Get to Work Planting the Spring Garden

It is time to start planting the spring garden in the South.  If you want to start an asparagus patch, a strawberry patch, plant grapes or blueberries, or plant potatoes, the roots or plants are available now at garden centers.  Enjoy the beautiful spring-like weather we have been having and begin your garden.

I ordered grapevines from Ison’s Nursery, and I bought two more grapevines at the garden enter, and I’ve been working at digging holes 2 ½ feet deep into red clay to hold the posts that will support the vines. It is slow work, and the rains during the month of February have slowed my work.  The rain filled the holes, which are at the bottom of a slope, with a foot or more of water, and although I thought the water already in the holes would make the process of mixing concrete easier (just sprinkle in some concrete mix around the posts and stir), my husband said that was not a good method of mixing concrete. 

He said I could slosh the muddy water out of the holes and could pour the mixed concrete in, but I decided that sounded too messy even for me, and  I decided to wait for a drier day to put in the posts.   I am not convinced that posts for grapevines even need to be sunk in concrete, especially when they are 2 ½ feet in the ground, but Scott, who overbuilds everything, especially the unused guinea house that will outlast us both, says it’s imperative.  He has a contractor’s license and sometimes has difficulty separating the structural integrity needed for house building from the structural integrity necessary for garden construction.  I do appreciate his help, though, and I know that whatever he helps build will not collapse.

Saturday I decided I was tired of waiting for the water to drain out of the holes, so we used a hand pump that we had to pump water out of our kayak to empty the holes.  We still couldn’t remove the water at the bottom of the holes, but we got most of it out and used minimal water to mix the concrete to make up the difference. Now I have to wait for the grapevines, which look like dead sticks, to put out new growth, and I will have to string wire to support the vines.

The posts are finally in the ground, and I planted the grapevines.  Digging the holes into clay was quite a workout!

I am thankful for all the rain after the past few years of drought.  My girls enjoyed wearing their rain boots and coats and walking in the woods by the creek, which was full of rushing water for the first time they can really remember.  I am glad my youngest daughter is old enough to walk in the woods now.  They loved playing Poohsticks with the culvert under our driveway.

Although I didn’t think I had room, I added six more dahlias to my perennial border.  I have some beautiful red ones from my grandmother’s garden, and they bloom continuously for a couple of months or more, dying back when the frost comes, nearly unmolested by critters, and I knew I wanted to add more dahlias this spring.  The garden center I visited had the tuberous roots of dahlias, peonies, clematis, hydrangea, liatris, bleeding hearts, and many other beautiful perennials.  Later in the spring, they’ll sell plants in bloom that will cost many times more, so buy them now.
Here's a poorly lighted picture of white dahlias growing in Abigail Adams' garden in Quincy, MA in late October.  They were much prettier in person than this picture shows, and they inspired me to plant more of the beautiful, long-lasting flowers at my house.

Even though I have ordered, and will order, seeds, I couldn’t resist buying a few packets of seeds, and rushed home to plant English peas in the garden before more rain comes.  My girls, and I, eat fresh English peas from the garden with nearly as much enthusiasm as we do candy; fresh peas are sweet and crisp, completely unlike the starchy, mushy peas from the grocery store’s freezer or cans. 

If you’re ready to begin your garden, it’s time to get perennials and root crops, and to put them in the ground.   Unlike many plants, which garden centers sell for months, these will be available only for the next month or so in good condition.  The plants need time to adjust to their new home in the ground in cool weather, and it is so much more pleasant to work in the garden when the temperature is in the 60s instead of the 80s.