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Shelley Pederson: Gardening can be great stress reliever during strange times

The Perennial Buzz by Shelley Pederson

Shelley Pederson


“We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, and the light moves.” — Leonora Carrington

I had a memory pop up on my Facebook feed Friday. Apparently, four years ago, I planted snow peas, radish and spinach. It was successful if I recall. With that, I spent considerable time in my garden yesterday looking for signs of life and just what I’m safe to do at this point of an unpredictable spring.

I decided to clean up two of my smaller beds. The big bed looked a little overwhelming and my new bed is still under snow. I cleaned up my carefree wonder rose. It usually comes on so fast in the spring I can’t get into the base to remove some of the older cane. The rose is over 20 years old, and I was able to cut some of the oldest cane out of the base. I was careful to cut it right at the ground. The rose is super hardy, so it should be OK. I left the rest of my roses alone, but was happy to see healthy cane on them.

As for planting snow peas, spinach and radish — my raised beds are still frozen solid. I managed to clean them up a little and added some compost to the tops, but it will be awhile before I can work the soil. I trimmed back my spirea to about 3 inches. They are well established and will be OK if I get a hard freeze. I also trimmed a bunch of water sprouts off my fruiting and blooming trees.

Three and half hours later, I reminded myself I’m not in gardening shape, but had dirt under my fingernails and a whole lot of feeling good.

As I promised to talk about planting seeds: Seed germination and plant growth depend on soil temperature and day length. Natural signs can give you clues of when to do things.

First, sit down and write down exactly what you want from your vegetable garden. Keep it simple if you are a beginning gardener. Do you eat eggplant? Are you going to can or freeze extras? Why on earth does zucchini come in a four pack? A good sign is to watch for the daffodils to start blooming. At this point you should be able to plant what I call cold season crops: snowpeas, spinach, carrots, radish, beets, turnips and chard seeds. Onion sets (the bulbs, not the plants) can be planted.

Plant potatoes when the dandelions bloom. Remember, our bees need those dandelions. “Bee friendly.” Cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, chard and cauliflower need to be planted early, but they will need to be covered if there is a frost. I usually just buy plants. Corn and onion plants can be planted at this time.

Perennials can be planted and divided in the spring pretty successfully from the time the daffodils bloom. Rule of thumb: If it blooms in the spring, divide in the fall. If it blooms in the fall, divide in the spring.

When the apple blossoms fall, you can plant beans and cucumber seeds. This is when I would plant my annual flower seeds. When the bearded iris blooms, you can set out tomato, pepper, cucumber, winter squash and pepper plants. They like warm days and warm nights.

Lastly, you plant your melons when the peonies bloom.

I sincerely pray for everyone’s safety, health and for your families during this time of tension.

Gardening for me is a great stress reliever, and one of the best things I think you can do with your kids. I believe the survival of the human race depends on our connection to the earth, and the loving care we give to the health of the soil reflects on the health of our body, mind and spirit. “Bee well.”

Shelley Pederson is a perennially busy master gardener, lover of nature and student of life.