It’s time for backyard gardening


Bill Taylor



It seems to me that one of our regular activities hasn’t yet succumbed to the restrictions imposed by the advent of this cursed virus that has so disrupted our lives.

For example, we have been told to stay home while going out for only those important functions such as shopping but, each year about this time, that’s what lotsa folks do because it’s time for backyard gardening.

Yep, we just naturally stay home taking care of all the multiple tasks of planting and tending to our flowers and vegetables. Oh, sure, we go out, but that’s mainly to acquire seeds and plants, a variety of soils and fertilizers, plus all the other necessities of our chosen pastime.

We don’t have to be encouraged (or coerced) to stay home and away from crowds.

Nope, gardening is not a group activity, although sometimes an extra pair of hands is welcome, particularly with some of the more strenuous chores. The biggest challenge to backyard gardening this year is not related to the virus threat and its repercussions but from the weather. We have had lotsa rain with the showers and storms spaced so the ground has been difficult to prepare for planting because it’s been too wet. Then, too, we have had consistently cold weather that has kept the soil temperature unusually low.

Successful seed germination for some crops require a minimum soil temperature of 70-75 degrees. Vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers also require warm soil as do many in-ground flowers.

Further complicating this problem has been that unusual hard freeze which threatened both vegetables and flowers folks had already planted. One lady gardener told me she had to replant some 40 or so flower sets she had put out in anticipation of warmer weather. Even perennials which had already started emerging from their winter hibernation were hit by this freeze — our Hostas required a bit of pruning after getting nipped. Mother Nature can be fickle.

In a column several months ago I noted that I would have more cleaning up of flower beds and such this spring than in the past. The reason is that last fall I read a gardening column that suggested leaving the dead plants to overwinter so as to give shelter for birds and critters so I decided to give it try. Well, this wet and cold spring has made this cleanup more difficult than I had anticipated, but I’m working on — as well as around — this challenge.

OK, moving on.

Readers with good memories may recall that for about five years or so each spring and fall I have successfully moved my Geraniums between outside containers and indoor pots. Well, last fall I moved four plants indoors but, unfortunately only one made it it through the winter. The rest simply withered and died despite my best efforts. The surviving one appeared healthy and so, with the help of our youngest son who did all the hard work, I moved it outside during that recent very warm weekend.

I also purchased several more Geraniums to replace the dead ones and so passers-by will see my usual two colorful Geranium containers.

We have already planted our patio flowers which are in containers and our hanging baskets, but haven’t started on our in-ground flowers although we have already purchased them. The soil temperature is still too low for them to grow properly. I plan to set out our patio tomatoes as soon as above-ground temperatures rise a bit but will hold off with our in-ground ones, once again until soil temperatures are suitable. The same thing is true for my sweet banana peppers.

As for my green and yellow beans, I’m ready to plant them shortly — once again depending on soil temperature. I figure the fence I contrived last year to keep those ravenous rabbits at bay is worth another try. It takes a bit of doing, but I sure don’t want to give up to those cute little bunnies with their insatiable appetites.

You know there’s lotsa talk about how this virus crisis has caused anxiety among folks and also suggestions of a variety of therapeutic activities to alleviate the stress. Well, those of us who indulge in backyard gardening have long since found that taking care of growing things is very beneficial to our well being. Oh, sure, this pastime requires dedicated investment of time, talent, and treasure, but when those beautiful flowers and tasty vegetables such as vine-ripened tomatoes appear, the effort is well worthwhile.

Then, too, getting “down and dirty” as part of gardening kinda reminds us of those childhood days when getting grubby along with scrubbing up afterwards was part of growing up. I guess “playing in the dirt” still has its appeal for some of us.

At least that’s how it seems to me.

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Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at solie1@juno.com.

Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at solie1@juno.com.