Wild ThingsÖ
Pre-Season Ceremonies 
By Karen Vizzi
    Time is flying and there are just a few weeks to go before gardeners will begin their opening ceremonies for the season. My own ceremony includes starting the first flat of seeds in mid to late February, and clipping a few branches of pussy willow for indoor forcing.
     In the meantime, there are still a few chores to take care of before the season really kicks off and time becomes a precious commodity. This week I will take a good hard look at my garden tools. I try to clean them up before storing for the winter, but I leave sharpening as an inside activity to pass 
some time in the dead of winter. Keeping your garden tools sharp and in good working order is really important for two reasons ... your safety and the safety of your plants. For example, dull blades on pruners or shears may cause you to exert greater than normal pressure, causing injury to muscles and tendons ... not to mention cuts and gashes from a wayward blade if you lose control. Dull blades can also cause damage to plant tissue. By struggling to cut a branch with dull blades, chances are you are exposing more than the necessary amount of tissue (often leaving ragged edges) and making the plant more susceptible to disease and insect damage. Lawns tend to really suffer this way from dull mower blades. 
     You could have all your tools sharpened professionally, but there are two implements that make it easy to do yourself. I use a metal file for larger edges that donít need to be razor sharp, such as spades, shovels and mower blades. For smaller and more precision cutting tools, such as pruners and scissors, I use a whet stone (follow the instructions carefully). I finish up with a little oil on any hinges and Iím good to go. 
     I also check my cold frame for any repairs. A cold frame is really just a mini-greenhouse and is a great way to get a jump on the growing season. I built mine out of old storm windows a few years ago, but not being particularly adept with power tools, it generally needs annual maintenance. Nevertheless, it serves the purpose. I set the cold frame out on the blacktop driveway (which retains more heat) in early April and begin to "harden off" all the seedlings that I have started in the basement. Hardening off is the process that helps the seedlings gradually acclimate themselves to actual weather conditions. We will talk more about this process when the time comes. The cold frame protects the seedlings against strong winds and damaging frosts until they are hardy enough to plant in the ground. 
     With these chores behind me, I am ready for the whirlwind of activity that spring will bring to my wild garden. I am anxious to see what plants spread their seed last fall and what different kinds of critters will visit and maybe make a home there. 
Itís always a big surprise and I am never disappointed. 
    Bird Brainers: I had a visit from two American robins this week! This is very unusual, as migration north will probably not begin for a few weeks yet. More than likely, these guys never made the whole trip south last fall. They may have found a source of food ... although I canít imagine where under all this 
seasonís snow.
    Butterfly Bullets: A person who studies moths and butterflies is called a Lepidopterist. 
     Plant Pointers: During the next week or two, you can begin to feed your houseplants on a regular schedule, starting with a weak solution and gradually building up to full strength over the next 3 months.

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