A Fresh Start

Happy New Year!

It’s been an unseasonably mild start here. Feels more like Spring than Winter. Parts of Europe are experiencing the same balmy weather. Who knows what this portends in the big climate scenario. It is cause to feel concerned but the reality is that unless and until every one of use and all the governments in the world commit wholly to do everything in our power to do right by the earth, matters will not improve. On my part, I will continue to do my best to work in harmony with nature. Meanwhile, I shall make the most of the very pleasant weather – enjoy long walks, meals out on the terrace, linger in the garden and watch the birds, soak up sunshine and take pleasure in being jacket, hat and gloves free. I anticipate ( fervently hope) the temperatures will drop to normal levels soon enough. My garden depends on that!

It behooves us all to pay mind to these shifts in weather patterns. Our future well being depends on it.

There are to-do items to address nevertheless. And I’m getting on them.

Things To Do In January

Survey the garden after every storm or snowfall. If any damage such as broken branches or torn off protection has occurred, try to fix it as soon as possible. Likewise, large icicles hanging from roof edges pose a threat to plants below: shield the plants if the icicles cannot be removed.

  1. Take down holiday decorations. Before disposing off the Christmas tree, cut branches to spread as mulch on flower beds. I add the chopped up tree to the compost heap. Some towns pick up trees left out and chip them up to use as mulch.

  2. Keep bird feeders full. Whenever possible, keep water available for the birds.

  3. Inspect stored tubers, corms and bulbs for signs of mold and rot. Get rid of any that don’t look healthy.

  4. This is a good time to examine the ‘bones’ of the garden. Make notes of what needs developing, changing or improving.

  5. Make icy paths safe by sprinkling sand or grit. Avoid toxic de-icing products.

  6. If ground is wet/soggy, take care to protect the sodden areas by not walking on it too much. Better yet, protect it by putting down a temporary path of wood planks.

  7. Take an inventory of garden tools. Get them repaired, replaced or sharpened.

  8. Gather up seed and plant catalogs. Start planning for the coming season.

  9. Begin forcing the bulbs kept cool since late fall. Time to start an indoor spring!

  10. Keep an eye on indoor plants ( in the house or greenhouse). Inspect carefully for signs of pests or disease. Act right away if either is detected. Organic practices only please.

  11. Still on indoor plants: water as needed, rotate for uniform light exposure, fertilize every two to four weeks. Remove dead or yellowing leaves.

  12. Enjoy the respite offered by this cold month.

Together, lets make this a meaningful, mindful year.

Note: Some memories from 2022 –

(c) 2023 Shobha Vanchiswar

May Flowers

It’s finally looking and feeling like spring. After last week’s cool, windy days, the weekend arrived bright, sunny and warm. A gift! It’s now a mad dash to get the garden in ship-shape for its May 14 Open Day. Lots got done over the weekend – aching muscles bear testimony. Still more remains. Because of the unprecedentedly cold weather, we’re running behind schedule. But, that’s life in the garden. Nature is always in charge. However hard we gardeners work, we are not in control. Ever. That is a good lesson to take to heart – do your best, stay humble, be resilient and work with Nature not against.

Our relationship with Nature, whilst seemingly collaborative, is an unequal one. It is best to accept that. Leave the ego outside the garden or else it’ll be shredded ruthlessly in no time. And in the end, when the garden looks gorgeous, graciously accept your part in it but know in your heart who really had the last word.

So, I’m keeping my head down and focusing on getting the work done. I’m also beseeching the powers that be to be kind and generous to send good weather, get the plants blooming and bring in many happy visitors.

Here’s the general To-Do list for May –

Things To Do In May

  1. Weed regularly if you want to keep the thugs in check.

  2. Put stakes in place so as plants grow it’ll be easy to secure them.

  3. Deadhead spent blooms for a neat look. Some plants will reward you with a second wave of blooms. Of course, if you want to collect seeds, do not deadhead.

  4. Water as necessary. Add a splash of compost tea to fertilize – about every 2-3 weeks.

  5. Plant in summer vegetables, summer bulbs and tubers and, annuals.

  6. Keep bird baths filled with clean water. Use mosquito ‘dunks’ to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. The same goes for fountains.

  7. Start mowing lawns but do the right thing by keeping the mower blade high at about four inches. Leave clippings in place to replenish the soil.

  8. Make sure all beds, shrubs and trees are mulched to retain moisture and keep weeds from proliferating.

  9. To take care of weeds in areas that are paved or bricked, pour boiling hot water over them. The weeds will be killed and no chemicals were used!

  10. Stay vigilant for pests or disease. The earlier you catch a problem, the easier it is to treat them. Always employ organic methods.

  11. Stir the compost heap regularly. Keep adding in kitchen and garden waste.

  12. Take time every day to simply enjoy the garden.

  13. Visit other gardens through the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program. You will be vastly instructed and inspired. Www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays

Note: I’ll be at Teatown Lake Reservation’s eagerly awaited and hugely popular PlantFest May 6 &7. Look for my Seeds Of Design booth – items from my Printed Garden Collection will be available. Beautiful gifts for Mother’s Day, teachers, hostess, brides , birthdays and yourself. All profits donated.

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar