Warm February inspires spring cleanup in yard

Published 9:56 am Friday, February 24, 2017

Warm February inspires spring  cleanup in yard

Well DW has brought home another clump of daffodils (jonquils, buttercups) from his grandparents’ place down in Yalobusha County.  More is good, though we do have a pretty good stand going on in our yard right now.  And they’re all blooming at once. I’ve tried to collect a variety through the years with different bloom times but I guess these warm sunny days got them all up and going!
I’m feeling the urge to do some spring cleaning…not the clean-out- the-closets kind. No, this good weather insists that we do some early spring yard work.  And we might as well even though spring doesn’t officially arrive until March 20.  In the meantime, we can get out and get something done.  Picking up sticks is one of my most favorite outside chores, besides sweeping the sidewalk.
Stick removal requires walking, bending, squatting, moving, lifting and stretching.  Like raking leaves, it’s beneficial for us and our yards because it helps to tidy up before it’s time to get the lawnmower out, making it safer to mow.
Daffodil dos and don’ts.  Do leave the foliage on to eventually die back to the ground for healthier bulbs and more blooms.  The bulbs soak up nutrients and energy through the foliage. And, don’t deadhead them either. Leave the bloom stalks even after the bloom has faded.  I’ve learned that daffodils also make seeds which will become new plants.  The more the merrier!
A time to prune.  Crape myrtles can be trimmed now too.  Mine are all too tall now to reach the old blooms, but the plants will push them off as the new growth comes out.  But I did work on Laura’s (she’s sweet to let me).  Because hers are in front of windows they don’t need to be whacked off (that would be crape murder).
You want to be able to see through them when looking out the windows, so they just needed some cleaning up.  It’s good to snip off the deadheads and a few branches in the center to allow for air circulation to cut down on diseases, insects, and sooty mold later in the summer.  That makes for stronger, healthier limbs.
I love boxwoods for being nice and green all the time, but they about got the best of me last summer. Seems they grew faster (like approaching window sill height) than I could keep them trimmed, not to mention that every time I trimmed them I got blisters on my thumbs plus a wasp sting or two.  So it’s payback time. Next week I’ve enlisted Zachary and his landscape skills to come and cut them all back… way back. I’m thinking 18 – 24 inches off the ground (and maybe I can go a few years without trimming!)  Then after our frost clear date (April 15), I’ll fill in around them with some blooming annuals and a few tropicals so they won’t look so straggly this summer.
A time to refrain from cutting.  Do not cut spring blooming shrubs now.  Camillias, quince, tulip magnolias, forsythia are blooming and azaleas are gearing up to. Wait until after they’ve all bloomed to do any pruning.  Azaleas are also on my chopping list but we’ll do that in June, definitely before August when they’ll be setting buds for next year.  If in doubt when to prune, google first or ask someone who knows.  And remember just because someone can operate hedge clippers doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing! Timing is everything.
DW said to remind everyone that it’s not too late to start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant from seeds in the greenhouse or inside.  It’s also about time to get the more cold-hardy plants, like onions, greens, lettuce, and cabbage in the ground. And it’s never too early to sharpen lawnmower blades and clean up garden tools.  Thanks DW.
I’m hoping spring comes on, but there’s no way to know.  Too many of us remember a really big March snowfall… so the garden catalogs will have to suffice for now.  All we can do is get ready, get set, and keep those sticks picked up while we wait.

Recipe of the Week

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Crawfish Etouffée
In season and in time for Mardi Gras, and I’m making it this weekend!

¼ cup butter or margarine
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon red pepper
1 14.5-ounce can chicken broth
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
2 pounds cooked, peeled crawfish tails (or frozen)
Hot cooked rice

Melt butter in large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and next 4 ingredients; sauté 5 minutes or until tender.  Stir in flour, salt and red pepper.  Stir constantly until caramel colored, about 10 minutes.  Add broth, parsley and chives.  Simmer until thick and bubbly.  Stir in crawfish, cook until thoroughly heated.  Serve with rice.  Garnish with a sprinkle of chives.  Serve with a leafy green salad and chunks of French bread to sop up every last drop! Serves 4.