I have this theory (I know, some of you are thinking, “OMG, what is he going to say next?”), that gardeners possess a special “horticultural hormone” that I have dubbed “hortitostrogen." This is a non-gender specific hormone that kicks in about this time of the year and causes my fingers to start twitching with an intense desire to go dig in the dirt. I wonder if any of you can relate.

The truth is that this “hortitostrogen” has been titrating into my blood stream for several weeks but it wasn’t until this last weekend, when my outdoor thermometer read 52 degrees, that things started to become uncontrollable. Looking back, I now realize that it all started in January when my bulbs started to emerge — little clumps of snow drops, a scattering of winter aconites, a few early blooming daffodils and a crocus or two is what started it all. Then the hellebores kicked in and the “hortimons” really intensified.  At this point it is full steam ahead since it will soon be March.

Treatment for this annual spring condition (which I am choosing to call “hortitostrogenitis”) is simple. My first step is always to head to the garden center to see what’s new and interesting. There are lots of winter blooming shrubs and perennials, besides the available seasonal primroses and pansies, that can at least temporarily satiate our need for fresh color and even fragrance in the garden. Just walking around the nursery and taking in all the incredible variety of plant material is often enough to hold me over. Then again, there is nothing quite like the thrill of the purchase to give me a true rush.  

After visiting the garden center, I like to head out into the yard and finish cleaning up my garden beds — getting things in order can be very soothing and give me a sense of order and control. I find I want to do everything at once, so it takes some self-control to keep from ping-ponging from one chore to the next. Time spent weeding out popweed, chickweed, and other annual weeds that germinated last fall before they go to seed, will pay off big time come spring. Also, spreading a new layer of mulch over those clean beds will give you extra protection from spring germinating weeds.

Getting the vegetable garden ready for spring is also another good treatment plan for combating excess “hortitostrogen." I just pulled out the remnants of my fall planted broccoli, spinach, and assorted lettuces from the raised beds, so now it is time to add some good quality compost, organic fertilizer, lime and trace minerals to mix in and refresh the soil for another growing season. Then it’s back to the garden center for some early cool-season veggie transplants and carrot seeds. It is not too early to plant these kinds of veggies, or for that matter, all forms of berries and other perennial vegetables like asparagus, rhubarb, and horseradish.

Once I’ve got my dirt looking all nice and tidy, I will do some pruning of my ornamental grasses and dormant perennials, and take a few limbs out of the fruit trees and vines, such as grapes and kiwis.  Finally, a good hygienic spraying of dormant oil with copper or sulfur completes my treatment plan and it’s back to the garden center for another fix.

If your fingers are starting to twitch, just chalk it up to “hortitostrogenitis” and try some of my cures.  I guarantee you will feel better in no time at all.  Stay safe and keep on gardening.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com

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