Sap’s been running a couple weeks now, flocks of robins have been spotted. I can smell early spring from here — almost — and visions of gardens dance in my head.

My little one-and-a-half acre plot is mostly wood, with the forest hugging the open yard on all sides. This results in only a small spot in the center of the yard that gets up to 6 hours of sun a day, from about 10 to 4. In addition, the yard is built up from the forest floor, which tends toward boggy — a soggy-boggy.

So the yard has a goodly share of clay to help block wicking. It’s well nigh impossible to grow vegetables. They simply can’t get their feet down into the soil and the farmer’s friend, the earthworm, can’t break it up. I have struggled for years with not a lot of success, even by topping of with compost.

Last year, I tried a straw bale garden for my vegetables and turned the regular garden plot over to flowers (the Japanese beetles appreciated that).

Setting up the straw bale “plot” took a considerable investment in materials: straw, soil, fertilizers, seeds, seedlings and such. It also consumed many “man” hours through the summer. A great advantage was that the vegetable roots didn’t have to struggle against the clay and I could easily work it, as it wasn’t ground level. The ground, for me, gets further out of reach each passing year.

But as for the yield from the small area, about 10 feet by 15 feet, was it worth the money and labor? My main motivation, as is most people’s today, was to have fresh, straight-out-of-the-garden food that wasn’t laced with chemicals.

Tomatoes did well. Other vegetables did so-so. The lone pumpkin meandered all over the place and put out blossoms profusely, but nary a pumpkin. Maybe pumpkins need a second plant for cross pollination? No one could answer that question — probably because anyone growing pumpkins usually don’t put in just one plant?

Also, I never saw a honeybee all summer. If I’d had as many honeybees as Japanese beetles, I could’ve plopped a hive box out there and collected a couple years worth of honey. Too bad the beetles don’t pollinate instead of just eating everything.

Come fall, with the straw bales showing signs of getting tired and starting to slump, I had visions of the heavy snows (needn’t have worried, as it turns out, on that account this winter) collapsing them into a soggy mound. I took some metal frames that were stacked up on the back of the house from a gazebo I had a few years ago — I knew they’d come in handy for “something” one day — and crafted them into a sturdy frame to keep the straw corralled.

So I’ve had the winter to contemplate how to proceed this year. With a wonderful new development recently, the decision not to struggle with vegetables this year has been easy to make. I now have a “doorstep farmer” with an upwards of 200-acre farm down the road apiece.

With fresh vegetables and free-range eggs about year ‘round, delivered free to my doorstep, I figure my money is just as well spent with that system. All I have to do is email in a weekly order and, on delivery day, step out on the porch and bring in the groceries.

So, come spring, I plan on putting in more flowers to just enjoy, and other than a few tomato plants and maybe a pumpkin just for it’s showiness, I’ll skip the vegetable planting this year.

Now if I could only find an easy way to discourage those damnable Japanese beetles from descending on my hollyhocks, bee balm and rosa rugosas — their favorites. They do seem to prefer the few evening primrose plants that still appear, the result of one plant I put in years ago. But as soon as they’ve devoured them, they turn on my hollyhocks, bee balm, roses and others.

I’m tired of spending an hour, both morning and afternoon, spaying each one of the buggers with water and dish soap and catching them to put in a plastic bag and throw in the garbage can. You can’t squish ‘em or leave them on the ground because their little carcasses release phenomes, which attract more beetles — many more.

The first year they found my yard, I tried the traps with the scent attachment to attract them, stun them and drop them into a bag they can’t get out of. It worked. However, for every dozen it caught, it seemed four dozen replaced them. It finally dawned on me that the traps were probably attracting more beetles to my yard than would have found my flowers otherwise. So much for that.

I won’t use any chemicals on my lawn, especially because of my dog. I may try some parasitic nematodes (heterorhabditis bacteriophora), that will destroy the beetle grubs in the lawn, but they don’t sound like fun to apply, especially since I have such a large area to treat.

Evidently, the beetle grubs aren’t that tasty because the grub-digging skunks that routinely leave my yard looking like a troop of really bad golfers went through, leaving it cratered with divots, don’t seem to bother with beetle grubs (I wonder if chickens would).

I think I’ll try a couple easier strategies this year. I’ve read somewhere that beetles do not like white geraniums. Bugs also don’t like daisies. I can understand that. They do stink. I often put a pot of daisies or a “citronella” geranium by my kitchen door to dissuade bugs from coming in with me.

Maybe I’ll try planting some geraniums and daisies directly around my favorite flowers to discourage the beetles there and then try planting primroses a good buffer distance away, to lure the little beasts from my flowers? And maybe I can rent a flock of chickens for the summer?

Wish me luck.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast. She now lives in Morrill.