Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring is springing

A suburban greenmom ventures out to see if it might really possibly be spring…

Yesterday it hit about 65 degrees and sunny in my Chicago suburban neighborhood. I took my first walk out into the yard to see what the plant life was up to, or if it was even doing anything yet. All of you readers who live in places where you are already harvesting things—I was, until yesterday, still waiting for the first crocuses to bloom.
I found a blooming crocus. The pussy willows are fuzzy. The yarrow is green little clumps around the ground. The hyssop as well. The lemon balm is giving off its characteristic citrusy fragrance.
It’s officially spring in Chicago, no matter what the calendar says.
Last year we did a big re-landscape on our yard, and I put in a whole mess of bulbs and perennial herbs. We transplanted some rose bushes from my late in-laws’ house. We planted an apple tree and several berry bushes.  And as of the first frost, I had no idea whether any of it would make it through to spring, though with every non-crazy-cold week that went by all winter my hope grew. And it looks like it’s all good. Both elderberries show little greenness at the base of last year’s twigs. The blueberries are budding, as is the apple tree and the tiny Carmine Jewel cherry bush. The roses appear to still be “wick,” as Dickon in The Secret Garden would say. Not too surprisingly, I also discovered my old nemeses already hard at work: a number of the bulbs and the chamomile patch are already nibbled down to the soil by our resident marauding bunny tribe.
Our new landscape is working on two main principles: edible perennial landscaping, and weedless gardening. We’re mixing edible perennials and annuals, berries and vegetables, with other more ornamental companion plants and herbs, especially ones that will decompose into fertilizer and compost for the next spring’s growth. And we’ll do one more year of manure and mulch to feed our sort of dead clay soil until this batch of plant life gets vigorous enough to produce its own decaying organic matter for the next year. Then…hopefully it will be able to mostly continue on its own, the way natural wild berry patches and herb beds do when we aren’t tilling, planting monocrops in rows, and doing all that other civilized human stuff to our gardens.
Once you start thinking outside the box on gardening methods, there are actually a good many resources available to get you going. Shawna Coronado’s “Casual Gardener” site has some good info, and there are a few sites with information about “lasagna gardening,” a no-soil way to create a garden by making layers of organic material in a raised bed. And this site has some lovely pictures of gorgeous edible landscaping…if you have any other suggestions or resources, please list them in the comments!
--Jenn the Greenmom

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