Mosquitoes hatch and dandelions bloom and thunderclouds roll in across a horizon strewn with grasping, naked limbs of trees which have yet to convince themselves that Winter's freezing touch has been dispelled, and with good reason. Out in the Rockies a foot and a half of snow has fallen and the cold front responsible will soon push away the thunderstorm and tornado spawning moist humidity from the Gulf. Hoodies will trade places with flip flops for the umpteenth time in this land where the only two true seasons are Winter and road construction; this land without Springtime.
Really though, this year was notable for the longevity and the severity of the grip of Winter. Regional meteorologist even discovered a fun new buzzword for us all to obsess over: Polar Vortex. On multiple occasions, the cold air mass that typically resides over the upper Canadian Shield was pushed down by active jet streams to center somewhere around Cleveland, Ohio. I recall reading many times that this was the result of Global Warming and that we should take cold comfort in knowing that the rest of the world was broiling in excessive heat. True Midwesterners simply sucked it up and reminded each other that this was how "real Winter" used to be in our childhoods.
All the same, as March rolled on, and the snowpack remained a foot deep in places in the yard, I intentionally delayed the sowing of cold-weather Brassicas in my basement by a week and then another.....and another. Is seemed that my concord grape vine had died from the extreme cold. I finally sowed the seeds which happily germinated and grew their first true leaves by April, about a month behind the normal schedule. Mid-April my hearty seedlings went out onto the porch to harden off during the days and then out into the virgin rows that I rototilled weeks before on the one day where the ground was between the frozen-waterlogged-frozen cycle.
Brassicas are fairly cold hearty. Even seedlings should withstand some light freezing depending on the variety. However within a week on transplant, we received two inches of mid-April snow and two consecutive nights in the mid-twenties. My seedlings were not happy. While few of them actually died, they were pretty much dissuaded from any real growth for weeks afterwards. I had also sown rows of beets, radishes, carrots, and spinach around the same time. In the old garden I tilled up four rows and sowed sweet peas.
Now it is mid-may and the beets germinated very sparsely and poorly. They are stunted pathetic little blips flipping me the middle finger centimeters from the soil line. Radishes are, however, doing very well and should be ready to harvest soon. Spinach germinated well enough as did the carrots which I recently rescued from being overtaken by purslane sprouts. Onion sets arrived in the mail and went into the ground when the chill some in the following week.
About a week ago, the god of the jet streams decided to shake things up and started hurling warm, humid air up from Galveston, Texas, spawning bands of thunderstorms as they collided with the typical cold Canadian air-mass eternally moving eastward. Tractors began to churn last years corn stalks underneath thousands of acres of familiar black earth. Driving home one sunny warm afternoon, I had the premonition, of increased urgency, and then I saw them by the side of the road. Seeders hooked up to those modern mastodons of the prairie, John Deere green and Husqvarna blonde. Seeders burdened with their payloads of corn and soybeans dependent on warm soil, lest the bank loan lies rotten and spoilt.
Home I drove, and tilled up the other half of the old garden and sowed sweet corm kernels into the rows there. In the new garden I sowed green bean seeds and okra seeds, and transplanted tomato, sweet paprika pepper plants and eggplants. The former nightshades I received in the mail only days before. The tomatoes, a mid-season variety called Rutgers which were shockingly large and too good of an opportunity to pass on, and a trio of Romas, I obtained from a local farmstand.
Sure enough, that night the storms rolled in which continued in bands for a day or two before rolling out to New England leaving warmer-than-typical temperatures, whatever that means anymore. Just like that, everything started to grow. Lawns turned green and lush with the cheery faces of hundreds of dandelions and white and purple violets heralding the beginning of lawn mowing season. Trees, which has already made a half-hearted effort to bud, began to spread misery-inducing tree-sex everywhere. Biting flies have begun to pester the dog, mosquitoes are sure to start biting in a week or two. Even the asparagus woke up, and in uniform fashion for once!
The farmstand that I obtained the tomatoes from really doesn't have shit anymore in April anymore. I stopped off at a different place a bit closer to work and found all kinds of nice seedlings in pots. I decided to bite the bullet and purchase eight "Marketmore" cucumber seedlings and two pots of "Millionaire" zucchini. Long-time readers of my gardening logs may recall all of my woes with cucumber beetles and squash bugs. I am hoping that taking last year off to starve that generation out has had the effect of braking the hold that those disease-ridden vermin had upon me.
Right now, it is more Summer than Winter, but cool weather is in the forecast. The kale, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower finally seem like they are interested in making something out of themselves. The beans and corn have not yet emerged but a little poking around in the dirt reveals good germination. Good foliage is on the raspberry canes and the strawberries are in bloom. It seems that the fruit trees may be taking the year off after last years superabundance. I am anticipating the sweet peas to flower soon. Everything around the yard is, well...SPRINGLIKE!
For the moment.