The Winter That Won’t End

4/13/2013 7:00 AM
By Robin Follette Maine Correspondent

The winter of 2013 is behaving like a 3-year-old denied candy in a candy store — kicking and screaming, refusing to leave.

It’s early April, and not only is there still snow on the ground at the edges of fields and in the woods, more was expected to fall on Friday. Overnight temperatures are still dropping into the teens, making the ground too cold for even hardy spinach that germinates slowly at 38 degrees.

I can walk on top of the garden in the morning and am just now starting to sink a little as the ground warms in the afternoon.

I let the ducks out early Monday morning. They quacked and waddled their way to the pond and returned in silence. The pond is still frozen.

I can usually do a little garden work and start planting in mid-April. Last year the garden was tilled and ready to plant in late April thanks to our unusually warm spring. I keep reminding myself to be patient; it’s early and last year isn’t a fair comparison.

Arranging the new garden shed and planning the shelves and pegboard have kept me busy.

The seedlings started in the house in late February are ready to be transplanted into the high tunnels as soon as overnight temperatures stay above freezing. While they’re waiting, they’ve been repotted twice to avoid becoming root bound. Tomato seedlings have been shuffled to the floor because they’re too tall for the shelves, touching the grow lights with their top leaves.

Daffodils and tulips are peeking out but the chives, usually the first to appear, have been under snow that slid off the roof for so long they haven’t popped up.

When the ground thaws just a little more, I’ll be able to take my early morning stroll with a cup of coffee and enjoy the new growth. Until then, I’m still wearing wool socks and putting wood in the woodstove. Even the Easter cactus has delayed blooming indoors.

Trays of planted seeds of tomato, eggplant, peppers and other warm-weather plants are being shuffled around from the dining room table, to the heat mats on the desk, to the racks. If the sun peeks out I move trays of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage outside to warm. There’s barely an open spot on a flat surface this week.

I’ll transplant the cool-weather seedlings into a high tunnel this weekend, put a low tunnel over them and wish them good luck.

Later this month I’ll have fruit trees, canes and plants arriving, all ready to be planted. I’ll have a lesson in how to keep the plants healthy while the ground thaws and warms. The dining room is starting to resemble a greenhouse. A 5-foot-tall peach tree will fit in well.

The Buff silkie chicks will arrive next week. In spite of winter not wanting to leave, signs of spring are showing up. I’m looking forward to the call from the post office the morning they arrive.

When spring really does arrive, we’re going to be very busy catching up, and I’m looking forward to it.

Robin Follette and her husband, Steve, operate Seasons Eatings Farm in Talmadge, Maine.

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