Singing tree frogs a sure sign of spring

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By Cheryl Steenerson

The tree frogs are out and those boys sure can sing.
I love to listen to them but the other night it was wild. I have been taking hikes around the farm every day with the dogs and one night they were so loud I actually had to shout at the dogs so they could hear me.
They always make me smile, though, because they’re the harbingers of spring.
I don’t speed and while driving home I have my watch spots, little places along the way seen from the highway. I think it’s interesting to admire beauty from afar as the seasons roll in. I see entire gardens or landscaping designs go from beginning to end. It’s like watching time-lapse photography. I have seen some plowed gardens.
As the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted, it is going to be a wet spring. Finding the perfect window of time to plow or till or do anything in the dirt is going to be challenging. I do have a solution and a project for you, raised beds.
Slowly, over time, I am changing all my growing areas into raised beds, with the exception of the fruit trees and wild brambles. They are just so much easier to maintain, plus they save you time and money.
You appreciate the improvement in harvest.
You relish the time it saved you when you didn’t have to till or plow.
The window of time for planting is practically any time because raised beds drain better.
Some folks have become very creative when it comes to building raised beds. You can build a 4 feet by 8 foot one with 20 sand bags, stacked two high. You can build the same size of one with three 2 x 12 x 8 feet wooden boards and 12 pieces of rebar cut to 24 inches each.
Concrete blocks make a nice little border, plus you can raise square watermelons. Place the blocks with the square hole openings on top and fill them with soil for growing just about anything, or plant watermelons in your raised bed then let the melon grow to fit inside the square opening. They have to be the smaller watermelon varieties. The blocks are 8 inches by 8 inches by 16 inches and you’ll need 16.
You can also cut straight logs and lay them out as two 7 footers and two 4 footers. I would drive stacks or rebar into the ground to keep them in place. If you really want to get fancy drill the holes and drive the rebar thru them. Check out Organic Gardening’s web site for more details on all of these beds.
The next step is getting them filled with great soil. They sit on soil to begin with, but you need to loosen it before adding the good stuff on top. The good stuff, meaning compost and healthy soil. It’s just a little shift of thinking to go from field planting to bed planting. You have way fewer weeds and they pull up like an onion. Have I convinced you yet?
Since spring has officially sprung today, March 20, let me remind you that we have had frost as late as May 27, but the average is April 27.
Keep in mind that we had the earliest fall frost on record in 2012, on Sept. 23. So maybe we’ll get that last frost done and gone by tax day this year. Wouldn’t that be grand? A longer growing season sure would help the grocery bill.
Now get out there and test the soil. Remember, never dig when it’s wet. It ruins the soil shape for years. Get your supplies lined out and the tools put up. Remember where you put you new garden designs you worked on this winter. Order seeds and start calling greenhouses to see what varieties they are growing. You know what the cat said when he got his tail caught in the door ... it won’t be long now.
Happy spring and happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is the gardening columnist for The Anderson News and she can be reached via e-mail at paysteen@shelbybb.net.