Although spring is a few weeks away, the spring peepers are out and chirping in our milder weather that was preceded by moisture. Their sounds were scarce last year. What's a spring peeper?

In preparation for spring and summer, do you mow your wildscape or naturalized garden? We do, once a year in early spring. It's a good thing to do.

One more note. The Japanese Garden has now had additional face-lifting, with new shingles and chicken wire in the Summer Peace House. Chicken wire? Why? Read on for more on all these...

4 March 2013 Blog  Spring Peepers

We are having a few pre-Spring days, and birds, bugs, frogs and pocket gophers are springing into action.   The past week I have heard the spring peepers as they chirp from the ponds.

Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) are small tan or brown frogs with big toe pads.  They are first heard as winter begins to exit, often February into March.  One description I read says the call sounds like a high-pitched young chicken, and a group of frogs can sound like delicate sleigh bells or a bell choir playing a light tune (the reason they are also known as chorus frogs!).  Their song is one of the first sounds of nature I look forward to hearing each spring.  Last year I heard very few peepers, and the times I heard them were out of sync with the time of year. 

 Yesterday and today were fine days to get out the lawnmowers and bring down all the grasses and old flowers, plus some tree sprouts lingering from last year.  I live in an Oklahoma Certified Wildscape and the entire acreage gets mowed once a year, whether it needs it or not!  Other times only around the house and the paths around the property are mowed. 

My neighbors are thrilled when we do this.  My other option is a controlled burn.  Even with the annual mowing, the Chinese elms, Roughleaf dogwoods, Japanese honeysuckle and blackberries try to take over certain areas.  I was in the front, using all the muscle power I had, pushing and pulling the big wheeled mower over the gopher mounds and stiff, brown wildflower remains.  The mower blade hit one big dense gopher hill and immediately died.  I knew I would not be able to start the mower monster again.  It was time for a break

My husband walked out to fill the mower with gas and restart it.  As he pulled on the rope to start the machine, the back wheel fell off.  That was a surprise.  The axle bolt landed on the mound of soil, courtesy of the pocket gopher, with the wheel.  Had I been mowing through tall grass, it would have been a different story.  Once everything was reattached and back in order, the mowing was finished.

Mowing the wild grasses and flowers has its benefits.  It certainly reduces fire susceptibility.  Chopping up the old leaves and redistributing them over the soil helps in soil fertility.  The leaves add cover to prevent and control erosion, and help with moisture retention.  Some flowers prefer a clean area with little competition, and they may surface in early spring within the mowed areas.  For the next few weeks, my neighbors live in happiness.  Finally, the ratty Wildscape has been mowed and fits in with everyone else’s maintenance scheme.  Only until the grasses throw out their leaf blades and the wildflowers send their leaves and blooms into the air. It is then back to the wild state.

The Japanese Garden is so together right now…except for the torn-up paths, weeds and too many cannas.  The paths are in the process of being replaced with brand new asphalt and dimensions.  They will be 10 feet wide to accommodate walkers and bikers.  This should be finished during the spring.  The gardens will be tackled once the soil warms and can be easier accessed.

But, the structures in the garden have never been in better shape.  The scouts were back out on Saturday, the 2nd of March, in 24 degree morning temperatures to finish up Micah S.’s Eagle Project.  They tore down the old chicken wire in the Japanese Summer Peace House and replaced it with shiny, new wire, firmly attached to the beams.  The wire is there to prevent birds from roosting and doing things birds do when sitting around.  Both the gates leading into the heart (inner garden) had the broken shake shingles replaced.

Within the past several months the arched bridge has been renovated, the interior paths in the heart of the garden were redone, the gate roofs were refurbished and the Peace house is now safe to sit inside, courtesy of many scouts participating on an eagle project.  Everything looks great.