Transitions: Taming the spring to-do list

After a stretch of clear-ish weather, it’s raining today, a soft, gentle rain that begs for warm cups of tea and plotting for the coming season in the garden.

It’s not quite spring, either in terms of calendar or weather, but everywhere are signs of a coming burst of energy.

Bulbs are up, though not really flowering, except for the crocus and snowdrops and a few brave daffodils. Most buds are still tightly furled, not fully ready to deal with nighttime temperatures that dip down into the 30s.

Our honeybees are out gathering pollen whenever they get a few hours of sunlit warmth. It is incredibly heartening to stand in the garden at the end of winter and watch honeybees flying with their customary determination.

We humans are likewise not immune to spring’s restless tug, despite the fact that it’s still too early to do much. Last weekend’s nicer weather saw us outside, distributing seven cubic yards of mulch in an attempt to thwart at least a few of the weeds that have called our yard home for years.

We’ve pruned in fits and starts, caring for the ancient apple tree and multiple giant shrubs we inherited as well as shaping the fruit trees we’ve planted. There’s more to do, always. (My favorite pruning guide, here.)

We’ve been checking in on the honeybees, providing them with supplemental food in the form of homemade sugar cakes (white sugar mixed with apple cider vinegar, to make the sugar more digestible). We have pollen patties, too, for feeding the new brood we hope they’re tending. Once it’s warm enough to open up the hives, we’ll sub in frames packed with honey they stored last summer.

Our primary beekeeping task, assuming the bees survive this last push through our typically cool, wet springs, is to mitigate swarming.

We’re going to try out the Snelgrove method, which in theory allows you to maintain the footprint of your current apiary while creating new queens with which to replace current queens. I say “in theory” because although I’ve got a grasp on the high-level goals, the implementation will require some help from our bee mentor. More on that in an upcoming post.

I acquired, as one does, a small clutch of mason bees from a fellow mushroom enthusiast while attending a garden conference a few weeks ago in February. Our urban garden will now host two hives of Apis mellifera along with–hopefully–a population of native solitary bees, among other beneficial insects. IPM in action.

Also on my to-do list is setting up a grow light station in order to start seedlings indoors. I’m using these instructions for the set-up; most of my seeds have come from Grow Journey, Uprising Seeds, and Baker Creek. To say that I’m eager is an understatement, but I’m forcing myself to wait a tad longer.

This season, I’m working on succession sowing to ensure continuous harvests and vertical growing to make more efficient use of the space I’ve got. Other plans include ripping out the last of the grass (Marcos, cover your ears) to make space for combination raised beds/garden seating and a soft bed of woolly thyme for dog lounging.

As much as Marcos enjoys that grass patch–a couple of nights a week, for about half an hour at a time, during the height of summer–it’s still turf grass occupying prime sunny real estate in my garden. Clearly, it must go.

It is tempting, at this point in the season, to cram in more: more tasks, more plans, more plants, more creatures. Spring will do that to a person.

And yet, I’ve been working on a more mindful approach to taking on projects, even when it comes to things I love. My usual approach is to jump in with immoderate enthusiasm, figuring out the details as I go along.

Luckily for me, I’ve chosen hobbies–gardening, mushroom hunting, beekeeping, fermenting, distance running–with lessons in patience built in. Even if you want to do all the things, right from the start–and oh do I ever want to do all the things–you simply cannot.

I’m working on it.

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