Planting Season is FINALLY Here! AKA: The Ground is Finally Thawed

Digging the holes for our four apple trees.

Last week was spring break, and usually this is the big garden planting week in our household. But the weather just hasn’t cooperated this year so my planting schedule continues to be pushed back. My raised beds were still frozen as of three days ago and the last of the snow finally disappeared yesterday.

Here’s what we accomplished (which is not much compared to my initial March To-Do List):
• Pruned 18 roses
• Pruned dogwood and rose of sharon
• Started hardening off seedlings
• Some general garden cleanup
• Designing new orchard spaces

But the BIG news is that we had our buddy come with his backhoe the last few days to prepare the sites for the orchard. We had to take down a couple of tulip trees, remove some old stumps, and dig the planting holes for the four apple trees, two paw paw trees, two mulberry trees, and three grape vines. My husband dug all the holes for our peach, cherry, and pear trees by hand and it just about killed him. Our NY soil is full of rocks and boulders—sometimes more rock than soil in your selected location. You can bet your money that there will be a gigantic rock exactly where you want to put your tree. Now, no more killing ourselves for the garden.

The trees themselves should be arriving any minute by mail order, and we still have a ton of work to do to sift/mix the planting soil (like I said, we have a lot of rock to remove from the dirt piles). But it is supposed to be cold and rainy all week—good if the trees were already in the ground, but miserable if you need to be working outside preparing and manicuring the planting sites. Looks like Saturday will be a big day.

I originally had three holes dug along our frontage fence line where I had planned to plant the grapes. Luckily, I remembered that there is a black walnut tree growing on the other side and was able to have more holes dug far, far away from the walnut while the backhoe was still here. Because these trees exude juglone, a chemical that inhibits the growth of other vegetation around it, I cannot plant sensitive plants like grapes within 60 feet of the walnut. So those holes were a mistake (and also explains why I have had such mixed success in my garden in that area. It will be redesigned this year.) However, my ground isn’t all dug up for nothing—there are a few fruiting shrubs that can tolerate the walnut’s allelopathic chemicals, so I plan to plant currants and/or gooseberries in that spot. But those are last on the list of plants to add, so if I don’t get to them this year, they’ll be a priority in the fall or next spring.

In addition to the trees, I need to get my vegetable garden started. The ground is finally workable, so this weekend I have to direct sow my spring veggies: carrots, peas, spinach, lettuce, kale, chard, beets, leeks, and onions. Normally, I would have started with the peas, spinach, kale and lettuce around March 15, but there’s no fighting Mother Nature. My April To-Do List is intense so wish me luck!

Pruned rose bush. This bush will be trained to climb the stone wall this year.

Pruned rose bush. This bush will be trained to climb the stone wall this year.

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