By Barbara Ganley, April 8, 2011 - 2:00pm
I trust some of you are deep into spring by now. I sure hope so. We're not. Yet. This slow start to spring in Vermont tries a gardener's patience, but it 's not all bad. Really. The maple syrup makers have more time at their sweet art, and I have more time to plan the gardens, to put up the tunnels over the beds, clean up from winter's winds before the wild rumpus of late spring begins. I can get some more long-season planting done in the basement (right now I'm panting melons, squash, that great tomato Hilary told me about and flowers under the lights). That's good. And when I see fresh favas for sale at the natural foods cooperative, as I did yesterday, I can completely change the menu for dinner to accommodate them-- they take some time, shelling and then peeling. (But were they ever delicious in our pasta!) I can be playful in the kitchen a bit more than in the summer, doing things like infusing honey with my homegrown lavender.
But what I really appreciate about having a little more time is the opportunity to look closely at and admire each new garden arrival.
Today, for instance, the temperature is creeping up to 50ºF for the second day in a row and the grass is greening before my eyes. Two days=green grass. Amazing. I'm reminded that we're turning half our lawn back into field or into garden beds this year--who needs or wants or has the time for the mowing when we could grow things to eat or give it back to the wildlife?
Over in the kitchen garden where I grow the I-need-these-guys-ready-at-hand-for-my-daily-cooking plants, the sorrel is up--salads, tarts and soups soon! The garlic has shown itself, too--just about every one of the 100+ cloves I planted in October have sent up green shoots. The incomparable perennials that a week ago were covered with snow are showing life, shaking off their dormancy much as the animals are--sage, savory and mint, in particular, are already in picking form. I think of EatingWell's advice to grow our own herbs for the full vitamin impact and to save money. I think of the article on why every kitchen needs fresh mint. I can just taste the salads and pestos they will make!
Then there are the surprises--some of the radicchio I had left for the rabbits this winter was overlooked by them and is now forming new baby heads! I've written a note in my garden journal to leave several heads next fall--out of the rabbits' reach.
And the volunteers are arriving--the self-sowers are already showing themselves: chamomile, in particular, which is great, for I dry a as much as I can for the winter's tisanes.
For the most part, I do not disturb these volunteers, for they add variety to the garden and I appreciate their determination. I smile at the sunflowers planted by chickadees and the Johnny-jump-ups that will peek up from the lettuces (no matter where I plant lettice there is always a sweet purple friend in the patch--unplanted by me!). I draw the line with mint, though, much as I love it and use it daily--the unruly herb will march through and take over everything if I am not vigilant. I am already putting my gloves on and readying to yank out the runners that have wandered far away from their origins. Anyone need terrific mint for their garden?
So you see, there's plenty to do and think about and recall and discover. Tomorrow will be warm again, so spring will show more of itself here and there. And that means planting time is just around the corner!