Spring Gardening Ritual: Planning ABC’s In The Garden

By Nikki Tilley | March 1, 2021
by Nikki Tilley
March 1, 2021

The weather is warming and signs of new life abound — the robins are back, insects are waking up and buzzing about, tree buds are abundant, flower bulbs are sprouting and the grass is greening up again. Spring is in the air! For a gardener, there’s no greater time. And for me, it means another year of planning ABC’s in the garden.

Adjusting Spring Garden Plans

I’ve waited anxiously for this moment, having endured the long, dark, cold days of winter. During this time, I’ve kept busy caring for houseplants, flipping through seed catalogs and dreaming of new plants and new garden beds.

My spring gardening ritual involves preparation long before this season arrives. Truthfully, it’s more like gardening on the fly than a ritual. I take lots of notes and pictures when planning for the new season. But rarely do things go as planned. Every year I have flats of seedlings started by late winter. A little of this and a little of that. Always far more than I really need. My garden is always changing. I’m continually adding on to the beds I have or taking out stuff to replace with something different. It’s never finished. Truth be told, I don’t want it to be.

I enjoy contemplating all the things I want to achieve each season. “This year my garden will thrive like never before,” I tell myself, all the while knowing it’s not really up to me. In years past, especially as of late, the weather has dictated much of my gardening plans. Warmer winters have brought about more insects than usual. More insect pests mean more loss to their feeding exploits. So I have to tweak my plans to include additional predators to help eradicate them. That’s how my wildlife garden started. I wanted a place just for them, but now it’s become a necessity to attract beneficial insects and animals that feast on bad bugs. This comes with its own set of challenges too.

Planning ABC’s in the Garden

I may have planned out new beds all winter, but I find myself changing those plans in spring based on the weather preceding it. Sometimes I’m disappointed by the failure of spring bulbs due to the lack of adequate chilling. Ugh! All the time spent planting those bulbs in their designated spots can’t be for nothing, so I must adapt and overcome. This means going to Plan B. Unfortunately, this plan may not have included the additional wildlife that have (or will) inevitably nibble any remaining bulbs or the garden greens just put in. Okay then, time for Plan C — adding more wildlife friendly plants well away from my beloved flowers or crops. 

And then there’s the possibility of earlier than normal blooms that accompany unseasonably warm winters. Something that should be blooming in early to mid-spring may have already done so, leaving bare spots or unsightly foliage in what was “planned” to be a colorful bed. Here we go again! Moving into Plan D comes additional annuals to fill in those empty areas. Thank goodness for the extra plants sown months before. Hopefully, if I planned well enough, I’ll have another veggie or two to replace the missing lettuce or uprooted carrots. If not, I’ll need some of these too.

My spring gardening ritual carries on into the upcoming months since warmer winters don’t necessarily mean great springtime weather. We’ve been known to flip flop between such extremes of hot and cold that spring can be every bit as unpredictable. In fact, at the time of this writing, I think we experienced all four seasons in just one week. Sudden and unexpected cold chills can damage buds or new transplants. On the flip side, if it gets too warm like last spring when temps early in the season jumped past an unheard-of 80 plus degrees F. (27 C.), these young plants can quickly sizzle. This is when Plans E, F and G come in. Too much or too little rain can also mean tweaking the garden, as can changes in sun or shade patterns. Here we go again — Plans H, I, J and K.

As the season goes on, my initial spring garden plans continue needing adjustments. Last year, for example, most of my summer flowering plants bloomed much earlier just like those spring blooms had. When the garden was supposed to be at its prime, filled with colorful blooms, there was nothing but pitiful looking spent flowers. So much for planning. This year, I have a backup in mind consisting of Plans L, M, N, O, P.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll have to turn to Plans S, T and U. Maybe by the time fall arrives the garden will be just as I want it. I’ll have plenty of freshly harvested vegetables and new ones planted for plucking once the weather cools again. Hopefully, there will be beautiful fall colors from flowers and foliage. I won’t count on it though. So as part of my spring garden plans, I’ll go ahead and prep for X, Y, and Z.

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