Ginny celebrated the first day of spring by sowing
seeds in her cutting garden-to-be.
Celebrate the Vernal Equinox
by Ginny Stibolt
It's that time of year when the equal days and nights cause birds
and bats to set up
housekeeping, and gardeners to scurry before summer's heat hits. Happy
The gardener's flurry
It was high time to get my new spring bulbs and seeds
in the ground, so the past couple of weeks have been busy.
Down back by the lake, our bulkhead had been overrun with wedelia
trilobata) and wild taro (Colocasia
antiquorum). I thought the wedelia
was bad as an invasive, but the taros are much worse.
They send long strings of bulblets out in all directions, including
under the lawn and into the lake. Because the previous owner
had planted sod right up to the bulkhead, there was also St. Augustine
grass in the mix. My husband and I spent a few days working
to clear the bed.
Now it's planted with some sago pups (Cycas
revoluta) that I harvested last spring,
some new liatris (Liatris
spicata) corms, and some wild asters (not sure which one)
from the lawn. Since it's a mostly sunny location, the seeds
I've planted are purple coneflower (Echinacea
purpurea), cleome (Cleome
serrulata), and Burpee's hybrid zucchini squash (Cucurbita
I have not yet mulched the bed for two reasons: 1) I'm waiting for the seeds
to sprout, and 2) I'm watching for those obnoxious taro sprouts. But
the whole area looks so much better, and the bulkhead will last longer
without all those weeds crawling over it.
In a damp site near the front rain
garden, I removed more grass in front of the foundation plantings
and planted some new pink rain lily bulbs (Zephyranthes
grandiflora) and cardinal flower (Lobelia
cardinalis) seeds that were as fine as dust. I also
planted some blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium
angustifolium) that I'd rescued from the lawn. There's
an area on the way down to the lake where there are still quite
a number growing with the grass. After I dug them out, I replaced
my divots with grass plugs from other areas. It's all about
reusing and recycling. I read one Florida lawn book that listed
blue-eyed grass as a weed. I think of it as a treasure—it's
blooming now in the rain garden.
Then I worked on the west-facing bed behind the garage.
I'd tried some wildflower mixes there last year with limited success.
I did end up with a gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia
gloriosa) that has been blooming all winter even after I
split it into several pieces. There are a couple of other
perennial holdovers in this bed that I planted around. Last
year the zinnias (Zinnia
elegans) loved it out there, so I planted two different
types this year. I also planted these seeds: scarlet sage
coccinea), blanket flower (Gaillardia
grandiflora), butterfly weed (Asclepias
tuberosa), wild lupine (Lupinus perennis), and the
heirloom hybrid, salvia blue bedder (Salvia
farinacea). When I bought seeds from one company,
they sent a bonus pack of wildflower mix, so I planted those seeds
as well. Maybe a mix will do better with my new planting method.
The method I use now for planting seeds here in our weed-prone climate is to prepare the soil by digging in some of my
compost and smoothing out the surface. I cover the planting area
with a half-inch of sterilized soil. Then I sow the seeds and pat
down the soil. For fine seeds like the cardinal flower, no topping
is necessary. For larger seeds, I rub more of the sterilized soil
between my hands to make a fine dust covering. This works for rows
or areas. This year I'm going for the cottage garden look, so I've
planted more areas and fewer rows. I
make sure to plan for places where I can step for easy access to the
around the planting areas I mulch heavily with wood chips, making sure there are no gaps between the planting areas and the mulch.
I'm still using wood chips that I got from a tree trimmer in our
neighborhood last fall. The price was right—free.
Signs of spring...
The tangle of our jasmine vine (Trachelospermum
jasminoides) offers cover for a cardinal's nest by the back
porch. Right now there are two eggs in the nest. We
have been careful not to let screened door slam as we go in and
Honeybees have been busy on the clover flowers in the lawn and in the blackberry brambles in the meadows. The hummingbirds are back
at our feeder—mostly males this early in the season.
The bats are back, too. They unfortunately like our back porch pillars and leave their droppings on the screen and on the ledge outside of the screen. When they leave this year, we'll install screening on the open pillar tops, and put up a bat house or two out in the yard.
We want them, but just not that close.
All these signs of spring are endlessly fascinating, and
give me great joy. I celebrated the vernal equinox with vigorous gardening activities.
Enjoy your spring, and get out in your garden!
Ginny Stibolt would
like to hear from readers who have suggestions and questions. After all,
there are more than a few transplanted gardeners here in northeast Florida
trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t in planting zone 8/9.
You may contact her or read extra details on her articles and other
information posted on her website: www.transplantedgardener.com.
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