Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wait Your Turn

It's a crisp 4 degrees C (39 F) outside with a sharpish wind right from the north but the sun is brilliant and the snow is all melted, except for a patch here and there like a sodden mound of discarded newspapers.

I am seized by that irresistible longing of all gardeners in early spring. To be doing something, anything in the garden. I throw on a windbreaker and toque and go out to walk the fence line of the triangular plot of ground the condo board has said I could use as a community garden this spring. It's large enough for 20 gardeners to have good-sized plots. There are small trees at irregular intervals but they are not large enough to block the sun. Our summer days are long and with planning we can throw the shade primarily in the aisles between the rows.

Water may be a bigger problem. The area is watered by an automatic sprinkler system. Two sprinkler heads cover this entire hundred-foot-long section. You guessed it, they are like two fire hoses. I'm hoping we can talk the condo board into putting faucet heads on those sprinkler nozzles. Otherwise everyone is going to have to put some kind of water force diffuser between their crop and those nozzles. Ah, but what's gardening without a challenge? If you have sun you have no water. If you have water, you have no sun. If you have both the soil is rocky or alkaline enough to make soap with.

So I came back in, pleased with the site and the sun. I was still restless. I got my secateurs and gloves, grabbed the trolley and a big blue plastic tub and headed back out again. The landscaping here was done by a "What's colourful immediately?" approach. Not to say it isn't nice, but no one has laid a finger on it since it was planted in 2007 and the shrubs are pretty sad looking. There's lots of dead wood on them, the bottom halves are bare, they have overgrown the walkway and grab at people's eyes as they pass.

I began with the worst offender, a serviceberry bush near the entrance. It was about seven feet tall by end of summer. I trimmed it back in September, when it was absolutely over-run by aphids, and looked (and I'm sure felt) sick. Today I lopped off all the dead wood, took it back to about 18" tall, and rounded up the form. It should come out nice and compact in April. Serviceberrys usually bloom in May here, these were so spindly and sapped by aphids that they didn't start to bloom until September.

A tree has either volunteered or was planted right beside the serviceberry, so the shrub surrounds it. Branches were hanging over the walk, so I trimmed those as well, and cut a sucker which had come up out of the bottom.

I noticed on the other side of the walk there are about six or eight green spears of whatever we planted there last fall. My fellow condo board member Trevor and I planted 200 spring bulbs, a mix of tulips, hyacinths, crocus, daffodils, narcissus and others I am forgetting. We put about 150 along the main walkway and around the base of the trees out front, the others went at the other entrances. I'm thrilled to see something coming up, probably crocus - they are close to the building in that spot, and probably stayed warmest all winter.

I went out to the end of the walk and pruned the wolf willow. This little tree is at the very end of the walkway and at some point it must have been run over by a vehicle. The trunk lies perpendicular to the ground. I trimmed back branches that had overgrown the sidewalk and get walked on, or tripped over.

I emptied the heaped high trimmings into the dumpster, and having satisfied my garden lust I came in to be greeted by my dirty kitchen. It has to learn to take its turn.

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