Every year I get spring fever along about January 15th. I usually manage to squelch it until February, but by then I can’t stand it and just have to stick a few seeds in the soil. This year we had an unseasonably warm, mild and dry January, which made it much worse. I tried to stifle the urge to plant by dividing perennials and repotting a few things that wouldn’t be hurt if the weather turned cold and wet. The weather, predictably, stayed fine. So I have seedling peas, lettuce, beets, chard, various greens, and scallions out there at the moment—under fourteen inches of snow.
Remember those “it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” commercials? Yet we all try it. We plant things too early or too late. We plant things in Zone 7 that should be planted in Zone 9. We cover tender plants ahead of a freeze and cross our fingers. We wait to water because the prediction is for rain tomorrow. We forget, as Gene Logsdon is fond of saying, that sweet old Mother Nature can just as easily be Old Bitch Nature.
In the good years, it’s worth it. We get the first tomatoes before everybody else. The raspberries, which like a slowly warming, lingering spring, give us buckets of delight. The pantry shelves groan under the weight of canned produce and the freezer is stuffed full. In the bad years, the tomatoes don’t set fruit because it’s too hot for them to flower. Deer eat the chard just as it’s ready to pick, and ground squirrels tunnel under the fence to decimate the winter squash.
So we replant what gets hit by the late spring frosts. We recognize that the plums will bear in alternate years and make enough jam for a two year supply. We grow apples and pears and apricots and blackberries as well as plums, so there will always be some sort of fruit. We chase the wild turkeys out of the barley, the deer out of the orchard, and shoot the damned ground squirrels. It takes perseverance and patience to be a gardener.
And a considerable supply of cuss words.