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Spring In The Garden
by [?]

No daffodils “take the winds of March with beauty” in our Berkshire gardens. What daffodils we have in that month of alternate slush and blizzard bloom in pots, indoors. But one sign of spring the gardens holds no less plain to read, even if some people may not regard it as so poetic–over across the late snow, close to the hotbed frames, a great pile of fresh stable manure is steaming like a miniature volcano. To the true gardener, that sight is thrilling, nay, lyric! I have always found that the measure of a man’s (and more especially a woman’s) garden love was to be found in his (or her) attitude toward the manure pile. For that reason I put the manure pile in the first paragraph of my praise of gardens in the spring.

That yellowish-brown, steaming volcano above the slushy snow of March promises so much! I will not offend sensitive garden owners who hire others to do their dirty work, by singing the joy of turning it over with a fork, once, twice, perhaps three times, till it is “working” evenly all through. Yet there is such joy, accentuated on the second day by the fact that the thermometer has taken a sudden jump upwards, the snow is melting fast, and in the shrubs and evergreen hedge the song-sparrows are singing, and the robins. Last year, I remember, I paused with the steaming pile half turned, first to roll up my sleeves and feel the warm sun on my arms–most delicious of early spring sensations–and then to listen to the love-call of a chickadee, over and over the three notes, one long and two short a whole tone lower. I answered him, he replied, and we played our little game for two or three minutes, till he came close and detected the fraud. Then a bluebird flashed through the orchard, a jay screamed, as I bent to my toil again. Beside me were the hotbed frames, the glasses newly washed, the winter bedding of leaves removed, and behind them last year’s contents rotted into rich loam. Another day or two, and they would be prepared for seeding–if I only could bring myself to work hard enough until then!

How much hope goes into a hotbed in late March, or early April! How much warmth the friendly manure down under the soil sends up by night to germinate the seeds, though the weather go back to winter outside–as it invariably does in our mountains! Last year, for example, we had snow on the ninth of April, and again on the twenty-third and twenty-ninth, while the year before, on the ninth, six inches fell. In the lowland regions gardening is easier, perhaps, but yet there is a certain joy in this fickle spring weather of ours,–the joy of going out in the morning across a white garden and sweeping the snow from hotbed mats, lifting the moist, steaming glass, and catching from within, strong against your face, the pungent warmth and aroma of the heated soil and the delicate fragrance of young seedlings. How fast the seeds come–some of them! Others come so slowly that the amateur gardener is in despair, and angrily decides to try a new seed house next year. The vegetable frames are sown in rows–celery, tomatoes, cauliflowers, lettuce, radishes, peppers, coming up in tiny green ribbons, the radishes racing ahead. The flower frames, however, are sown in squares, each about a foot across, and each labeled and marked off with a thin strip of wood. These are the early plantings of the annuals, for we cannot sow out-of-doors till the first or even the second week in May in our climate. Sometimes, indeed, we do not dare to sow even in the frames till well into April. The asters are usually up first, racing the weeds. The little squares make, in a week or so, a green checker-board, each promising its quota of color to the garden, and very soon the early cosmos, thinned to the strongest plants, has shot up like a miniature forest, towering over the lowlier seedlings, sometimes bumping its head against the glass before it can be transplanted to the open ground in May. But most prolific, most promising, and most bothersome, are the squares labeled “antirrhinum,” coral red, salmon pink, white, dark maroon, and so on; tiny seeds scattered on the ground and sprinkled with a little sand, they come up by the hundred, and each seedling has to go into a pot before it goes into the ground.