Setting Up Day at May Dreams Gardens

More signs of spring were noted today. The serviceberries (Amelanchier sp.) are now blooming, joining the flowering pears which are also in full bloom.

I think the serviceberry is a nice substitute for flowering pear. It blooms about the same time, but without that odd, unpleasant smell.

It won't get as big as a flowering pear tree, but offers good fall foliage and berries for the birds to eat. Most often it is grown as a large multi-trunked shrub (or a small multi-trunked tree) but you can find it grown as a single trunked tree, which is what I have in my garden.

Another sign of spring continuing is when everyone gets out their patio furniture, flower pots, and other garden decoration that they stored away for winter.

Last fall, when I posted about putting everything away for the winter, several people commented wondering why we do that. It is a lot of work!

We do it because if we didn't, a lot of "stuff" would be ruined by the winter weather, or at least not last as long. It is not so much that everything gets cold, it is that it gets wet, freezes, then thaws, then freezes and thaws and this process ruins a lot of garden decorations, furniture and especially clay pots.

So we put it all away in the winter, and then bring it out again in the spring once it feels like we won't have any more terrible freezes. Or at least we should.

I feel like at this point we won't have any terrible freezes so I decided that today would be the day to get everything out again, thus making it Setting Up Day here in my garden.

While doing this, I noted some universal truths about this whole process of putting it all away for the winter and then getting it all out and setting up again in the spring. And I thought of a few tips to pass along.

The first universal truth is that if you put it all away 'dirty', it comes back out that way. Whether it is stowed away in the garage or a shed or stacked up in one corner of the patio and covered with a tarp, "as it is put away, so it shall remain when brought out again".

The tip is to clean everything before you put it away. I need to remember that in the fall but somehow I forget it, or it is too cold or there is some other good reason at the time to just put it away "as is".

The second universal truth is that the further you haul something to store it, the more likely it is that it will break in the transporting process. I've broken at least one rather large clay pot when it rolled off the cart I was using to transport it. I still have the broken pieces in the garage because the pieces are really big, like the pot was, so I'm trying to think of something clever or artsy to make with them.

The tip is to store everything as close to where it goes as you can. I store the furniture and clay pots that go on the back patio under a big tarp in a corner of the patio where it is partially sheltered by the house. Everything gets cold, but it doesn't get wet, so it does alright getting through the winter.

The third universal truth is that hose end sprayers will not work in the spring after being stored in the winter. I don't know if it is by design or a material flaw, but it is rare that a hose end sprayer that was working when you put it away, still works in the spring when you get it back out.

The tip is to be very careful trying out hose end sprayers in the spring, as they will likely spray out all over everything when you first turn on the hose. And by everything, I mean you.

Setting Up Day is also a day to test yourself. Do you still have the strength to set out what you put away a mere five or six months agao?

I am happy to report that I was still able to carry the purble bench out to the vegetable garden.
This made me feel very strong.

I'm not finished with all the set up, but got a good start on it today. There is now a place to sit on out on the patio and this bench to sit on in the garden. What more do I need?


  1. carol - i think i need at least a set up "week" or maybe even a month! I never even made it to the garage to get out the buddha head. your purple bench is looking as pretty as i remembered it.

  2. My set up day is determined by when I want visitors to be able to sit outside--that happened Friday. Last year I am pretty sure that did not happen until early May. I have been leaving the big coated metal table out and it's a relief not to move it.

    The pots will soon be too heavy--I will have to switch to 100% lightweight pots at some point.

  3. I am slowly dragging everything back into the yard - it is a slow process for us.

  4. Ah yes..the put it all away and then take it all back out 5 months later cycle of the north. I too am in the middle of that process. For me it seems to be a little bit at a time as I never seem to have a couple of days to dedicate to it.

    The purple bench looks great!

  5. Carol, we, too, started setting up today. Adult kids over and grandkids, so put them all to work helping with the patio furniture. That's the big job for me. I can do the pots ect. as I please. So nice out today we used the newly set out furniture for an afternoon of sitting in the sun!

  6. Wow.It sounds kind of like you pack away your entire garden for the winter season. A very foreign concept to me. Not only do we leave everything in place all year... we use it all year.

    If I did have to put away and set up ... I'd follow your "truths" because they make great sense. I'm so happy for you that spring has arrived in blooms and pots and benches looking lovely and ready for some "May Dreams".
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

  7. Like Meems, we here in Austin leave everything out for the winter and use it more in the winter than in summer. Very convenient. However, I suspect that the ritual of bringing out the garden stuff is a satisfying way of marking spring's arrival for you northern gardeners.

    So, is it satisfying? Or just a good way to hurt your back?

  8. I love the purple bench, Carol, and am glad it's time for you to take out the garden furniture. Like Meems and Pam, we leave ours out all year - even the patio umbrella, which is needed when the trees are bare.

    You're right about the sprayers and wands - never had one that wasn't flawed!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  9. I am glad to see the purple bench out again. Spring is in full sesion now. I'm just enjoying the spring and the weather outside spent with the family.

  10. Love that purple bench Carol!

    We leave our wood patio furniture outside and cover it with tarps (NOT a pretty sight!) I hide the pots under the table to protect them, as I'm too lazy to drag them in. So far nothing has broken (yet.) The tarp keeps them out of the snow, and since they're dry, they don't suffer from the freeze/thaw cycle.

