Steve Batie

It's just exhausting.

Every year.

You'd think, after putting in so many planting seasons, it would come as no surprise.

But the rush of spring catches me off-guard every time.

It would be easier, I think, if the mud didn't drag on for so long.

Mud keeps me from venturing into the vegetable and flower beds. It keeps me from spading and hoeing and raking. It keeps me from finally gathering up the last of the autumn leaves.

Heck, I can't lop the dead branches off the Russian olive trees, because my ladder keeps sinking out from under me.

And all that's stuff I need to get done now, because planting season starts in just a week, and some things have to get into the ground on time or they'll lag behind all season.

The potatoes are my major early-spring headache, because I need three days of dry weather to plant them.

On the first day, I cut my seed potatoes into pieces. carefully leaving at least one eye in each chunk. It's from those eyes, actually little nodes, that the vines will grow, and it's from those vines that the potatoes will grow, and it's from those potatoes that I will get hash browns.

I dust the cut ends with bone meal, a mild fertilizer, and leave the chunks on old cookie sheets in the shop to cure.

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Two days later, assuming it hasn't rained in the meantime, they'll be sufficiently healed for planting. I'll dig 6-inch-deep ditches in the garden and drop them in about 8 inches apart, then cover them over.

If it does rain during the curing period, I can hold the cut potatoes for as much as a week before they start to dry out. If that happens, I have to start over.

It's a particularly nerve-wracking process, because potatoes have to be planted early enough in the season that they start healthy vines before the heat of summer sets in.

I try to get my snow peas and radishes, both early-season crops, into the ground the same day. When the temperatures go up, they're done for the season, and I replace them with green beans, which thrive in the hot weather.

It doesn't hurt a bit to get the onions planted, too. They may not do much before it gets warmer, but they can withstand spring's cool temps, and planting them now will save me time later.

While all that's going on, I have to keep after the lawn, which requires at least weekly mowing as it breaks winter dormancy. That's actually a factor in my favor, because I need the grass clippings to mulch the taters to keep them well-insulated through the summer and to bulk up the compost bins.

In early spring, my compost amounts to little more than last fall's leaves. Those would break down by themselves eventually, but adding some green and a deep watering speeds things up.

Finally, there's some exterior painting (the south and east walls of the shop as well as the peeling fascia on the house) I'd also just as soon get behind me before the temps rise.

Because by then I'll be busy with tomatoes and cucumbers and green peppers.

If I survive another spring.

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