White Rain and a Hardening Heart

On the heels of the backyard iceberg finally disappearing, we’ve been experiencing some white rain showers for the last few days. Since it melts as it hits the ground, I see no need to toss the S word around, so I will leave it at that.

It all gets considered though, when figuring out the optimum day to seed the garden. I used to wait for the May long weekend, but that can be way later than necessary. I have learned to take my cue from nature instead of the calendar.

When the dandelions are in full bloom, it is time to put in the cool weather seeds such as peas, carrots, beets, turnips, onion sets and even potatoes. When the trees have leafed out, it is usually safe to put out the tougher transplants, provided they have gone through the hardening off period of being set outside for increasing lengths of time.

Hardening off plants is an important step to a successful garden and one that is a case of do as I say, not as I do. I completely suck at the process. Oh, I start off setting my darlings out on a sheltered porch for a couple of hours before rushing out to anxiously whisk them back inside, just like a good gardener should. But alas, in only a few short days it all falls apart. The darlings are forgotten and accidentally left out for the entire day. Usually before the first week is even over, I get up one morning and remember I forgot to bring them in the night before. The same seedlings I carefully purchased, sowed, labelled, watered, fertilized and fussed over for weeks, are left thoughtlessly abandoned like so much compost.

Of course I rush right out, oh so sorry and full of apologies, but the plants are having none of it. There they are, sitting on the porch, shoulders hunched, looking weary of it all before the season has even properly begun. Some years it is worse. Far worse. I rush out to find frost has had its way with them in the night. You’d think I would learn.

Sometimes spring gets away on me and I end up skipping the hardening off process altogether and just plant them out in the garden straight from the greenhouse or grow lights.

I watched a vlog recently where the gardener said he doesn’t bother with hardening off. He likened his method to taking the plants out in the woods and handing them each a knife and a packet of matches and saying, “Let’s see what you’re made of. I’ll be back in a couple of days to check on you.” As terrible as it sounds, I can identify.

One of the zillion great things about plants, is that they are resilient. They don’t even need knives or matches. They are designed to grow and to produce and will overcome all kinds of crazy odds to make that happen. Don’t think for a second I’m not grateful for that. But it is so much better for all concerned if you do things right and help them along. That is how bumper crops are made.

Maybe this will be the year I harden my plants off properly and they start the year with robust enthusiasm and no need for any disappointed withering glances in my direction. Or knives or match boxes. With age comes wisdom and all that. Unfortunately, with age comes forgetfulness as well. It could go either way really.

So long as the rain stops coming down white, everything should be okay. Sort of.

P.S. This morning the white rain is no longer disappearing as it hits the ground. I am now calling it rain dust. Or rain frosting. But, and this is important, I am still calling it rain. 


The Rhubarb

Yesterday was the day! The snow has been gone from the front yard for awhile now, but in the back, stubbornly hunkered against the north side of the house, was a huge persistent chunk of snow that resembled an iceberg. Its melt rate has been painfully slow. Finally only a few shards remained and yesterday morning they were gone.

Insert happy spring dance here.

Oodles of crocuses have been blooming and daffodils are spearing their way skyward as well. Several perennials have even leafed out, including The Rhubarb.

I bought The Rhubarb the first spring we were in our new apartment. Strangely enough, of all the plants I had left behind in our country garden, it was the rhubarb unfurling in the spring that I missed most of all. I felt bad putting such an earthy plant into a pot, but it didn’t seem to mind. I thought maybe if I tucked it into a sheltered corner on the balcony come winter and surrounded it with other pots, the rhubarb might survive and I could look forward to its annual unfurling once again.

Instead there were some issues with my balcony garden and the strata complained, I overreacted, and banished the lot to our yard at the store. Come fall the pots were emptied and put away, but the pot with the rhubarb was tucked in a corner along the fence and forgotten.

We were well into the next spring, when Darcy discovered the rhubarb in full leaf. By this time I had rented four beds at the Community Garden, so I took the rhubarb there where it hung out in its pot, at the end of one of my beds. I left it there come winter, and the next spring up it came in its pot once again. The following spring we moved into our house and the rhubarb was brought from the community garden to our backyard, released from its pot and for the first time in its rhubarb life, allowed to discover what it was like to wiggle its roots deep into the earth.

And now, here it is, coming up once again, but this time sans pot.

The really weird thing about all of this? I don’t even like rhubarb. As a kid my mom would send me outside with a bowl of sugar and I would pull up a rhubarb stalk, laze out in a lawn chair and basically use the rhubarb to spoon up the sugar.

Darcy is even more ambivalent about rhubarb than I am. Even sugared up rhubarb pies or cobblers fail to impress him much. Our sons were a different story. Not only did they love rhubarb, they ate it raw without any sugar at all, causing us to worry they were deficient in some kind of vitamin or mineral or something.

I will always grow rhubarb simply for its early rise in the spring, its majestic leaves, its gorgeous ruby stalks and the plumes of cream that froth its tops later in the season (though if growing for production you usually snap the stalks off before they flower). If left to bloom, it is a worthy stand in for other ornamentals such as rodgersia. My whole goal for the front yard is to create a space that is equally edible and pretty. Another bonus for using rhubarb out front is that deer leave it alone.

A rhubarb in bloom against that big Peace Country sky!

The Rhubarb, however, was planted in the backyard. Of course it was. I feel guilty to be moving the poor thing once again after it has been so brave, for so long, but hopefully this move will be its last. And not because the move kills it. Given its years of tenacity I am sure it will make the move without mishap. It would be pretty ironic if this is what ends up doing it in though.

And who knows? Maybe our tastes have changed. Once The Rhubarb is established, I think I will try out a few rhubarb recipes again just to find out. That’s a wonderful thing about life. Things are always changing and you just never know.

April Snow Brings May Flowers…or something like that.

The snow was almost gone from the front yard and little spikes of bulbs were spearing their way up all over the place. On the south bed, up against the house, one daring little crocus even burst into bloom.

Today, while out snow blowing the driveway, there was no sign of life. Or lawn. Just lots of the white stuff and I don’t mean crocus petals.

Every year spring arrives and we lose our minds. Every year, just as the last bit of snow is about to melt, winter makes a comeback and every year we are equal parts outraged and surprised.

As that old joke goes, winter in the north is like an angry person who storms out of the room only to return and say, “And another thing…”

Today we woke up to another thing which turned out to be several inches thick. Which is also a good thing, given the amount of life that was starting to bubble to the surface. When temperatures drop, the snow acts like an insulating blanket keeping all that greenery protected until winter decides to exit again, which, according the forecast, will happen tomorrow with highs of +11 C.

So once again, we are looking forward to spring casting off its white comforter. But this time we are keeping a wary eye on the door in case winter has a few last stormy retorts.