The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 25, 2003


Confusing spring follows long winter

(Photo by Midge Eliassen)
It was a harsh winter, with deep snow, biting winds, and brilliant sunshine. So far it has been a confusing spring, with drenching rains, seesaw temperatures, and surprise snowfalls. We humans have made it through so far, but how are our lawns, trees, and gardens faring, and what can we expect for the rest of the spring and the summer? "The effect [of last winter] in general was good because of the snow cover," explains Alison Saylor of Trade Secrets Garden. She noted some damage: her rhododendrons were burned, she thinks, by the bright sunshine reflecting constantly on the snow. "The voles were very active during the winter," she said. They used the snow cover to create small tunnels, and were able to consume a large patch of her sedums. She plans on placing annuals in front of the sedum patches and waiting for the new growth to fill in the vole damage. She also noted that there has been a lot of salt damage on evergreens planted too near walkways and roads. "What grows well at a beach, in sandy soil, should be planted in those locations," she advised.

Spring is behind the times

If you went on vacation last year during spring vacation week, you may have regretted leaving just as your tulips were starting to show buds. This year the bulbs are behind by at least two weeks, and the daffodils are just beginning their show. Leo Blanchette of Blanchette Gardens laughed when asked why he waited so long to uncover his perennials, which are grown in outdoor pots. "They were covered with snow until two weeks ago," he said. "I have customers asking for plants, and there's no green showing yet." Saylor agreed that spring is late and pointed out that the early snow cover last November meant a lot of fall clean-up jobs didn't get done. "It's good that things are late this year," she said. "We have these charming daffodils and crocuses peering out from scrubby debris." Due to the alternating cold and heat, coupled with rain, mud season is still in force. According to Bob Dennison, who maintains the community gardens at Foss Farm, the plowing can't be done until the end of April, so "Mark Duffy doesn't get his tractor stuck in the mud." Dennison also warned that the frigid winter did not kill the deer ticks and predicts a worse year for Lyme disease. "Three of my dogs have Lyme disease, and every time I take them out for a run, I have to check them," he said.

Spring jobs in the garden

To start spring cleanup, first tour your property and note any tree damage, such as broken branches hanging over the yard. They are dangerous, and should be removed by a professional if possible, as they could be blown down during a mild wind. Check shrubberies for broken limbs, which are easily clipped or, more ominously, for bent trunks that might indicate a break below the soil line. During the heaviest snows bushes like lilacs bend double to the ground with the weight of the snow. Most bushes and small trees will bounce back without injury, but occasionally the weight is too much and the trunks, which might split at the base, have to be removed. General cleanup includes clearing away old perennial stems, leaves, sand, and trash that might have blown into the yard. Small plastic toys left out all winter can turn brittle, and should be removed from the lawn. The grass is still greening up, and a light application of organic fertilizer can be applied. It is a good time to fill in the bare patches with grass seed.

Walkways and patios

We've all noticed the potholes created by frost heaves on the road. The same forces lift and shift stones on patios and walkways, especially during warmer winter days when only half the snow melts on a path, leaving half in a deep freeze. April is a good time to repair the uneven sections.

Driveways and mailboxes

The plants around the driveway probably received plow damage and should not be neglected in cleanup. With so much snow to push off the drive, many of the smaller pine trees in woodsy settings were bent or broken. The Carlisle Fire Department would like to remind homeowners that the trucks need a minimum clearance of ten feet wide and twelve feet high, so this would be a good time to cut back the small trees before they grow to be an interference.

Many mailboxes were rearranged, so to speak, by the plowing. Ours was flattened and traveled two miles to Ice Pond Road. When installing a new mailbox, use the opportunity to shovel any extra sand and dirt that accumulated at the end of the driveway.

This winter left us with plenty of spring jobs to do, but odd weather in which to work. Just so that we don't get too complacent, thinking we have seen the roughest weather, Saylor reminds us that "we are due for a hurricane," since we haven't had any in a few years. That will give us plenty to clean up from.

For ideas on ways to shape the garden, mark your calendars for the Carlisle Garden Club Spring Tour, June 13 and 14. Call Susan Pepple, 1-978-371-2674, for more information.

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito