Early season “dirty” thoughts on gardening

I had a friend of mine tell me it’s OK to have “dirty thoughts” if you’re a gardener. This made me laugh because I love the smell of soil. When we reach March and the frozen tundra begins to thaw our thoughts turn to the smell of good clean dirt. When we’ve been cooped up inside all winter in dry forced air and a confined space, we discover how much the rich healing texture and smell of soil and sunshine influences how we feel. I’m convinced that soil, fresh air and foliage are significant contributors to how we feel and our overall health. Don’t take my word for it, I’m not a doctor, just an “entre-manure”. A bag of potting soil this time of year can have big remedial effects for the winter blues. Remember as we move into the spring season we do know that there is a direct correlation between the health of your soil and the healthy produce, flowers and herbs you are able to grow in your garden.

Our Backyard Oasis awaits
Our Backyard Oasis awaits

I enjoy reading the Garden Media Group’s report on gardening trends at this time of year. There is a real and “growing” interest in backyard gardening as the yard today performs double duty. Your yard is your oasis for relaxation while also being the hub for social activity and entertaining. Among the numerous trends they point out you may find these to be interesting:
-A trend of “Glamping” which is a great way to describe pitching a tent with some at home glamor. Think throw pillows and a sofa in the tent and you get the general drift.
Pitch a tent in the backyard and bring the bed and sofa out there? You may be a candidate for "Glamping"
Pitch a tent in the backyard and bring the bed and sofa out there? You may be a candidate for “Glamping”

-Interest in staying grounded. Recycling food scraps (11.7% of U.S. waste is food scraps) and making landscapes not landfills starting with your own personal compost pile.
-Edible gardening including “drinking your garden” with the interest in hops, berries and vegetable and herb foliage to create smoothies.
-A “tree”-mendous reversal with a renewed interest in planting trees. With housing starts on the rise after a long slump and the awareness of the loss of millions of trees nationwide in the last 10 years….people are thinking tree planting again.
-Men in the 18-34 age demographic are a big and growing group interested in backyard living. From grilling to taking the youngsters out to play in the yard these young Dads have a real interest in outdoor living.
-“Bee”-neficials is what they call the interest in planting blooming native plants that are pollen rich to support a declining bee population vital to pollination.

Your houseplants have had a long winter. They have cabin fever, are tired of the dry air and whether in the office or the home have probably collected a little dust on their foliage. Lack of light is already a problem throughout winter so don’t compound the problem with dusty dirty foliage. Using some warm water and a pair of soft cotton gloves, dip your hands gloves and all in the warm water and gently using your fingers wipe (don’t pull or tug) the foliage. This is a quick gentle easy way to clean the foliage and improve photosynthesis.
Are you tired of winter about now and want to force the issue? You can force landscape branches into bloom indoors in March to deal with your cabin fever. Spring flowering trees and shrubs need a period of cold dormancy in order to bloom. By February and early March they’ve experienced sufficient dormancy to bloom. A close look in the landscape reveals swelling buds of lilac or forsythia. Look for swollen plump buds on healthy young branches. Cut the branches at an angle with a good clean by-pass pruning shear. Cut the branches long enough to display in a vase, usually 12 to 18 inches is a good length. Plunge the freshly cut branches immediately into water. We don’t want the branches to dry out. You will see best results if you do not place them in a direct sunny window. The warm indoor temperatures will stimulate the buds to wake up without “blasting” them in a window with direct sunlight. Bright indirect light will work best. Contingent on the species you’ve pruned you can expect the buds to swell and open within 1 to 3 weeks. When the buds begin to open you can display them in the vase or use the branches as supplements to a floral arrangement. Forsythia, Pussy Willow, Witchhazel, Honeysuckle, Cornelian Dogwood, Cherry, Juneberry, Crabapple and Bridal Wreath Spirea are all relatively easy spring bloomers to force into bloom indoors. If you’re feeling creative some Quince, Deutzia, Lilac, Red Twig Dogwood, Wisteria, Magnolia, Peach, Pear or Rhododendron might be fun to try.

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