Goshen News, Goshen, IN

April 12, 2013

THE DIRT ON GARDENING: Turn of equinox gets gardeners itching to dig


— According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the vernal equinox arrived at 7:02 a.m. EDT on March 20. But that doesn’t satisfy our urge to break out the shorts, T-shirts, and sandals -- especially with the “colder than usual” temperatures outside — it’s not an automatic thing, you know.

That is, until last week when temps broke the 60s barrier and then it happened. Shorts sightings were everywhere — at the grocery stores, on the streets, at recreational centers, and yes, even on the golf courses.

Equinox, according to the online dictionary I visited, means rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth. These attributes all ring true in more ways than one. Spring wakes up our spirit and attitude in our otherwise ho-hum winter hibernation.

Call me old I guess, to me winter is a place to visit or go to on vacation and not something that we should have to endure for more than a couple of weeks. The youngsters might have something to say about that though.

My point is, I don’t hear too many complaints about warm weather because (and I don’t think I’m alone here) there are so many more activities one can participate in when temps are comfortable outside.

It’s not unusual to see runners in groups of dozens this time of year because high schools and our local college are gearing up for track and other sports where endurance is required. The parks are generating more and more activity as the temps rise and kids need to burn off energy — parents love this. From toddler to teenager to college age, from ‘Tommy’s Kids Castle’ to the ball diamonds to the soccer fields, they all emanate spring.

This brings up another warm weather subject: Gardening.

Any gardener starts getting the itch about this time of year to get their hands dirty. From all indications, the soil is ready to prep for planting.

Farms have major activities going on with the spreading of manure and disking. I’ve had to slow down, when on the roads, for more than one farm tractor hauling huge machinery — but then this is an everyday occurrence this time of year.

Get your work boots on and your gloves out because it’s time to shovel your gardens and work in that compost you put on at the end of last year. If you forgot or planned instead to do that this spring, that’s OK, too. If your garden is small a shovel will suffice. But if you have one of the larger gardens, then by all means use a tiller if you have one, or borrow your neighbor’s as I did (thanks Don Taylor). They may also be rented at rental agencies.

There was a sighting in Middlebury last week at the bottom of winding C.R. 16 leading into town, after leaving Das Dutchman Essenhaus for breakfast, of pansies for sale at a small shop.

If one searched the countryside with all the outcropping of greenhouses in the area, I’m sure there are plenty more for sale of these “first plants available”-type of flowers that rather like the cool weather. The most popular of these are pansies and violas, but there are others, if available, that will also tolerate and thrive in the cold, including snapdragons, petunias (if hardened off), and Johnny-jump-ups. There are a variety of perennials that can also be included in the “cool-loving plants,” some of which are candytuft, hardy cyclamen and primrose.

Of course, flowers from bulbs planted last fall or earlier can also withstand cold, including tulips, crocus, paper-whites, daffodils and hyacinth.

Hopefully cold weather is behind us and greenhouse operations can “open for business.” I think we’re all anxious!