhood diseases to flare up, after all. Of course, we also have the seasonal allergies that take hold as the trees and flowers begin to bloom. So, I suppose Spring Fever can signify a condition that actually produces a fever in some of us!
Another side effect of Spring Fever for gardeners in particular is - premature planting. And yes, I am guilty of having this condition just about every spring. In fact, only yesterday was I out looking for a prime spot to transplant one of my favored Jackmanii Clematis vines (the namesake of the Nature is Nurture blog artwork and featured in the left hand corner above.) Having been a premature planter many times in the past and regretting it - I held off this time. I have learned the hard way it is best to wait until the average date of the last frost has passed before I plant, transplant or sow anything outdoors. For those of us in North Texas, March 18th is the awaited date. Do keep in mind we are speaking of an AVERAGE date of the last frost - for we all are aware that when it comes to Mother Nature, there are no guarantees! If you'd like to look up your average last date for a frost, along with a few other interesting facts, go to http://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/.
So - what can we do as we wait for the next couple of weeks, or, in some climates, months, to pass before we can get our hands good and dirty outdoors?
Inventory your supplies. As I mentioned earlier, I was focused on finding a place to transplant my clematis and in the interim had gone to the local hardware store to find an obelisk trellis to purchase for which it could climb. Fighting back the urge to load my basket with trellises, pots, a bird bath and dozens of tender seedlings, I left the store with only the indoor hardware I truly needed that day. Good thing, as when I got home I noticed there was a beautiful, forgotten trellis stored in a corner of the garage - perfect for wherever I decide to plant the clematis.
Refresh your memory. Before you buy new plants or seed to fill all the bare spaces in your wintery landscape, try to recall if and where you planted perennials last year. If you jotted the locations down on a map, all the better. Dig it out, so to speak!
Plan. Now is the very best time to plan your spring/summer landscape. If you already have a landscape or garden map as mentioned above - great. If not, take a few minutes and create one. Doesn't have to be fancy or professionally/digitally drawn - just something you can read and easily identify the icons.
- As mentioned above, locate perennials or at least consider where you believe they are. Map them out and allow time for their sprouts to emerge before considering other options.
- Evaluate the space in your planting beds and allow for your perennials to have multiplied. Once the perennials sprout, dividing and transplanting them or sharing the divisions with your family and friends are options if you find your space will most likely become overcrowded.
- Evaluate existing and former plants' locations and needs and adjust accordingly. (For several years, my boyfriend attempted to grow an azalea in too much sun. He babied it by amending the soil, adding additional water and placing shade cloth over it during the hottest months. It survived until last year, but it barely bloomed and never really thrived - and who enjoys an azalea draped with shade cloth anyway? On the bright side (no pun intended), now he has a prime spot to plant and grow a beautiful sun-loving shrub.
- Consider creating or adding a color, texture or theme scheme to your yard this year. Look through gardening books, magazines and/or websites to obtain new ideas. Do you want your flowers to contrast with your home or blend? Do you want a cool, serene look with light blues and whites, or a vibrant look of reds and yellows? Do you want bold tropicals or dainty ferns? Do you prefer a natural look or a formal, angular one? How about a koi pond?
- Regardless of whether you decide to create a specific color, texture, or theme to your exterior space, make sure adjacent plants have comparable needs. In other words, don't plant maidenhair ferns intermixed with pinwheel zinnias as the former prefers shade and rich, damp soil while the other prefers sun and can tolerate poorer, drier soil. Same theory holds true - and is even more important - when purchasing plants you intend to sow together in containers!
- Consider adding yard art (including bird baths and feeders) and/or lighting in strategic locations of your outdoor space, perhaps in that odd spot where nothing has been successful in growing (stay tuned for my next blog post, however!) Re lighting, solar lighting is very economical and there are more and more varieties and styles of lights available each year. We purchased mini-stringed solar lights on Christmas clearance and last week decided to twine them around an arbor. They are very pretty now and we expect the lighted arbor to be prettier once the trumpet vine leafs out!
Bare arbor alit with mini-stringed solar lights. Will be prettier once foliage grows among the lights.
Texas shaped birdbath in corner of fence behind a holly- where it is difficult to grow ornamentals.
Taking into consideration the above tasks - and the fact spring actually doesn't arrive on the calendar until March 22nd - there is plenty we can do to satisfy our early Spring Fever/Spring Cleaning urges these days. While spontaneous and/or accidental successes in gardening are indeed quite pleasant, there is great satisfaction in beginning with a plan and seeing it through, step by step, to success - not to mention the time, money and effort you may save along the way.
Until next time,