Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Slow, snowy spring spurs gardener's lament

Posted by: Martha Buns under Perennials, Vegetables, Weather Updated: May 2, 2013 - 11:08 AM

 It's May: The magnolias are blooming, the grass is trending green and there's a chance of snow. It's like a math problem: We all know which one of these isn't like the other.

Enough already with the snow. A joke's a joke, and this spring is shaping up to be a mean one played on gardeners and other Minnesotans itching to enjoy their usual frenzy of pent-up outdoor activities once winter releases its chilly, unflinching grip.

Rationally, we know it has to end soon, that this won't be the year that the glaciers form a convoy line down I-94 from the north, never to recede. But it's tough to think spring will happen when you look out the window on May 2 and can no longer convince yourself that if you squint real hard, that's rain coming down, not snow. I braced myself to wake up to snow accumulation this moring, and was relieved we'd dodged  that bullet. (Sorry, south and east-metro gardeners.)

But the 10-day forecast and our instinct tells us we'll get through this, and so will many of our plants. While I cringe when the snow falls on the nearly bursting buds of my rhododendron, I know that it will likely survive the late snow much better than the damage already done to its lower limbs up to the bunny-on-tiptoe level. The ground isn't frozen, so that will help the snow melt faster, as will the above-freezing temperatures. And our perennials and zone-hardy flowering trees have had the spring rug pulled out from under them before. Some of the early risers might have their blooms nipped in the bud, so to speak, but many of summer's perennials have been cautious.

I'm being more cautious too: With the opening of the farmers markets, I would have bought a passel of bedding plants this weekend, but I'll hold off for now on more tender herbs like basil. But I will plant pea seeds and cold weather crops like lettuce.

If we're being honest with ourselves, the late spring is only slowing us down so much in the garden. It's kept us from our rush to rake too early, our urge to plant tomatoes before the ground soil is warm enough. If it stays cold much longer, it could shorten the growing season a tad. If so, you might want to check out tomato varieties that like a shorter growing season store.tomatofest.com/Tomato_Varieties_for_Cooler_Climates_s/47.htm and the University of Minnesota Extension guide to growing veggies: www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1422.html.

Like a sports team coming back from a lockout, we'll rush to get our gardens and ourselves back in top shape. Because hope -- and springs -- spring eternal.

How is the slow spring altering your garden plans? And did you get snow, and if so, what's up (and under it)? I've got ambitious rhubarb, aggressive chives, timid hosta, and one lone, straggly tulip.

Photo credit: Richard Sennott, taken May 1 near the University of Minnesota

 

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