Gardening with Galligan: Spring necessities

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | These crocuses are growing in a planter on my balcony, protected from deer and seen from my bedroom window. Think about ‘sight lines’ when placing plants — are they going to be where you can see them easily?

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | These crocuses are growing in a planter on my balcony, protected from deer and seen from my bedroom window. Think about ‘sight lines’ when placing plants — are they going to be where you can see them easily?

The first thing we need is a sturdy wheelbarrow, and if it’s in a bright cheery color, so much the better.

Mine is bright red and I must confess to a small smile whenever I look at it. Make sure your tires are properly filled; you want to avoid negative experiences, since negative experiences are likely to send you back into the house to sit down with both coffee and newspaper. If your wheelbarrow moves smoothly, you are less likely to complain and consequently more likely to keep on working. “Keeping on” is what we want.

The second is a good sprayer. Bear in mind that you really have to spray all summer long. You  may want to foliar feed and for that you need a sprayer. Given the humidity that we confront during the summer, there is no doubt that you will want to spray your roses with some anti-fungal mixture.

Some sprayers are electric, some are of the pump variety; some are heavier than others, either with wheels or as backpacks.

Actually I’ve never owned one that I really liked, so I can’t make a recommendation beyond the following: go online and look over the choices carefully. You know yourself and what you are likely to tolerate. Choose the one that’s the best fit. And of course, the essential thing is to make friends with it quickly and use it continuously.

Lastly, think about hoses. Until recently, I have hated hoses. Always unbearably heavy, ugly and difficult to lug about, kinking without notice or rhyme or reason, who could feel otherwise? The introduction of the new expandable hoses, unbelievably inexpensive, has set me free. I now have them in any number of different lengths and although it’s true that their “expansiveness” poses certain challenges, it’s worthwhile meeting them. At 25 feet long, they only run about $20. You can’t really beat that.

Now that we are fully equipped, let’s address what might well be called “the first chores of spring.” In order, these are: refreshing the mulch, feeding and preparing a tin can — check them out at Ace Hardware in the Heights — full of a good soil mixture for potting plants.

Let’s begin with mulch; I have written about this more times than I can count, so I will try to be brief. In one sentence? You really have to have it. Not only because it is sightly, lending your beds a look of neatness and care, but because it is enormously useful and practical. What does it do? Any number of genuinely useful things. It keeps your plant roots cool in hot weather, warm in cold weather and conserves moisture. What more could you want? I admit that it is expensive, but it’s one expenditure that’s really worthwhile. Be warned about inexpensive substitutes. Only packaged mulch should be considered; anything available for free has not been sterilized. This means it contains both weed seeds and germs; it’s one thing to contend with weeds, but germs can overwhelm you overnight.

That’s more than one sentence, I admit, but Ruth Stout (yes, she was Rex Stout’s sister) actually wrote a whole book about it decades ago. If you can find it anywhere, it’s a really refreshing read.

We’ll continue next week with our list of chores. I hope to get to the really good stuff soon and we all know what that is — bloom!