When the Crocus Blooms, It's Time to


Start on the endless spring to-do list. Lawn and garden cleanup, shrub pruning, seed-starting, seed planting…

and (among yet other things)

* Consider the freezer

* Start on the bulb maps

* Figure out where the garlic is going to go

* Cut back and repot tired houseplants

* Scout for morel spots

* The Freezer: For those who live in the frost belt and want to be locavorous¹, “fresh” and “local” need to spend some time apart in the winter. It’s possible to live well on nothing but home-canned produce and the denizens of the root cellar, but it isn’t easy. And “well” is a relative term. For more on this, see A Love Letter to The Freezer.

If you don’t have a freezer, this is probably a good time to buy one. (Right now is a good time to buy almost anything, actually, except not lamb until Easter’s over.)

If you do have a freezer, you won’t be surprised to learn I found enough rhubarb for pie just yesterday, when I was looking for the last bit of squash tortilla base that I thought I had but evidently don’t.

In other words, time to use up anything left from last spring, including any asparagus soup you may have been hoarding. Wouldn’t hurt to work hard on last summer too – you’re going to need the room almost before you know it. Also the less there is in there, the easier it is to keep all of it frozen in coolers while you defrost the freezer – if this is the year to do that. Once every three does the job for us.

* Bulb maps: None of the ways I’ve drawn these so far have been entirely satisfactory, but all of them have been better than no map at all. At fall planting time there is simply no way to remember where things are needed, or where things already are that you don’t want to stab. Photos coupled with drawings with measurements are the most refined I ever got but I still whapped several crocus and an expensive daffodil so this year I’m going to try a grid.

* Figure out the garlic spot: The bed where the garlic will be planted won’t be needed until October, but knowing which one it will be helps determine succession plantings. If the garlic is going to follow the bush beans, for instance, the late beets will have to go somewhere else so you don’t want to waste the pepper area on late lettuce when that could share the former summer squash bed with the kale and broccoli raab.

* Cut back and repot tired houseplants: This can be done any time before summer, but doing it now has advantages.

a) New growth is just starting, so cutting back now means the plant won’t waste any of that energy.

b) Any trauma connected with root disturbance will be healed by the time it’s time to harden off the plants.

c) Busy as you are, you’re not as busy as you will be in May and June.

* Scout for morel spots: Driving around with Bill is driving around with somebody who’s always saying “ look at all those elms! that should be worth a visit next April.” He’s been collecting for more than 40 years and teaching about mushrooms for about 30 of them. His extensive morel hunting post, with many tips you won’t find elsewhere, is here.

Dying Elms at the edge of a well limed hay field often produce an abundance of Morels

Dying Elms at the edge of a well limed hay field often produce an abundance of Morels

Subtract the green to get the March view.

photographs by Bill Bakaitis

A locavore, word of the year, is a person committed to eating food that has been grown or processed as close as possible to home. Locavorous persons, a category as far as I know just invented by me, are people who support the idea without being so damn self-righteous about it.

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