Certain gardening activities are traditionally associated with holidays or commemorative days. For example, in England, potatoes, peas, and parsley are planted on Good Friday in belief that the devil could not spoil crops planted on such a holy day. On the other hand, some folks in the North Yorkshire region of England consider it sinful to disturb the soil on Good Friday.
In our family, a Good Friday ritual is the grating of horseradish to make a sauce to go with the customary Polish Easter meal which includes boiled eggs, ham, and kielbasa -- what’s life without kielbasa? I’ll be preparing the horseradish later today, outdoors and hopefully with gale force winds at my back. It’s a task that brings tears to my eyes.
In Germany, many people burn the past winter’s Christmas tree on Easter. I’ve been using that tradition as an excuse to explain to my wife why I haven’t yet disposed of our Christmas tree. My excuses run out on Sunday.
I’m also running out of excuses for not getting on with these tasks this weekend:
n Survey the landscape to determine which, if any, plants need to be removed and where new plants may need to be added. Also, make note of plants that have grown too large for their space. Can these be salvaged with judicious pruning, or will they need to be removed?
n Add mountain laurels to the home landscape this spring to extend the flowering period of broadleaf evergreens. Mountain laurels will flower just as many rhododendron varieties are finishing their bloom period. Now is a good time to plant shrubs.
n Dig and move trees and shrubs now if necessary. Only do this with woody plants which have not yet leafed out. Take as much of the rootball as possible when digging a tree or shrub. The smaller the plant being moved, the more quickly it will re-establish after transplanting.
n Divide houseplants with multiple crowns -- e.g., African violets, primulas, spider plant, peace lily -- if more plants are desired or if the plants are getting too crowded for their pot.
n Sow seeds of endive, lettuce, onion, parsnip, spinach, peas, carrots, beets, radish, parsley, chard, and cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage) since garden soils are workable. Seeds of these crops will sprout once soil temperatures are above forty degrees. I recently measured soil temperature in my garden to be 45 degrees, so go for it!
n Rake lawns to remove dead grass, twigs, political signs and other debris. A vigorous spring raking is like a wake-up call to lawn grasses.
n Apply limestone to lawns that have not been limed within the past 3 or 4 years. To be sure limestone is needed, have the soil tested. When collecting soil for testing, carve out a wedge of turf and then use a trowel to slice off some soil at a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Collect samples from 10 locations on the lawn, mix these samples together in a bucket, and then withdraw about a cupful to send to the University of Massachusetts Soils Lab (www.umass.edu/soiltest/).
Canoe Meadows Community Gardens in Pittsfield is having its annual organic gardening course on April 18 at 7 p.m. or April 21 at 2 p.m. at Pleasant Valley Sanctuary. Anyone who would like a garden plot at Canoe Meadows needs to attend one of the organic gardening classes. Call the Sanctuary at (413) 637-0320 to register. There are more than 200 plots available to interested gardeners.
This year the Gardens have a new pavilion that was built by the community in September. It will protect the gardeners from inclement weather and provide an area for picnics and classes. Now there’s no excuse for not growing a vegetable garden.