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Maximizing Your Early Spring Garden: Planning and Design Tips

Where are we? England or Ireland where it rains almost every day? Lush green everywhere. Spring gardening has been very surprising and challenging this year with more rain than we are used to. That includes agriculture when flower buds are being knocked down before they have a chance to be pollinated. The whole landscaping industry and its workers are on hold with baited breath, waiting for the explosion of warmth and sun destined to come. Or will it? Climate change definitely exists and is here! Keep reading for tips on planning and design for the early spring garden.

Garden with pink flowers and green shrubs

So, what to do? We suggest going with the flow! We adapt day by day according to the weather. We mop up best we can on sunny days. We pot some Ranunculus and Sweet Peas for some pretty color. We soil test. We add fertilizer mulch to soak into the earth, and we wait for the warmth. It’s last chance to plant bigger 1, 5 or 15 gallon containers of flowering or non-flowering shrubs and trees What we don’t do is start or plant any warm weather vegetables other than potatoes until after April 15 when the possibility of freeze is supposedly past and when burn season ends. In my personal experience of over 40 years living here I use right after Easter as the time to really get going with the garden. If we want to seed starts of any variety, herbs, vegetables or flowers, we either need a greenhouse or someplace warm inside. If not, our local nurseries will have starts at the right time. The name of the game is patience and flexibility. In the meantime, we enjoy the wildflowers, the dazzling mustard and flowering trees reminding us that we are indeed in Spring no matter what!

Spring at last, a time of renewal and hope and the beginning of a new year in Nature. April is usually one of the busiest times in our Valley for gardening. It is a highly creative time when our imagination for a beautiful and successful summer and fall garden runs wild. But beware! Remember the scorching heat and the threat of wildfires after so much growth from all the rains.

View of green grass field from under oak tree canopy

We must choose our shrubs and plants wisely based on sun or shade exposure, drought resistant and in accordance with new fire regulations of nothing within 4’ of your house. This is a big change, often necessitating a re-structuring of a garden space in relation to the house. In the hot summers we crave shade from our big trees and so we need to work with the regulations best we can.

Tree limbs must be trimmed 6’ up from the ground or house roofs, 30’ away from the house, too, if possible, 50’ away for big properties and very big, old Trees. Remember the fierce winds and rolling embers which flew through the air and swept the ground from miles away igniting everything in its path including wood fencing?

We hear of people heroically standing on roofs with hoses thereby saving their houses. Installing a sprinkler system on roofs is another alternative and good idea if you have a back-up power source for your well pumps. Same for a back-up sprinkler system on the ground. On the other hand, in our increasingly dense urban areas, we often feel more protected as the fire departments are close by. But they are busy in the hillsides protecting us. Therefore, the need for re-structuring gardens in relation to neighbors and homes is important. We need to change our building materials from wood to stone, plentiful here, or metal. The story of the 3 little pigs comes to mind as we protect ourselves from the big bad wolf: climate change.

Forest Garden in the Mayacamas Mountains above Sonoma Vally

We have so many different micro climates in the Bay Area and even just right here in Sonoma Valley, California.

Are you in the hills or in the Valley itself? Those are two entirely different climates, one above the summer fog and the other in it. What’s the prevailing wind direction? Is there a threat of fire from that direction? Assess and work with understanding. That’s the name of the game in terms of having a thriving garden interconnected both with its environment, plants and their best companion plants, beneficial insects and for all the wild creatures working together in harmony. If only it could be so in the World as well.

Why do we call ourselves Deva (pronounced Dayva) Inspired Gardening, or DIG for short? Because ancient lore describes Devas as the “architects of nature” giving land its form and function. They inspire us to work with the existing environment and geography not against it. DIG is self-explanatory. It’s what we do!


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