From Here to Serenity

We consulted with our favorite gardeners, both professional and merely obsessional, and came up with this handy to-do list for spring flower duties.

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days.

So wrote the poet James Russell Lowell. And it’s true, particularly in a garden on Martha’s Vineyard, when the peonies are in their prime and the scent of roses is on the breeze. He went on:

Every clod feels a stir of might,
an instinct within it that reaches and towers,
and, grasping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers.

True, too, perhaps. But every Island gardener knows that here on the Vineyard at least, those happy clods sometimes need more than a little encouragement along the way to reach that state of soulful perfection by June.

With that in mind, we consulted with our favorite gardeners, both professional and merely obsessional, and came up with this handy to-do list. So for all of you do-it-yourself gardeners who always seem to get started a week or two later than you planned, it’s never too soon to pull on those work gloves and muck boots. 

And for those of you who, thanks to the work of professionals, arrive mid-summer to find your garden in full glory but grouse privately about why the price is what it is: read this, smell the flowers, breathe in, breathe out. Gladly pay the bill.

March 1–15

  • Sharpen and oil cutting tools
  • Purchase seeds
  • Ready greenhouse/cold frames
  • Make plans for garden layout

March 16–31

  • Plant peas on Saint Patrick’s Day
  • Organize seeds for sowing dates
  • Cut back ornamental grasses
  • Uncover sprouting spring bulbs

April 1–15

  • Prune roses
  • Rake beds of debris
  • Prune shrubs before growth emerges
  • Weed and cultivate beds

April 16–30

  • Compost and edge beds
  • Apply organic fertilizer to roses
  • Harden off plants from greenhouse
  • Prune shrubs that have bloomed

May 1–15

  • Inventory planters, hoops, and stakes
  • Get labels ready
  • Direct sow annual seeds
  • Test and de-winterize irrigation

May 16–31

  • Hoop peonies and other perennials
  • Plant pots and window boxes
  • Start watering and feeding schedule
  • Begin mowing routine

 June 1–15

  • Plant started annuals
  • Stake and tie tall perennials
  • Watch for caterpillars and aphids
  • Deadhead lilacs and daffodils

June 16–30

  • Smell the roses
  • Gather cut flowers in the morning
  • Watch longest day of year go by
  • Let the deadheading begin

July 1–15

  • Continue deadheading
  • Continue watering
  • Continue mowing and pruning
  • Wonder why you’re not at the beach