This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. April is upon us, with its tumultuous climate and treacherous weather, and we reflect again on the pronouncement of more than one Ozarker who said “If you don’t like the Ozarks weather, just give it a minute. It’ll change.
I found myself this morning thinking that the person who wrote about April showers bringing May flowers must not have been living here when they said it. This year we actually had a good healthy dose of April in February, when an extended and untimely flow of warm air currents blew up from the Gulf and stayed long enough to fool the peaches and a good many other flowering plants to put out their tender blooms too soon. Then the season came back to itself and froze them dead. Fortunately some disagreed and, on the advice of day length, waited their proper turn. Apples and lilacs, for instance, are blooming now, or they were until this morning when they got thoroughly chilled, and are now awaiting the freezing temperatures forecast for tonight.
That aggravates me so I’m breaking away from my earlier thoughts of doing a retrospective of April Fool jokes and launching into full gardener mode for a minute. Regarding things in full bloom and in danger of freezing, there are only a couple or three things you can do. If they’re low growing flowers or dwarf trees and you can get a cloth over them, then do that. But remember that wind can undo your best efforts, and weight the edges with something— rocks or bricks if the cloth touches the ground, other creative options if necessary. I’ve been known to clip large steel washers to edges of the cloth with those giant spring-type paper clips, for instance.
If it’s too tall for covering, like an apple tree, there’s another trick you can use, but it’s not practical for more than one tree. It requires a kind of lawn sprinkler called a “pulsating sprinkler” It’s that noisy one that goes Ch-ch-ch- tttttt. Place it close to the tree, elevate the front end so it shoots directly up into the center of the tree, turn it on as the temp nears the freezing mark and leave it on all night. I once saved a whole blooming apricot tree by that method, and ended up with the only apricots in the neighborhood come harvest time. Of course I was living in another state at the time. Apricots won’t bear here. They always bloom too early and get hit by frost.
Well, now that I’ve wandered off down that garden path, I might as well pass along some other miscellaneous garden bits for use as the season opens. Out in the wild there are wonders to be had, and some are already peeking up out of the leaf mold. It’s not warm enough yet for mushrooms, but the tiny, clover-like, tart and salty sheepshire plants are blooming everywhere in waste places, and is easily identifiable by its small-five-petaled yellow flower. Chickweed, another edible, is already making a nuisance of Later in the month and into May, those of us who are wise to the wilds will be hunting morels in the woods, pokeweed and lamb’s quarters in garden edges and fencerows. A word of caution, though. Once you’ve tasted lamb’s quarters, you may never grow spinach again. Seriously, for taste and tenderness, it can’t be beat. I like it so much that when I heard someone had developed a larger domesticated variety with bigger leaves, I ordered the seeds. Like Lamb’s quarter, it is part of the family “Goosefoot” which also includes spinach, beets, quinoa and chard. The new and improved and giant-size variety is called Magenta Spreen. That’s right. Spreen. a nomenclature dreamed up by a seedsman who thought the word “shoot” sounded too militaristic. But y’know, in plants and planters, it takes all kinds, and so there it is. And the seeds are on their way. And I’m gonna grow them. And I’ll certainly keep you posted about, because they’re rumored to grow up to nine feet tall – hence another of its names, Tree Spinach.
Well, such is the sum total of my Ozarks gardening adventures so far this year. And that’s about all I have to say about an Ozarks spring that is, as always, hesitant and undependable. But hey, right out there in my little patch, poking from under some oatstraw, my strawberries are blooming. Can garden heaven be far behind. This is Marideth Sisco, leaving you with that elequent poem being recited all over the Ozarks by oldtimers these days. Spring has sprung. The grass has riz. I wonder where the flowers - is.