Get growing: The spring tease is nearly over — honest!
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That stupid groundhog got it all wrong this year, predicting an early spring. The apology from his handler isn’t enough to make home gardeners happy.
On the last day of winter we had significant snow and temperatures have been pretty cold, at least at night. Maple sugar people are thrilled but gardeners are feeling grumpy. It is far from an early spring. I trust few people planted peas on St. Patrick’s Day as is often the tradition.
My winter aconites bravely bloomed surrounded by a few inches of snow. Nearby snowdrops lifted their weary heads after so many false alarms of warm weather. The early scillas stopped their growth and the Christmas rose seemed grateful for its glass cloche.
My son and daughter-in-law visited from southern Connecticut last weekend, announcing daffodils in bloom and no snow cover. I was truly surprised to learn that they live in Hardiness Zone 7a, compared to my Zone 5. I had cautioned them about planting seeds too early but their local nursery recommended planting tomato seeds by March 1. Now I see that wasn’t crazy. However, every winter and spring is different. They certainly won’t be planting tomatoes on April 11, which is their official last frost day. Even these novices knew that was out of the question.
I was happy to present them with a copy of Ron and Jennifer Kujawski’s excellent vegetable gardening book:”Vegetable Gardening Week-by-Week” which is where I learned that in Bridgeport, near their home, the last anticipated frost is April 11 — at least a full month ahead of the Pioneer Valley.
Last fall, when the new USDA hardiness maps were released I was pleased to note that Northampton is now Zone 6 while colder Amherst remains as Zone 5. I had suspected for years it was warmer over there — probably because of the Connecticut River! It’s usually warmer near water.
Even Jay and Jenni will have to admit that this year is colder than last year and we shouldn’t get over eager for planting. That’s hard to do with snow on the ground anyway.
So, start your tomato seeds indoors, pray for a prolonged thaw which will allow us to plant peas, lettuce, broccoli and other early spring vegetables outdoors. Clean your tools, start other seeds indoors and don’t neglect your house plants. They are just as excited about the longer days as we are. Spring is really just around the corner. It’s just a longer corner than usual.
BIRTHDAY EVENTS: The Hadley Garden Center is celebrating its 50th birthday with an incredible slate of events. Bring the kids tomorrow from 9 a.m. to noon for a “Potting Pansies Party.” Children aged 3 to 13 are invited to pick a pot, plant a pansy and decorate it as desired. “Tree Planting — Best Practices” will be demonstrated by Amherst Tree Warden Alan Snow from 1 to 2 p.m. and Stan Brehm, the Moo Doo Man, will be on hand all day to explain Moo Doo products, including compost and fertilizer. Next Saturday there will be a free pruning workshop from 1 to 2 p.m. with Kyle Longtin, local arborist. All events are free. Note that the Garden Center is closed on Easter Sunday.
COMMUNITY GARDENS: Registration for plots at the Northampton Community Gardens is tomorrow from 10 a.m. to noon at the Northampton Recreation Department behind Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School on Locust Street in Northampton. The fee is $22 per plot. For more information check the website: nohogardens.org.
KUJAWSKI BACK: Ron Kujawski, popular former Gazette columnist and retired UMass Extension agent, will give a workshop, “Getting a Jump on the Spring Vegetable Garden,” tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Annie’s Garden and Gift Store, Route 116, North Amherst. Participants will learn techniques for getting an early start on spring with appropriate plant selection, methods for warming the soil and using grow tunnels. The session is free but registration is encouraged. Call 549-6359.
BAY STATE LECTURE: Anne Marie Kostecki and Dan Zima of Bay State Perennial Farm in Whately will show slides of their personal gardens tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Dickinson Library, 202 Chestnut Plain Road, in Whately. The talk is free. The nursery opens for the season on April 6.
Invasive Species Panel: The Hitchcock Center for the Environment sponsors a community dialogue on Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. on non-native invasive species that are a problem in the Pioneer Valley, Ted Elliman of the New England Wild Flower Society, Martha Hoopes of Mount Holyoke College, Julie Richburg of The Trustees of Reservations, Jono Neiger of the Regenerative Design Group in Greenfield and Eric Toensmeier of Perennial Solutions in Holyoke comprise the panel. The event is free but donations are welcome. The Hitchcock Center is at 525 South Pleasant St., Amherst. 256-6006.
PERENNIALS: Both Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge and Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston offer workshops on growing perennials in April. Berkshire Botanical has a three-part series, April 4, 11, and 18 from 10 a.m. to noon with staff member Elizabeth Cary. The fee for the series is $50. Check the website: www.berkshirebotanical.org for details and to register. Tower Hill offers a single workshop on April 6 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Propagating Perennials with Joan Butler and Jana Milbank of Enchanted Gardens. The fee is $22. The website is www.towerhillbg.org.
TREE PLANTING: The Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee sponsors First Saturday Tree Plantings beginning April 6. The first special planting will be a sugar maple on Mount Pollux from 9 a.m. to noon. The tree will be planted near the top of the hill where the late Homer Cowles planted a similar tree decades ago. Cowles’ tree is beginning to decline so the new tree will be a long-term replacement. The public is invited to assist with the planting of the sugar maple and with plantings in May, June, September and October. Tree Warden Alan Snow will demonstrate proper planting techniques. For more information contact Bob Erwin at 256-6705 or Hope Crolius at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PLANT ORDERS: The deadline for ordering plants through the Hampshire Conservation District is April 10. Tree, shrub, perennial and herb seedlings are available for mail order and pickup on April 27 at Three County Fairgrounds. A complete catalog is available at: www.pioneervalleyconservation.org.
PLANT SALE LISTINGS: Local non-profit organizations wishing to list plant sales occurring in upcoming months should email email@example.com. with details. Please provide date, place, hours, plant varieties and contact information.