Some things in the garden have been easy and take no effort. Peonies, poppies and primrose. Continue reading
Early March is a part of my zone 6A garden season that involves venturing into the backyard for the first time since the autumn clean up. I am caught half-way between the hope that something green has poked its way up through the duff, and the hope that young plants won’t be fooled by the unseasonable warmth. “Wait a little longer” I whisper to the swelling buds on the Red Bud tree. The air does not smell of earthworms: spring is not yet here.
I have slumbered, a fertile seed dropped in the shade, dropped on hard clay, grown over by a blanket of weeds against which I could not compete. So I waited. The way seeds do. For conditions to change.
Weed roots punched holes in the clay. Water trickled through. Rank overgrowth rotted, leaving compost behind, to be turned by the writhing of earthworms. New seeds sprouted, and capillaries of roots gripped the precious loam slowly developing under the hand of Nature’s relentless processes.
I waited. And conditions changed.
“Honey-baby-dear-heart-of-my-life?” I begin to wheedle, oh… around early December, I’d say. “Do you know what I would love for Christmas?”
My husband casts me a look slightly curious and justifiably terrified.
For Christmas my son (now sixteen) and my husband (now a ‘certain age’) cleared out the cluttered horror that is our garage to make space for my light box, where I used to start my plants from seed. I have not started plants indoors from seed for nearly a decade, following a difficult pregnancy and the birth of my daughter.
I have missed starting my plants from seeds. I loathe the expense of purchasing easy-to-grow plants from nurseries at 100%+ mark-up. I have missed sitting on the old upturned paint-bucket in the cold silence of a February evening, fussing like a mother hen over plants not available in nurseries, over plants that are absurdly expensive in nurseries, over plants that transplant poorly from nursery stock. Natural gossypium (colored cotton), papavar, gaillardia, digitalis, lupine, and asclepius, again asclepius, and yet more asclepius. Not to mention the deep pleasure I take in dreaming over tomato and pepper seedlings, the brussels sprouts, the adorable rounded leaves of the squashes and melons.
Each and every cell in each and every tray begs its own careful observation. The right light, the right moisture, thinning and pruning, and a hairy eyeball always on the look-out for damping-off disease. Then the delicate application of the mildest of fertilizers, the mildest of foliar feeds. And the sacred breath: talking to the plants, admonishing them, encouraging them, blowing upon each one gently to simulate the outdoor breeze, and wishing them — with all your heart — well.
I want to tell you all about my lovely June garden… I want to post beautifully composed photos of the peas going gangbusters, of the fresh strawberries we pick to sweeten our morning cereal, the lovely green beans in full flower, and the prairie forbes just opening their petals to the sky.
But tell the truth and shame the Devil, my Grandma Juanita used to say. I’m a sho’ nuff knotty-headed organic gardener and I’ve got to tell it like it is. Something is going on in my garden this year, something that puts the “ugh” in an ugly garden. Brace yourselves.
In the garden, as in life, endings and beginnings are easily confused, one for the other.
This year’s spring garden: unexpected joys, and things that make me go hmmm…
I thought it was spam, and then a scam… A Nigerian prince offering riches beyond my wildest dreams. For a price. The e-mail read: “Dear shopper: You have received this notification from Prairie Moon Nursery because you received a gift certificate from Admirer for $400.00. Message: ‘A blog admirer is sending you a gift certificate to thank you!’”