Greetings all. I hope you are having a good Spring so far. I realize that some of you are in more Northern climes where spring is often a surprise. My childhood home was in a northwest suburb of Milwaukee, WI. I clearly remember running outside in shorts and a T-shirt because we had a 50-degree day. Notice I said “a” 50-degree day. And, of course, summer is a week in August.
I am now in South Carolina. Instead of waiting for June to plant, I am blessed to plant in April. Today, I bought a flat of baby vegetable plants. Just the basics: tomatoes (a couple varieties), peppers (green and sweet banana), Zucchini, and Yellow Crookneck squash.
None of the patio pots that were used last year had been cleaned out, so now the motivation was sitting at my feet. Let’s get some new homes ready for you babies. Out comes the gardening tool kit. My tool of choice is shown to the left. After an extensive search, including a reverse image search, I could not find the name of it. The best name I can give it is a short handle potato rake. But it has always been the tool of choice for cleaning out old roots.
As I pulled the last large pot towards me, I noticed it didn’t look like the others. The soil was mounded up on one lip of the pot. The only growth of weeds in the pot was near the opposite lip. Hmm, fire ants. The nemesis of the south. Since 1930 when the red fire ant was imported in the cargo of ships from South America, they have been the bane of every gardener and picnicker down here. I truly hope none of you have found yourself like the picture here.
So what to do? I carefully used my short handle potato rake to get the living plants out of the pot. I then realized how stupid I was and put work gloves on. Carefully, I began to work the soil around and under the ant hill. The looser the soil became, the more agitated the ants became. It did not take long before it was clear I should leave well enough alone and move on. A battle strategy can be considered later.
There were still several planters to attend to, but they had good, live plants in them. Last spring, I was fortunate to obtain a number of Blueberry plants along with a few thorn-less Blackberries and Muscadine grapes. The Blueberry plants were put in rows behind my big garden. (It is in horrible disrepair.) Perhaps 20% of the Blueberry plants survived the winter and will be transplanted soon, I hope.
The Blackberries and grapes had grown out of control last year and left meter-long runners that resulted in an intertangled mess. I have little pruning experience but my pear tree can attest that pruning encourages new and denser growth. I carefully decided to leave at least two new buds on each stem and then… snip, snip. Time will tell if I was right.
I hope in some small way your spring, whether it has started for you yet or not, will be productive and safe. But most of all, I hope it is fun. Enjoy the changing seasons and consider whether all the beauty around you, coming and going year after year, came to be what it is by accident.
Oh, and what is that short handle potato rake really called?