Spring gardening is difficult when your vision is impaired, but the weeds won't wait

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By: Jim Carpenter

I pulled a few weeds in my garden the other day. Not many, maybe only a dozen or so.

It was in a raised bed so I only had to lean over just a bit to do it. The big deal about all this is that it was the first time I did any upkeep of the garden since my eye surgery in April left me with limited eyesight. I guess this meant my vision had improved to where I could now recognize friend from foe in the garden, at least up close!

While I have been a bit out of the loop lately, I get the feeling that this must be a pretty crazy spring for most gardeners. With all the rain and cool temperatures, the warmer season plants can’t really respond like they will when it warms up. I suppose a lot of people are holding off planting for a bit. It is still pretty early, there certainly should be many months of a fruitful (pun intended) growing season ahead.

But I am always trying to gain perspective by looking at situations with a “it could have been worse” attitude. So I have been thinking of worse problems than a cool, wet spring. One of those that we experienced not too long ago was a hot, dry spring.

Most of us recall the events if not the year (it was 2012), with the late freeze and many dry months. That was a tough year for almost everyone trying to grow any kind of crop, but the late frost hit hard with area fruit growers. My personal story is about the morning of April 28, when I walked past my little peach tree and saw the frozen buds. Not just a frost on them, but really frozen solid. I knew this meant I would not be enjoying the delicious fresh and preserved fruits this small tree would have yielded in the upcoming season.

Let me share one more story from that weird spring.

It was so warm and dry that I planted potatoes in the second week of March (I think March 12) and by the April 28 freeze they were nearly a foot tall. After inspecting the frozen peach tree on that morning I went to see my potatoes. As I reached down and felt the ice solid potato leaves in my hand, I thought how strange this formerly soft leaf felt. I knew the leaves were all dead, but I also knew the potato pieces in the ground would likely be sending up more growth.

Back to 2016 and the realities of this spring.

I feel fortunate that I happened to till some sections of the garden in mid-April when I was still able to do so. This has allowed me to get a few of the plants in the ground from the ones growing on my back porch. Mostly tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. It was also nice that I could plant some of these plants in my raised beds. I could actually sit on the edge of the raised bed and work the soil with little effort. Hopefully, in a week or two, I might have vision back enough to do a little hoeing. I will take what I get. It is kind of like the weather. Not much a person can do about it.

I suppose one thing to keep in mind as we continue to get gardens ready for the spring, is to be sure and not work the soil until it is suitably dry. If the soil remains a clump in your hand after squeezing a ball of it, it is probably too wet. If it is worked when there is too much moisture, it will compact into hard clods that might stay that way for years. Trust me, I know.

Soil compaction happens when the soil particles lose the spaces between them. These areas provide for mineral, water, and air movement through the soil. They also provide a way for new roots of plants to easily form new growth.. Imagine those fragile plant roots trying to get though a rock hard ball of dirt.

Just as it is difficult to predict the weather, it is also hard to predict impacting events in our lives. Things happen and we must deal with them as best we can. My garden this year may be one of my least tended gardens I have ever had. But we do what we can and hope for the best. In the garden and in our lives. But really, aren’t most of us gardeners optimistic people?

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