Friday, March 16, 2012

Transplanting Advice for an Unusually Warm Spring

Yes, this is phenomenal weather that we have been having. As a gardener, I can see that this season is about three or possibly four weeks ahead of schedule. The daffodils, which traditionally open around April 15th, are likely to begin opening next week. Some are already open in protected areas and on the southern sides of buildings; most will open next week as the temperatures sore into the 80's for an extended period of time.

With spring that far ahead, this means that the clean-up work in gardens should happen very quickly. Otherwise, the flowers will be opening with the fall/winter debris still all around and over them. It is much easier and much prettier to have all that debris removed before the flowers come bursting forth.

The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, "There is a time for everything … a time to plant, and a time to uproot … a time to love, and a time to hate." It is important to know what time we are in.

I have never known a spring where I would consider transplanting so early. As with any garden that has some years behind it, the Gethsemane Prayer Garden has some plants that need to be relocated. Their size, once just perfect for their location, have outgrown themselves and need to be moved. This is what landscapers do and we should not be afraid to do so! That digging and replanting process can, and really should, begin in March or early April this year, as opposed to the traditional April / May time frame that we normally allow for plants.

None of us know what type of spring we will have. Last year's spring started early, although not as early as this. We had such an extended warm spring that by the end of May, I was no longer transplanting anything. If it hadn't been moved by then, it would have to be done at another time. There is certainly the possibility that this spring will be the same way or even more so.

I find that when the soil is moist, as it is right now, I can dig the spade around all sides of the perennial or shrub, pop it out of the hole to place it in the wheelbarrow, and then place it into a similarly sized hole that is hopefully a better location. I bring the hose over to water it at the bottom of the roots (not surface watering as many people do), tamp it in with my feet, and I never have to water it again.

With trees, it is basically the same process but, depending upon the size, often requires more digging to get a good shaped but easily managed ball. Of the thousands of plants that I have moved this way, I have never lost one.

I don't attempt this process when the soil starts to dry up. Other years I stop digging around June 8th or 15th, depending. This year, if the warm patterns continue, it might say May 1st. But then it could turn very cold or have consistent rain which would keep the soil temperatures down. (In the fall, there also is a several week window where this process can be performed, but I find it harder to catch because roots should be reasonably established before the cold weather sets in).

For me, I have procrastinated on doing my taxes, as I do many years, to work on them in the third and fourth weeks of March. I regret that this year – it looks to be a very busy spring bouncing between taxes, outdoor work, and my various writing activities.

End Note: The overall theme for this series of articles is flowers and plants, showing how they point to love. Sometimes I write 'how to' do something, other times the emphasis is a status update, or the article will be about how a plant or flower touched my heart. All of these writings are based on plants from the Gethsemane Prayer Garden in Syracuse, NY. Please consider some of the other blog articles: Index of Articles About the Gethsemane Prayer Garden.