Sunday, March 10, 2013

the spring garden

A homegrown Bent Barrow carrot. (He was delicious.)
I've tried following the seed catalogues' advice about spring gardening, faithfully sowing my little vegetables in trays indoors each February. This hasn't gone well. Through some combination of lumpy homemade seedling mix (I never do screen it, despite advice, and I think that's come back to bite me) and bad weather luck (the June Monsoon is real!), I've often lost most of my more delicate seedlings by early summer. Despite the success I've had transplanting vegetables with my farmer friends John (of Whidbey) and Billy (of Wickersham), both of whom have taught me much, it turns out that my seedlings aren't as strong. This year, I think I will start some trays indoors but I'll do it by the book—I'll follow a recipe, buy the right organic amendments, and screen my potting mix.

I've tried following the much more regionally-specific advice issued in that bible of Northwest vegetable gardeners, the Seattle Tilth's Maritime Northwest Gardening Guide, and that's generally gone better. I've tried carefully plotting my sowing schedule, making beautiful color-coded spreadsheets during the last days of January to see me through September and beyond. I've tried journaling my garden successes and failures. All of it tends to come to naught by June or July, when my interest in the garden is limited to eating its bounty and doing the bare minimum to keep the weeds at bay. It's not my only, or my favorite, obligation, and as much as I am an expert at loving gardens, I am still learning to love gardening.

This year, I'm trying something new. I'm gardening when the whim strikes me, in little bursts of brief, satisfying effort. I'm looking at the garden as a quilt, a patchwork of small opportunities to improve small areas. I'm facing our 1600 square feet of weedy spring soil one square yard at a time, and I'm actually enjoying it.

Lest you misunderstand, 75% of the garden bounty we usually enjoy is the result of my husband's labor, and I don't mean to suggest that I've done any of it alone. I've only agonized, alone, about how to do it better. I'm great at gardening on paper, while he's great at gardening in earth. This spring, I feel ready to take up more of the load.

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