Misadventures in the Spring Garden

Is that supposed to be some sort of artistic statement? What is that? This from my neighbour looking at a miscellany of terra cotta pots grouped in one of my flower beds. It actually was my vain attempt to save the last of my species tulips from the marauding chipmunks. The excavation started last summer. I would come home from work and find the skins of the tulip bulbs on my back step. And, inevitably, lots of holes where the tulips used to be.

I used to have a whole border of the beautiful little yellow tarda species tulips. They were so thick that I was wondering where I was going to put the excess when I divided them. That problem has been solved and I didn’t have to do any digging at all.

It used to annoy me that the fall bulb catalogues came so early in the season. They all seem to arrive while the daffodils and tulips are still blooming. However, this year I am glad to see them. I am, of course, planning to replace some of the tarda tulips eaten by the marauders. Gardeners are ever optimistic in the face of opposition from little furry Forces of Nature. The refrain of gardeners everywhere is as always next year will be better. I am hoping for fewer excavations next year. Probably that is a vain hope.

I am also hoping that the recent rain will make portions of my lawn look less like the African savannah. It is so brown and crispy out there that I would not be surprised to see some gazelles and giraffes pop up. I feel positively ancient when I think to myself that I haven’t seen such a dry spring in many, many years.

The poor vegetables struggled along with being watered every other day. If they were lucky. It was too hot and dry to plant lettuce in the garden so I decided to plant some in a shallow planter. I put the planter in a half shady spot hoping for at least a few home grown salads. Of course, when I came home at night I found several shallow holes in the soil of the planter. Not chipmunks this time but a small toad. I am not the kind of person to make a toad homeless so have given up on the salad idea.

I said last month that I would talk about my favourite garden tools. The hands down winner is the garden bandit. I am told by someone a lot older and smarter than me that this is a modern version of an older homemade tool. One version apparently had a wooden handle and the blade part was made with a portion of a bandsaw blade. The modern version has a plastic handle and a thin band of metal attached to it. Simple idea. Best weeder ever.

My second most useful garden tool is the Jekyll weeder. This simple two pronged hand weeder is named after the English gardener, Gertrude Jekyll (rhymes with treacle). It is useful for weeding out grass where plants are close together with minimal disturbance. I am fairly certain that this tool is only available from Lee Valley. I somehow managed to break mine weeding in a spot where there were a lot of rocks. So I can tell you that a one pronged weeder is truly useless. I was hoping that there would be a cheaper version available locally. But, alas, I was unable to find one. So I ordered a new one from the nice people at Lee Valley. I realised while waiting for the replacement Jekyll weeder that I was hardpressed to do without it. My small digging fork proved to be a poor substitute for the Jekyll weeder.

By Jill Williams

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