By Chandra L. Mattingly
After weeks and weeks and weeks of snow, ice, and frigid temperatures, spring seems to finally have arrived.
There is a flurry of activity in the beeyard as workers from my four hives buzz in and out, searching for, finding and carrying home nectar and pollen from early bloomers: willow and maple trees, creeping jenny, crocus and others.
Today – April 1 – I saw my first dandelion blooming, a species which provides major food for bees early in the year. (If you want to help honeybees and other pollinators, let these flowers co-exist with your lawn grass.) Yesterday I saw a violet blooming, another nectar source. Flowering fruit and decorative trees will soon follow.
But the honeybees aren't the only signs of spring at our house. In the wildflower patch, red trilliums are budding, bloodroot is blooming in gleaming white displays, and spring beauties have poked their twin leaves above ground. Nearby the lenten rose, helleborus, has opened its dangling purple buds on stalks also containing new leaves.
Daffodils, blue scillia, iris reticulata and glory of the snow have joined the crocus in extravagant glory. The hyacinths have pushed up from the ground but not yet opened – they're probably my favorite flower to sniff aside from old-fashioned roses.
Out back, one row of Buttercrunch lettuce has germinated well, with adjacent rows of Green Ice and a lettuce mix showing more scattered plants. I've cleaned off most of the asparagus beds, treating the backyard hens to the green weeds I've pulled. Thanks to Samantha, the one who initiated it, about half the flock has learned to jump into the air and snatch the weeds dangling from my hands.
Indoors, all my plant lights are in use. I've started oodles of seeds, from vegetables to perennial flowers to herbs to – well, about anything that catches my fancy. I even tried grafting tomatoes, but they failed to thrive – which doesn't mean I won't try again.
This year's collection includes the standard herbs, rosemary, lavender, thyme, sweet marjoram, sage, Greek oregano and more, but also some native wildflowers, some of which may take two years to germinate. I'm hoping the ramps, blue-eyed grass, spicebush, butterfly weed and viper's bugloss (a stickery weed that provides rain-resistant bee fodder) will sprout this year or next. I do know the seeds I planted and set outside months ago got plenty of freezing and thawing!
Those that do grow will be among the offerings at my plant sale this year: Chan's Plant Sale Saturday, May 1, during Rising Sun's Community-wide Yard Sale; Thursday, May 8, through Saturday, May 10; and Saturday, May 24, all at 109 N. High St. (Ind. 56,) Rising Sun. (Call 812-438-3182 for information.)
Meanwhile, I'm waiting for American chestnut tree sprouts to surface. Rising Sun's Red Wolf Sanctuary co-owner Paul Strasser shared some nuts with me last fall, and after a few months in peat moss in the 'frig, some had sprouted roots, just like they were supposed to do! Who knows whether they will be virus resistant or not, but obviously their parent tree or trees lived long enough to produce fruit.
Every year is an adventure when it comes to gardening, not to mention beekeeping. Will the bees thrive and produce excess honey this year? Will we get enough rain but not repeated deluges? Will the warmer temperatures (finally) stick around?
And just how soon will we start complaining about the weather being too hot and humid?