  11. Carol: I LOVE your purple bench! How cheery it is! You are right about putting things away. Any thoughts on where I put the sprinkler heads and the wand for my hose? You would think that by now, I would have learned! Please remind us in the fall of these facts!

  12. Carol - GBD has hit the British press! the Independent to be precise. Not sure if the article was in the paper version, but you can see the online version here :

  13. It's an exciting day isn't it, when you get to bring stuff out and see the signs of your gardening year beginning? I like the service berry, good picture of the blossoms!

  14. I was thrilled to find some Serviceberry at the local nursery the other day. As soon as I prepare a spot I'm going back to get at least one.

    As far as spring clean up goes - I know why it's best to rake up all the leaves in the fall. This year I won't put it off. The early snow that came and stayed last fall really made a mess.

    I looked at some stone I moved last year. I'm still wondering how I managed to budge some of them. Unfortunately I'm facing a new universal truth. I can't quite do what I was able to do the year before. Three weeks after starting to work/play and I'm still as stiff and sore as the day I started.

  15. It's me again, Carol - you mentioned something artistic made of pieces of clay pots... did you see Brianna's post about making a Toad Abode?


  16. its true...bradford pears smell like feces, and my block is lined with them. they are beautiful, however. i shall buy a serviceberry to mollify the rancid stench!

  17. Setting up day? Day? Just one?

    I believe I have a setting up month. Perhaps a setting up two months. Then a weeding two months. Then a breaking down two months.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  18. You could always make a mosaic shelf from your broken pot... I also use them to line the bottom of other planters (especially those that don't have a drain hole).

  19. We leave most things out all year and use them too...I do move the succulents under the patio cover so they don't spend the winter cold and wet and I take down the umbrellas because of the winter winds. And if I do need to move a big pot I use a can tip it down so the pot doesn't fall off...way easier on the pots and the back!

  20. Our setting up day is actually "sweep and hose off the screened porch for the first but not last time this spring day". But we do have to put away pots or they don't survive our freezing weather, either.

    Your rules certainly hold true ...the sprayers don't work in the spring and the further you have to move something the more likely it will break!


  21. My first time at your blog. I enjoyed seeing you great pics and reading your interesting posts. We had set up day here at the north west coast a few weeks ago when the weather was warm. That has changed tho' and it is now too chilly to enjoy being out in the garden. We are all set up tho' for when the weather turns warm again. : ) I'll be back!

  22. You're ready to go to it in earnest--you have the bench out there for just BE-ing, and the rest of it willall fall into place. Great to see the amelanchiers are already blooming. Here, the buds are swelling, though my nursery bud in Falmouth says his will probably erupt in the next week or so. A little warmer there.

  23. Carol - I'm so glad you solved the mystery for me. I had no idea that it was a rule that hose end sprayers don't work the following Spring. And it only took me a week or two of getting soaked to give in a buy two new ones. In fact, I only bought the second one today, even though I KNOW I have two hoses. Your bench is lovely - I hope you can enjoy just BEING on it and watching your garden grow. PS - how are your bunnies? Did you bring some to Spring Fling and sneak them into my yard?

  24. Gina, I really have just gotten started, there is more to do!

    EAL, I am already switching to lightweight pots whenever I buy new, and I like to have my chairs set up for Easter, but that was just too early this year.

    SuzyQ, I know what you mean. It seems like I get some of the big stuff out and then am forever dragging little stuff out.

    Cabs, I do what I can now and then I'll have some time off in May to really get it all out!

    Beckie, Good idea to making "setting out" a family project.

    Meems, It would be nice to leave it all out...

    Pam/Digging, If you aren't careful, it can be a back breaker. "Lift with the knees", use carts, etc. It is nice to put it away in the winter, but better to get it out in the spring.

    Annie in Austin, So even if you use the sprayer and wands all year, they still fail? That's good to know.

    Curtis, Thanks, I've actually considered painting the bench again but will leave it purple another year.

    Garden Girl, I do the same with my patio table, stash pots underneath and throw an ugly, brown tarp over it.

    Layanee, Remind and I can post in the fall about putting everything away!

    Sue Swift, Thanks for the heads up, that is very exciting! I wonder if they'll blog about the upcoming hoe down?

    Dave, it is a good day, indeed.

    Wiseacre, it happens to the best of us!

    Annie in Austin, I'll check that post out. These are really big pieces so I might attract a really big toad.

    Alec, Unfortunately the serviceberries don't have much of a scent, so they won't "drown out" the flowering pears.

    Robin(Bumblebee), It really does take more than a day, I just got a good start.

    Kristy Guthrie, I have plenty of broken pot pieces to put in the bottom of pots, that's for sure. Every gardener ends up with too many broken pots over time.

    Leslie, I probably should get a hand truck!

    Gail, Yes, I should have hosed some stuff off but I haven't gotten the hoses out yet, and even if I did, the nozzles wouldn't work!

    Collette, Welcome and thanks for the comment.

    Jodi, Thanks, it is true, once you have a place to sit, the rest just falls in to place!

    Diana, No bunnies came with me to spring fling, I assure you! They are still living out in my yard, waiting for me to uncover my lettuce and peas!

    Thanks all for the comments!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  25. Happy Setting Up Day or should that be Week? ;-) It's a fun time of year don't you think? Now the garden is really coming to life. Your universal truths work for me too except the one about the hose end sprayer not working; mine works fine I'm happy to say! I hope yours is working properly now too.


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