Muddy boot realities: February means being patient.

(with apologies to Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams)

My garden daydreams lately have consisted almost entirely of imagining three consecutive days without rain.  I raked my porch today (yes, there were enough leaves to merit a rake). I did this not long ago, and autumn is long past. Shouldn’t I be moving on to other tasks? But some of my oaks hang onto their leaves throughout the winter and only drop them in heavy storms or when new leaves push them out. I rake for six months of the year, it seems.


I have a fig tree, probably ‘Celeste,’ that would be happier in the ground than in the large container where it now resides. Mid-February would be an ideal time to plant it, but I can’t see that the ground will be dry enough in a week and a half. On my walk to my shed this morning, my feet sank a bit more than half an inch in soft, squelchy mud. I do not dare walk outside without tall rubber boots.

muddy boot print

If it weren’t so soggy, it would be an ideal time to start preparing some beds for spring: amending with lime as per soil test recommendations; digging in leaf mold or compost, mulching to suppress winter weeds and to avoid the good soil washing away. Now is the time here to plant bare-root roses and fruiting trees and shrubs.

But instead, I am practicing patience. Digging in wet soil is counterproductive; it destroys the soil structure and compacts the air spaces plants’ roots need. We work hard around here to make our sticky clay friable and much less like the brick commonly made from it. I know all this; nothing has changed in the past 20 years, but at this time of year, it is still difficult to sit on my hands and wait.

For now, I will be content with watching the emerging buds of Japanese butterbur, Petasites japonicus. This plant has gloriously tropical-looking round leaves. I think the buds, the size of a clementine, look a bit like Audrey II emerging from the earth.

bud of Petasites japonicas, Japanese butterbur

Audrey II in “Little Shop of Horrors, ” Chicago Theater Review


3 thoughts on “Muddy boot realities: February means being patient.

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