I just returned home from my stay in Florida a little over a week ago and am excited to be back in the beautiful Catskill Mountain/Hudson Valley region.
I love spending my winter season in sunny Florida, but this is my real home. It was already late spring there when I left Florida, but the seasons seem to change subtly in this part of the country, unless you’re a local and far more conscious than I ever will be. Spring isn’t subtle at all when it arrives in Greene County!
Spring in Florida sneaks up on you, but it hits you hard in the face if you live in the great Northeast. The slap in the face doesn’t hurt, though, because spring wears a soft glove when it finally comes. People who think you can’t turn back time probably never drove 1,400 miles north of central Florida to upstate New York at the end of April. You don’t even have to travel that far. If you are heading northwest from the Hudson Valley into the Catskill Mountains. Kingston to Hunter is a two-week time travel in itself.
I’m always afraid that if I dally too long I’ll miss some of the flowering sequences that start in April. That was definitely not the case this year! The forests that surround my house are still dormant and transparent. The wood thrush, stovebirds, robins, titmice and blackbirds sing their songs as if the world depended on it. I just wish there were some turkeys eating nearby so I could try and shoot one. Life and death are a natural state that we often take for granted.
I am so excited to know that two new babies have arrived to witness their first spring as I witness my 73rd. Welcome to the world, babies Corinna and Victor. Your parents will teach you some of what I taught them and that makes me very happy.
This is a great time to plant some seeds for this summer’s indoor vegetable garden. I remind you to rely on your soil thermometer and not the calendar before attempting any transplants. The soil temperature in a bed in front of my house has not yet reached 50 degrees. Lettuce and some other spring vegetables can handle these temperatures, but not much more! A layer of black plastic mulch heats the topsoil faster. There is absolutely nothing to be seen of my asparagus or even weeds in my garden. The 4 inch layer of straw mulch I applied last November keeps the soil colder than bare soil and will take at least a week or two longer before the beds are warm enough to plant. My garlic planted in October is now about three inches tall and it’s the only green thing in my garden!
If you’re growing strawberries, now is the time to remove that straw mulch that you should have put on last fall. Her flower buds were fully formed in the short days of October and November last year. Snails are already becoming active and you may also need to apply a repellent spray for early insect pests. Place a piece of fruit on the ground and check for snails early the next morning to see if they are already there. I prefer a protective spray early in the season rather than spraying when the fruit has already formed and is beginning to ripen. Turtles and chipmunks love strawberries!
There is still time to prune your apple and pear trees, even if they have already flowered, but wait until early June with peaches, plums and cherries. You can stick some flowering crabapple branches in your edible apple trees if they are flowering at the same time. Crab apples are excellent pollinators for all apple trees, and the extra flowers make the trees more attractive to pollinating insects.
My lawn is weeks away from mowing for the first time this season, but some of you have had to mow twice or more. Finger millet begins to sprout when the forsythia blooms fade, and for those of you who are interested in finger millet, consider using corn gluten meal as a preventive measure. The meal doubles as an organic fertilizer, contains 10% nitrogen, and is actually more effective the second year after use. You don’t need to apply any other lawn fertilizer at the moment. I’ve seen quite a bit of feeding damage to lawns this spring and it almost always occurs on fertilized lawns.
Bob Beyfuss lives and works in Schoharie County. Email him at [email protected]