By Sarah Schrock

People are starting their starts. I witnessed the first tray in a friend’s south-facing bathroom window this weekend. These early garden go-getters always give me a little anxiety this time of year with their zealous enthusiasm for the garden. As if the two snowstorms this week weren’t enough to tell me that I still have time to get my starts started, I can’t help but feel behind when I see someone is ahead in the garden game.

I enjoy gardening, but once it gets going, it’s like having another child; you can’t easily walk away from it. So no, I pledge to not to start my starts until after spring break like I always do.  But to get into the spirit, I attended the first of two WSU Extension Master Gardner lectures at TwispWorks. The workshop covered general topics like garden planning, site selection, seed and variety selection, container gardening, and tree care. Enthusiastic gardeners can attend the second WSU Extension garden lecture with Brad Halm on Wednesday (March 16), 6:30-7:30 p.m. (donations accepted). The lecture will help eager gardeners creating a growing calendar that will provide a continued harvest through the season.

Teresa Miller, arboriculturist extraordinaire and Master Gardener, shared her wisdom of common reasons for tree decline with insights into the difficult stresses trees in our changing environment face. Thinking of parking in the shade under that tree in August? Think again, warns Teresa. During the hot summer months that seem like distant memory right now, our beloved single-trunked friends are barely getting by, and parking on their roots in the critical root zone (under the canopy and beyond) can compact the soil, suffocating their feeder roots. Mature trees can transpire up to 100 gallons a day of water during the growing season!

Another warning to heed is the apple maggot (which is a fruit fly). Okanogan County is declared a pest-free area from the serious pest that threatens the apple industry, and apparently the Methow is ground zero for an outbreak and our status might be declared a quarantine area. Backyard fruit growers who harbor these flies in apple, cherry, crabapple, plum or hawthorn trees may be in for a surprise this year when agriculture officials crack down on local infestations. More to come as this story unfolds.

Just thinking about fruit flies keeps me wanting for more snow. Who can forget the early swarms that showed up last year as a result of the “apple dump” in Pateros? Once they arrived it was like WWIII, a constant battle forged on multiple fronts. Last year, with their early sneak attack, we were all caught unaware, defeated before the fight began. I anticipate that they will show up right about the time Antlers reopens.

Paul Christian and his crew are burning the midnight oil to get the saloon up and running in May before the liquor license expires. Reapplying for a new license would further delay the opening of the remolded landmark. That’s right, despite many proofreads by locals (whose names are protected for dignity), the plaque mounted on the face of the building reads, “it was remolded extensively in 2015.” That’s okay by Paul since the place needed to be gutted, for all practical and humorous purposes — it did get remolded.

While we anxiously await the coming of the flies and Antlers to reopen, I for one am holding back from the frenetic garden buzz that grabs hold once the snow starts to melt. Waiting just a little longer before I have dirt under my fingernails is just fine by me. But when the time comes, Master Gardner Linda Speck, a former nurse, recommends scraping your fingers on a bar of soap prior to digging in. Then when you go wash your hands, the dirt just sloughs off. Brilliant! A tip worth drinking to (once Antlers is open, that is).