Monday, April 1, 2019

April Fool's Garden

by Debbie Teashon

"Mix a little foolishness with your prudence: It's good to be silly at the right moment." ~ Horace

April Fool's Calender

There are many theories on how April fool's day (AFD) began. Who knows for sure which approach or combination of them is true? Perhaps believing any one of them makes us a fool.

The rule of the day is if you prank someone after noon on April 1st, the perpetrator will receive bad luck. Just in case you read this article after that time on April 1, I superstitiously nullify any notion that I pulled a "fool-ya".

One likely AFD theory is that since the time of the Ancient Romans and Celts, people celebrated the festivities centered around the Spring Equinox, the beginning of a new planting season. With a holiday of mischief-making, often people wore disguises and played pranks on each other. Many historians believe it is how the day evolved into All Fools' Day.

Then there are those who believe the best explanation of when the prank day began is when the French switched to the Gregorian calendar. The schedule changed New Year's Day from April 1 to January 1. Many people were slow to catch on to the new year date. April fool's day became a way to mock the dupes who still rang in the new year in spring. I speculate that many were not fools at all, only stubborn old gardeners hanging on to a tradition.

I like the old calendar holiday better, with a new year at the beginning of spring, instead of at the launch of winter when hibernation begins. Spring is about renewal - new beginnings and a new growing season. So why not a new year to go with it?

Another AFD origin theory is that Mother Nature fools us into believing it is time to plant out those not so hardy plants. Then in a fit of fickleness, she turns down the temperature and throws us a frost or two our way. I've been down that foolish path many times.

The AFD holiday can remind us not to be foolish. Plant only the hardy flora now, and wait for spring to warm up before bedding out the tender ones.

It is hard not to succumb to the beauties sitting in their pots at our local garden centers. Just remember, plant out the hardy ones at this time, dress the half-hardy ones in protective frost gear, and hold off on planting the tender plants until the next month or two.
Wall of waters, frost blankets, cloching devices (cloches) really helps take the foolishness out of planting too early. Anytime we can green-thumb our noses at the weather and win, makes us look wise beyond our gardening years.

Some great April 1st hoaxes came from the garden. In 1957, the BBC broadcasted the first known television-staged April Fool's joke. The BBC's Richard Dimbleby, a distinguished broadcaster of the time, narrated a story about a family in Ticino, Switzerland who grew and harvested spaghetti plants.

Dimbleby explained how anxious growers feared their harvests would be compromised by late frosts, which would ruin the flavor of the strands. The program even featured footage of the family actually harvesting strands of spaghetti from their shrubs.

Viewers called into the station wanting to know where they could purchase a spaghetti bush. You can even watch the original Spaghetti Harvest program on Youtube.

All Fool's Day aside, this month is when gardening goes into full swing. Here on the peninsula, it is time to start seeds, whack weeds, and mow the lawn with a vengeance.

Instead of pulling and discarding some of your weeds, eat them. Make good use of the dandelions - the tender, young leaves are nutritious and tasty in salads. Did you know that the flower buds are edible too? Sautéed in butter, they taste like an artichoke and are easier to eat than artichoke flower petals where you have to pull off edible portions with your teeth.

Nettles are edible too. However, you do need to wear protective gloves when harvesting to avoid the stinging hairs. Once you cook the nutritious leaves, the sting is gone. I promise you that is no joke.

All that I have written is true. I trust that you read this before noon.

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