LA VIDA LOCAL: IRREGULAR NOTES ON WEST END LIFE
By Rosanne Graef
After a couple of April false alarms (during one of which I packed away the winter jacket only to be greeted in a couple of days by a late snow), spring has arrived in the West End. It certainly seems we’ve also had plenty of late April showers that should soon result in the promised burst of May flowers.
Spring is for the birds…
In the meanwhile, it’s heartening to see and hear the return of some avian familiars. Although it was March 13th when I spotted my first robin plucking some winter-wizened berries from a roadside bush, by now they’re into the hop, hop, hop, tip-head and look-for-a-worm mode.
Another seasonal joy is the irrepressible exuberance of singing cardinals. Consider the male who dominates my immediate neighborhood, quite often he sits at the tippy-top of the highest tree in Clark Street Park projecting the opening “wolf whistle” notes of his song. So do you think guys picked up that two-note tune from those red birds?
Then there are the male goldfinches that come spring rotate their wardrobes and don their brilliant sunny yellow jackets, guaranteed to turn a girl’s head.
And the flowers!
On the flora side of the spring coin is the rainbow of colors of flowering bulbs emerging through the snow and soil and grass. It’s so wonderful to discover an early appearance of these botanical lollipops nestled against a house’s south-facing basement wall – even just one lone blossom can make for a better day.
Another fleeting spring rite is the appearance of the “petal snow” coating the sidewalks and filling the gutters along streets such as Brackett where there are flowering cherry, crabapple, and apple trees.
Time to garden, but where to find the space?
For many of us, all this natural excitement unleashes the irresistible urge to get out there and garden. Just the smell of melting snow and thawing soil starts visions of gardens and harvests dancing through our brains.
This can result in a challenge greater than any faced at an “All You Can Eat Buffet!” You want to try everything and can easily exceed not only your budget, physical capabilities, and available time, but also your family’s and acquaintances’ tolerance for zucchini!
One thing about urban gardening is that it generally does serve to set some limitations on how much overcommitment you can make due to lack of available space. However, there is a way around this hurdle: gardening on asphalt (or another unsuitable surface).
Being fortunate enough to have a driveway in the West End, I decided to give it a try. Basically it’s using raised beds, but having a 3-4” layer of wood chips at the bottom, topped by a layer of landscape paper to keep the top 8-10” of soil from being washed away.
Last year was our first full season with our raised beds, and I have to say they were an unqualified success. Lots of greens, beans, carrots, radishes, peas in 2018 and just this past April the last of the over-wintered parsnips were dug. If you have or can borrow a spot where you can try this technique, don’t hesitate to give it a go.
Rosanne Graef is a West End Resident and regular contributor to the West End News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.