Two weeks ago Monday, the sky was gray and the air hung heavy with a gloomy winteriness. Tuesday, same. Wednesday, same. Thursday, Friday, Saturday – maybe they were different, but I feel like they were the same. Then Sunday arrived. I woke up, shuffled downstairs to the kitchen, opened the back door to get the newspaper, and stopped. The sun was shining. Birds were singing. There was a whisper of spring in the air, tickling the needles of the pines and ruffling the feathers of the phoebes. I took a deep breath and smiled.
Though it is still only February, there is a distinct sense of spring in the air. Sure, winter probably has a few more punches yet in store – temperatures dipped below zero last week and we might get more snow in two weeks. On the other hand, the weather forecasters predict temperatures as high as 60° this coming weekend! This is the time of year for spring dreams, seed catalogs, and garden planning.
I recently received an email from Prairie Moon Nursery, a native plant supplier in Winona. Did you know that winter is an ideal time to sow seed for native gardens and prairies? If you have a prepared planting site, you can head out anytime between now and early March and broadcast wildflower seeds right onto the snow and ice. Planting now allows the seeds to stratify during freeze-thaw cycles so that they can break dormancy and germinate in the spring.
Late winter is also an ideal time to prune most trees, including oaks, apples, hawthorns, and honey locusts. Doing so allows trees to recover quickly once the spring growing season begins so that they aren’t as susceptible to disease. On that note, if you have a larger property or farm, now is the perfect time to take stock of your existing trees and windbreaks. If your trees are beginning to thin, you may want to plant new trees this spring so that they have time to grow and fill in before the older trees stop blocking the wind. The Washington Conservation District is currently taking orders for its spring tree sale. Order tree seedlings in bundles of 25 for $35 and pick them up on April 28-29 at the Washington County Fairgrounds. The Conservation District is also offering a free tree workshop on Feb. 23, 5:30-7:30pm at the Oakdale Discovery Center.
If vegetable gardens are more your style, February is the month to begin leek, onion and celery seeds indoors, while broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and head lettuce seeds should be started in early March. February and March also mark the beginning of planning and dreaming for gardeners across the upper Midwest. The Master Gardeners of Washington County and 7th District East Metro will be holding their Spring Fling on March 11 at the Oak Marsh Golf Course in Oakdale. The East Metro Water Resource Education Program will begin holding landscaping workshops in April and May (North St. Paul – April 6, St. Paul Park – April 11, Oakdale – April 18, Hugo – April 27, Forest Lake – May 2).
Gray clouds blanket the sky, while ice coats the roads and windshield of my car. The thermometer says winter. The view outside the window is winter. Even so, I can still hear the whispers of spring.