April 17, 2014

April is a month of holidays that celebrate spring. There’s Easter, which falls on the 20th this year. Although Easter recounts the passion of Christ, it’s pretty well understood that the date of Easter was selected to co-opt some of the ancient Pagan holidays of Europe. Modern times have created two more holidays of note to gardeners and other nature lovers. These are Arbor Day and Earth Day.

Arbor Day was the creation of J. Sterling Morton, who moved from Michigan to Nebraska in the 1850s. Legend has it that Morton and his wife, Caroline, were dismayed by the treeless landscape of their new home. Morton, a newspaper editor, used his position to highlight the advantages of planting trees: shade, food production, wood for building, and most of all, beauty. These days we also add soil conservation and carbon mitigation to the list.

Due to Morton’s educational campaign, the first Arbor Day in the US was held on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska City, NB. It’s said that over a million trees were planted that day throughout the state. The holiday spread all over the world. Although it’s not as famous as Easter, it’s still celebrated today. The Arbor Day Foundation, started in 1972, serves as a hub for information about Arbor Day events.

Since Arbor Day is scheduled to coincide with the best time of year for planting trees, it moves around depending on where you live. More southerly states celebrate Arbor Day in late February or early March. Northerly states place it later, with the majority marking Arbor Day on the last Friday of April.

Earth Day is a holiday born of a social movement. Through the 1960s, public awareness had been growing of environmental damage caused by industrial pollution. Activist John McConnell first proposed the celebration of Earth Day in 1969. He wanted to honor the Earth and work for the end of all wars. The following year, two Earth Days were celebrated. McConnell’s was on the Vernal Equinox, March 21, 1970, while Senator Gaylord Nelson led a national teach-in on April 22nd.

Nelson’s event was widely adopted by the public. Thousands of schools across the country hosted conferences and teaching sessions. Millions of ordinary citizens marched in support of environmental regulation. The overwhelming response led to many laws that protect public health and environmental quality. Like Arbor Day, Earth Day spread all over the world and continues to be marked on April 22nd.

P. S.
It’s easy to think that one little person can’t make any difference in the world, but that’s wrong. Just ask J. Sterling Morton, John McConnell or Gaylord Nelson.

An Urban Gardening Workshop for the West Central Neighborhood will be this Wednesday, April 23rd, from 7 to 9 pm. Two Master Gardeners from the Spokane County Extension will greet the public and talk about how to get started with an urban garden. Bring a potluck dish to share. That’s at The Nest, 1335 Summit Parkway, in Spokane.

Earth Day Spokane has a schedule of events including a “Procession of Species” on Saturday, April 26th. This combines with the 40th anniversary celebration for Expo ’74, the World’s Fair that Spokane hosted. Activities go from 10 am to 5 pm at Riverfront Park.

Last fall, I persuaded my teenaged son to clear a patch of sod along my garage. This widened an existing bed where I’ve been planting tomatoes and beans, which love the strong son. Soon comes the next step — building a box to increase the depth. That will be my major addition to the yardscape for this year.

Of course, after that I’ll have to shift a bunch of soil from another bed and mix in the peat moss. It’s always something, isn’t it?

My cherry tree is in bloom, those dainty white blossoms shining against the evening gloom. I also have onion, radish and several types of lettuce sprouting.

Indoor Forest
My tomato and asparagus plants are growing strong. Enough that I’ve asked my kids to save the sticks from their corn dogs to act as the first supports. Meanwhile, in a south-facing window, my Christmas cactus is coming into bloom. Weren’t those supposed to blossom between Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Because of my suburban setting, I don’t get a lot of birds. Crows, starlings, sparrows and robins would be the usual flock. This week, for the first time, I saw a robin nearby. I’m mulling how to attract some finches and gold finches, which don’t usually visit until later in the year.

That’s all for this week. Do your yoga to strengthen your back — the season is upon us!


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