My wild garden dusted with snow

Wintry mix: first signs of spring

Welcome 2023! For so long winter has felt like it just wouldn’t budge. Then, all of a sudden, it budged. Birds are back. Finches are at the feeder. Yesterday I saw a dove. The first green spikes of daffodils have poked through some brown oak leaves.

Today is dreary and cold, but the sky is lightening in the morning when I get up, and graying in evening when I drive home, and the effect is energizing. We gain two-to-three minutes of light each day. That’s right, the rate is not steady. It picks up in February and drops off again in May, according to Almanac:

  • By mid-January, the increase jumps to about two minutes a day.
  • By the 20th of February, daylight speeds up to three minutes per day! On the 20th, daylength is 10 hours, 53 minutes and on the 21st, it’s 10 hours, 56 minutes.

Here’s a link to a cool tool that calculates sunrise and sunset times, based on your zip code.

What have I been doing since I last posted in December?

To be honest, not much. For most of January I battled a cold and was happy to do nothing. On MLK Day I roused myself to perform a one-woman service project and picked up garbage from the banks of Brush Creek on the corner of State Line and Shawnee Mission Parkway. I don’t know why, but something about that corner inspires drivers to chuck their trash out the window—but for one day, there was none. I went down the banks and filled two big trash sacks with plastic bottles, food wrappers, and Styrofoam cups. I saw ducks swimming in the water and tree trunks that had been gnawed by beavers.

Gnawed by a beaver?

The next day, I spotted plastic bottles in the gutter, just as if I’d never been there.

(In case any of you are inspired to do something similar, I don’t recommend doing this alone.)

A few days later, a gardening friend told me she had sowed some native wildflower seeds. Suddenly jealous, I ordered some for myself from Missouri Wildflower Nursery. I read Margaret Roach’s “winter sowing of native plants, with heather mccargo of wild seed project” and tried to follow their advice. I used old plastic plug containers and built a frame covered with netting to deter birds, like the one pictured in the article.

Future native wildflowers

Everyone says the best time to plant native seeds is the fall, but the package said they need three-to-four weeks of freezing temperatures, and I think they’ll have that. Did you know Kansas City has a 185-day growing season? Our last frost date is usually around April 15.

It looks good, doesn’t it? Just like Margaret Roach’s, except her seeds had sprouted. Mine have not. Yet.

What am I doing now?

Besides walking around the neighborhood, snapping pictures of green daffodil foliage spearing through brown leaves? Very little. I’ve begun some of the cleanup I avoided doing in the fall. The recent snow flattened the grasses and toppled the stalks, so I’ve started cutting these back to about a foot. There are a lot to cut. Everybody says to leave them standing over winter to serve as habitat for insects, but that it’s okay to remove flopping ones. Roy Diblik recommends cutting back perennials by mowing them in the spring and I love that idea, but I’m going at them with clippers and will let the debris lay around the plants.

How does my garden grow in winter? With bamboo poles and wire netting. The moment I remove them, the rabbits munch every greenish thing down to the ground. The other day I noticed this picture in a garden design book I picked up last fall at an estate sale.

Wow! I was so excited. This is what I need—a more permanent and less unsightly rabbit barrier. I started building my version out of scrap wood and screws.

It’s still a work in progress. The ground is frozen so I haven’t been able to put it in place, but I’m optimistic that my garden will look as lovely as the one in the photo come August.

What do I plan to do next?

It’s time to order plants, but I’m still working on designing some new beds (although it’s generous to call what I’m doing designing).

Once I’ve decided, I’ll place my orders. The dates for Deep Roots’ native plant sales are online now, and it looks like there’s an early one at Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center on March 11 that isn’t on their list.  

I wholeheartedly support these local nurseries and organizations; however, I will also order a tray of six species for $159 from Prairie Moon Nursery in Wisconsin. It includes 38 plants, which comes to about $4.20 a plant.

Then the real work begins, bed prepping.

I guess I’m like a plant, breaking dormancy in response to warmer temperatures and increased light. Wise folks say to appreciate winter as time for recuperation, but this gardener will be really, really glad when winter is over. Dogs, however, don’t seem to mind it at all. Thanks for reading!