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The Mast-Head: March Is for Planning

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 10:02

Self-created distractions were bad this week, and a new approach was needed to keep focused. This happens every year about this time, when the dueling calls of work, the boat, kids’ school vacations, and, most tempting of all, the garden, become impossible to ignore.

The reminders are everywhere: At the library there are free vegetable and flower seeds for the taking. A work crew is pruning the Main Street trees. A friend sends a blog post about a strangely named method of building a raised bed for planting atop a mound of sticks. I have been making cold-frame boxes from scrap two-by-fours and old double-pane windows, as suggested in a gardening book found on the library’s giveaway shelves.

There is not so much else to do in March, other than plan and perhaps go on walks. This is the second-most rain-filled month, according to National Weather Service records for Bridgehampton going back 20 years; only December is wetter, and then by just a fraction of a fraction of an inch. The seed packets may tell us to start this or that indoors four or six or eight weeks before the last frost day, but from experience we know that is bad advice. Exposed as the South Fork is to the lingering cool of the ocean, there is no rush. Tomatoes’ germination from seed in mid-February would be a straggly mile high by the time I could safely get them into the ground after Memorial Day.

Having become increasingly interested in apple trees, I thought I would try grafting and ordered rootstocks in the fall. In preparation for their arrival by mail, I took scion wood cuttings with permission from Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett and from a dwarf golden russet I had planted at home about 10 years ago. It is my hope that I can coax this favorite apple with tangy-sweet flesh and dinosaur-thick skin to grow on a hardier stock better suited to life near the beach than the original.

The wind whistles through the gaps around the front door and down the chimney. Sounds of chain saws and the shouts of the treemen float in. The trick for me is keeping the garden simple, marigolds and cosmos, parsley and kale for this season and a slow-expanding orchard for the years to come.

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