Procrastinators: Better late than never
Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 8:01 pm
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
Well, it’s here. The sun crossed the equator Friday for the first time this year. The second time will be in September. Friday, every person on earth had 12 hours of day and 12 of night. Barrow, Alaska, Nairobi, Kenya, and Paris, Tenn., had equals in that regard just for Friday.
That seemingly trivial information is not so trivial to gardeners. It is we who must make sure we are caught up with the calendar. In questionary form we could put it this way: Are you ready?
Do you have every garden duty behind you that you possibly could have at this point? To get caught up in full blown spring with winter jobs yet pending is a state of affairs that can cause untold trouble in the days ahead.
You’re flitting about on a fine spring day digging ground that should have been dug last fall, or even during winter. A no-no.
Or, there you sit, filling out order forms for seed and plant mail orders that you should have done months ago. By the time your purchases arrive it is late to be planting.
I suggest you forget mail order at this point, and solicit some of our excellent local nurseries, which carry most of the things you would have ordered anyway. In the case of plants, they will surely be bigger and healthier than mail ordered ones and will take off in your garden much quicker.
There may be an excuse with some unusual seeds that local sources might not have, but it should be, at this point, only for things that can stand late planting, i.e. melons, pumpkins, squash, beans etc.
Mulching. Well, if you insist on piling up shredded bark around your trees, I suppose any time is as good (or bad) as another. There’s nothing wrong, and a lot right, with mulching young trees and shrubs after planting and for the first few years following. But it is foolish to pile volcanoes of mulch around the trunks of mature trees. It will rot the bark near the ground line, causing all kinds of insect and disease problems. But, like the insanity of tree topping, there are many fools out there who keep it up.
Your mower — you know, the one that wasn’t running just right last fall and needed a tune-up and blade sharpening — well, there it sits in the corner of the garage, nowhere near ready to tackle the rapidly greening grass. The service shops and dealers are already behind because nearly everybody procastinated just like you, and so you will be “put on the list.” Meanwhile, the grass continues to grow and by the time you get the mower ready you will have to chop off too much of the young grass.
It only takes a few minutes to sharpen tools with a grindstone, a little longer with a file. It is, however, one of the most labor saving things you can do. It is infinitely harder to dig in stone-like soil or make pruning cuts with dull tools. I have sharpened my spades until their blades are rounded where once they had points. Yet they slice into hard soil with ease if they are sharp.
It is not out of the question to carry a small file along on any pruning outing of any consequence. By regularly touching up the blade of your pruners they will continue to make smooth cuts with ease, fending off possible carpel tunnel problems with extended use.
You should have done your sharpening before now, but better late than never. While you’re at it, sharpen your mower blades if you don’t have them professionally done. It isn’t an ornery job, once you get them off the mower deck. Sharpen each end equally so that the blades remain balanced. An easy way to test that is to clamp down on a 16 penny nail at the end of a vise and hang the sharpened blade on it. If it is balanced the blade will remain horizontal. If it doesn’t, take some more metal off the heavy end.
Most pruning is traditionally done in midwinter. I think that is because Grandpa always did it then, when other farm chores were lacking. It is indeed the time to do most heavy pruning, but lighter work can be done just about any time. Roses, particularly, favor pruning later into the season, just about now in fact, so that precocious new leaves aren’t forced out too early and could be subject to freezing.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 3.24.09
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path