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Judy Isacoff
Camas expanding in a sunny location. April 19, 2018.

NATURE’S TURN: Gardening in the “Town Among the Clouds”

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By Monday, Apr 23, 2018 Farm and Table

April 23 – May 6, 2018

Camas completing its life cycle, going to seed. May 26, 2016. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Mount Washington — My garden is an expectant, rolling expanse that is flatter than usual as April ends and May begins. The ground has been alternately snow-covered and partly revealed, ready to burst into green life. Composed in late autumn, the earth is like a carefully assembled mound of shredded bark, twigs and branches readied for the touch of an ember to ignite it into flames.

High-elevation squalls every day and night last week kept us in a holding pattern as soft, white blankets were dropped on the whole, leaving the few planting beds that had warmed unapproachable. When Great Barrington tulips are up, cross-country skiers come to Mount Washington for the last natural snow. Hilltown weather has been a world apart: We are known as “The Town Among the Clouds.”

According to Edge weatherman Nick Diller, there was a nearly record snowfall in March and it was the 11th coldest month in the 53 years of recordkeeping. He reports that meteorologists predicted that early April temperatures would be below average and that the month would end warmer. That seems to be our experience and the current projection.

Overwintered Johnny Jump-Ups. April 23, 2016. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Most years, I’ve planted over 150 onions as well as leeks and shallots by now. Spring weather began at the end of March 2016, when I dug parsnips on April 3 and, by April 23, lush onion chive plants stood 6 inches tall, perennial onions 10 inches, and dancing garlic sprays 3 inches tall and wide. Johnny Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor”) were in full bloom. This year, only the chives and overwintered Jump-ups are visible in one of my sunny gardens on a nearby knoll. Also in 2016, a freeze occurred toward the end of April, searing the tips of the freeze-hardy varieties. The spring of 2015 was later than 2016, although perennial onion shoots were 6 inches tall and pale corydalis were thriving at this time; neither has appeared yet this season.

Last year was similar to 2015. Snowdrifts melted under torrential rain the first week of April. By April 10, early mainstays of the kitchen garden, tiny shoots of perennials and fall-planted annuals had emerged. In the wild and in the garden, this season could be about a month later than last year – hopefully not more than that.

Gardeners! Turn out to seed the earth with alliums and leafy greens as soon as the ground has thawed and while cool weather prevails. If forecasts hold true, seasonal conditions will prevail for at least the next two weeks.

Overwintered Johnny Jump-Ups in a sunny location. April 19, 2018. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Opportunity to participate

Sign on by April 30 — Natural Resources Defense Council calls on EPA for the benefit of monarch butteflies https://act.nrdc.org/letter/monarchs-180412-b?source=EMOMONPET&utm_source=alert&utm_medium=actr&utm_campaign=email&t=13&akid=675.1213752.oCCV4-

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