The trees loved the rain. The roses loved the cold.

Renee Kiff

Renee Kiff

The weeds loved everything about our past winter and have forged ahead of gardeners just now going out to plant something pretty.

But first …

“But first ...” is the title of a list that Joel, our oldest son whose home is in McMinnville, Oregon, keeps handy in order to organize the tasks of his day.

Let me give you a for instance.

You want to plant summer flowers in a bin instead of directly in the ground? Before you buy the flowers, you first have to construct the bin. Before you can construct the bin, you need to level some ground, buy lumber and planting mix and perhaps lay aviary wire at the base of the bin, to keep out rodents. (Lots of luck with that. Rodents are the best escape and re-entry artists on the planet and they love a challenge.)

If you are lucky and you already own bins, you can merely check the corners for no gaps where two sides meet in order to not waste water during the growing season, and replenish the soil. But first, remove winter weeds. Every one of them.

The beauty of bins is that you can provide cooler temperatures for plants that don’t appreciate afternoon sun by fastening shade cloth to the bins’ wooden sides using clamps and hoops. And, you can fasten floating row cover to extend the season when our county receives a chill in the fall.

There is so much to do this time of year that it is necessary to get up earlier and stay out later. The mind races ahead, planning the next, and the next and the next thing to be done.

But first … but first … where is the tool? How is the plant? Where is the time? If you are raising plants from seed, it is an excellent idea to acclimate your plant to the outside for a few days.

If it is too hot during the day to plant, it is too hot to plant. Wait for the cool evening to introduce your new plants to their new environment. Watch them carefully for a few days, making sure they have plenty of water.

But first ... get hoses that don’t kink and sprinkling attachments that don’t blast the fragile plants. Any hose that kinks should be sent packing. If you don’t get tough about kinks right now, you will have endless conniptions, which are defined as uncontrolled rage or tantrums.

Believe me, you don’t want to go through summer in an endless, predictable state of uncontrolled rage or tantrums. Go to your hardware store and demand they carry conniption-free hoses. I have two of them but my family complains that they are not wide enough.

Practically, even if a hose has the width of a fire hose, if it kinks, you are a dead duck, or, a stunned human holding a hose emitting nothing, not a drop. Faced with all the work of the outdoors ahead, there is one more piece of advice I would share and that is be careful where your brain is as you walk through your garden.

If you are treading uneven ground, with tree roots, rodent holes, rocks, and, yes, even kinkless hoses crossing your path, keep a careful eye on your feet.

I have two friends who went crashing down — one on metal stars and the other onto a parking lot, who broke wrists and ankles. On the other hand, if you walk around trees or trellises, you also need to look up before you crack your forehead. Not good!

Unless you have “one eye on the pot and the t’other up the chimney” (as Harry Belafonte sang) you cannot watch in both directions, but you can try to be aware.

For instance: I know there is a big tree limb that crosses my path when I am walking from my house to my SLO (San Luis Obispo) Kiff’s house. I see it as long as I am not carrying something that is hogging my attention. If its a chocolate cake I am carrying, then … bonk.

Happy summer to you with no bonks or kinks.

Renee Kiff weeds and writes at her family farm in Alexander Valley.

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