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The four seasons of a gardener

Gardens always transform throughout the year with new ideas and plant materials to create just the perfect scene, as shown here in St. Cloud, Minn., on Aug. 19.

The four seasons of a gardener are quite unique. They are deeply defined by what time of year arrives with its own projects, new ideas and creations. Sometimes one has to go into the mind of a gardener to find out what really goes on during the 12 months of the year. You will never hear gardeners say they hate to be outdoors doing the things they love, or that there are too many plants or flowers. However, you might hear how they run out of time, money and space.

Spring is the first season for the gardener and one of the most dynamic. Spring flowers begin to come up as soon as the snow disappears. The trees begin to bud out and the lawns begin to green. The gardener has to make his or her plan and follow it very closely or time will run out to get everything done. Plants begin to come up at the end of March and it is time to get the gardens cleaned for the new arrivals to prep for incoming annual plants that show their faces in the nurseries by the end of April. Trees and shrubs need pruning and a light lawn fertilizer is always good to work into the ground with the spring rains. May is the month for shopping. Pots can be planted earlier as they can be brought into the garage or other shelters if the nights get too cold. Ground planting cannot be done until the final frost, usually between the third and fourth weekends of the month. The trees begin dropping their seeds and after a good rain, these will be your first “weeds” to pick. Other trees and shrubs are in full bloom and must be enjoyed during their short life. My annual planting happens during a twoday period after weeks of meticulously choosing just the right plants. This year were about 1,250 of them and it takes a full two days to get them in. In June plants become established and weeding goes into full force.

Summer arrives quickly and is met with the onset of deadheading to make sure all of the plants have the longest blooming life in the garden. This can become an everyother-day process by grabbing a 5-gallon bucket and a snippers and doing a once-roundthe-garden getting rid of all the seed heads. Vegetable gardens begin to produce high yields with leafy greens. These are soon followed by the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and beets. Weeding becomes a daily process and the lawn seems to need mowing two to three times per week depending on the rains. Quickly this season rushes by and soon we are met with September and cooling temperatures.

Welcome to autumn when the evenings become cool and warm days become a bit more numbered. Don’t be fooled; often there are plenty of frost-free days that will take you through the entire month bringing us to October. Annuals begin to fade but more hardy ones continue to emit incredible colors. Mums, sedums and fall asters begin to bloom heavily and some of the failed annuals get tugged and discarded. Spring bulbs arrive on the shelves, and this is the time to make those purchases and get them in the ground so you can be rewarded with their beauty the following spring. Oftentimes some trees begin to change color early, but usually the heavy autumn colors are around the third week of September. This is really why we enjoy this season, but with our winds, these colors can last a short 10 to 14 days before blowing to the ground. Soon the lawn begins to go dormant and after the first killing frost of 25 degrees or lower, most of the flowers will perish. The garden begins to go to bed and the gardeners begin their ritual of covering tender plants and putting wraps around the tree susceptible to rodent damage during winter or sunscald.

Before we know it, winter arrives. Although it can be a pretty time of year, there is not a great deal of little activity going on outside. But after the holidays pass, the garden catalogs come out. This is when the gardener is quickly busy again generating new ideas and seeing what new plants are on the market. Pen and paper come out and the planning of the beds begins. The budgets start to take form and new projects seem to bustle in the idea bank to see what is affordable and what needs to wait. The time can go just as fast as all the other months even though this seems to be the longest of the season. Once again, it passes and a new spring season has arrived to start the cycle all over again.

Yes, the gardener is busy regardless of season as there are numerous activities throughout the year. The next time you have a conversation with a gardener, be prepared to take a load off as it will be a long conversation and you will need to sit down for that one.