Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hands in the Soil

The digging and planting has begun!

Every year, as the last of the dirty grey snow recedes, the pussy willows puff out, and the springtime smell of wet earth swirls on a promising breeze, my thoughts turn to the garden. Now keep in mind that I do not live in the balmy south but in a zone 4 region in Canada where the folk wisdom tells me that the 24th of May weekend ("May Long," in the younger generation's parlance) is when to put in the garden. Anytime before that, the over-eager gardener risks a hard frost.

So what do I mean, the planting has begun? Well, this has been an unusual winter -- little snow, warm temperatures, and a very early spring. Everything is a 5-6 weeks ahead of schedule. I bought a gardening magazine the first week of February, and have pored through it, becoming ever more intoxicated with grandiose gardening plans. A couple of weeks ago, I gave in to the urge to get my hands in the dirt, and planted two kinds of tomatoes and jalapeno peppers in biodegradable fiber (not peat) pots, and set the flat on a south facing window sill in my living room. I also planted five pots of herbs -- basil, chives, marjoram, oregano, and parsley. Everything but the parsley has germinated, and now I am thinking of starting some cucumbers and eggplants.

Okay, if you've done the math, you're thinking I've made a big mistake. Normally one starts seeds indoors 5-6 weeks before the planting out date, and I just told you that the date for this region is May 24. Oops. Do I really think that I can plant tomatoes out in early to mid April, even this unusually warm spring?

Aha! I have a greenhouse. Admittedly, it is kind of rickety, has no heating system, and the south-facing plastic needs replacing soon. But it is a productive little greenhouse. Last year from June to mid October, I scarcely bought vegetables. The greenhouse veggies, along with potatoes, onions, bush beans, and herbs that I grew in a small outdoor plot, fed the family. And I grew it all organically. So the greenhouse is where I'll put the tomatoes, etc., when they are ready to set out, and probably I'll take the added precaution of using hot caps at first. (I've been saving milk jugs.)

Today the gardening fever extended beyond my indoor flats. I turned over the compost (it is not frozen! It should still be frozen in March), and screened a wheelbarrowful. Then I dug up and prepared one bed in the greenhouse, augmenting the nice sandy loam with compost and sheep manure. I planted romaine lettuce seeds, and some mixed winter salad greens (stuff like kale and mustard greens). Let's just think of it as an experiment.

For this truly is a record -- the first seeds in the ground on March 6th.


  1. Oh, lovely! You've so made me want to go dig around in the dirt. (I'm not half the gardener you are though--I'm a little wowed.) You'll have to let me know how the experiment goes . . . I bet the plantings will be just fine.

  2. Oh, I can't say that I am a terrific gardener. I do terrible things like not getting around to weeding and letting the weeds choke out the vegetables, or planting so many seeds so close together (e.g., carrots) that if they manage to grow at all, they are tiny little things. I forget to open the greenhouse door on really hot days and things fry. But in spite of all this, I do enjoy it so!