Feb 22, 2007

Are We There Yet?

Gray skies, chilly winds, the relentless onslaught of snails and slugs… this is the time of year when most of us begin to feel like squirmy six-year-olds strapped into the backseat for a few miles too many.

But wait! Up ahead… is that a mirage, or… no! It's the Vernal Equinox, when daylight finally gains the advantage over darkness, on March 21. Humans probably have celebrated this moment as long as we've been able to mark time: ancient Egyptians even built the Great Sphinx to point directly toward the rising sun on this day.

Nature is also in a celebratory mood, and March is a great month to view California's native plants in bloom, from Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) to varieties of Ceanothus, California poppies, pink flowering currant and trillium. And, if there's something you've just got to have, this is a fine time to plant without fear of frost.

But try not to fall victim to Spring Fever: don't go to the nursery without a plan. (And no, "something cheery" isn't a plan.) Analyze what under-performed in your garden last year; what demanded too much attention, or too much water; what else you've seen around town that you like better. How could your garden could bring you more joy?

At the nursery, shopping list in hand, resist with all your power the irresistable temptation to buy all those other cute little plants. (My rule is to not shop until I've dug the hole.) You'll not only save money, you'll also avoid dooming some poor thing to a life of homelessness and neglect. Better still, call ahead to make sure your selections are available, or order with a plant broker to get exactly what you want — no less, no more — in optimal condition.

Speaking of restraint (or lack thereof), if your orange tree has produced its usual avalanche, organizations such as Village Harvest make it easy for you to donate excess produce to feed people in need. Keep them in mind throughout the season; you could even start one extra summer vegetable now to benefit them. It's a great gardening project for kids — especially squirmy six-year-olds like us.

My best wishes for a verdant and joyful month!

No comments: