Sarawila is everybody's favorite little girl. She's cute, bright, glib, fearless, imaginative, energetic, and kind to all living things. Her mom, Adrianne, is one of my favorite people. Wila -- she prefers Wila nowadays -- delights in growing things, so her mom brings her over to my house to "help" me. How delightful for me!
Last week I got my irrigation system laid out in the back garden. Drip hoses all around. There's valves to control the flow in each bed, and one valve to turn the hose on and off as well. So far I'm just using the hose, since there is still so much unplanted space. But crowds of plants are pounding at my door!
Yes, it's time to start taking risks, as the soil is fairly warm but we are still two weeks from Last Frost. Two weeks! Hah! Four of the past five years, our last frost has been prior to April 15th. last year (we Easterners all remember don't we?) there was a deep, deep freeze in mid-April, but guess what? it didn't frost after that, either.
So now is the time to begin taking risks, planting beans and squash and putting out tomatoes and peppers, even though Last Frost is "officially" two weeks away. So what if it does frost? Some plants will die, and I will replace them. It's part of the Nature of Things. I don't try to fight it. I do have some 6 mil black plastic on hand though.
Last week I went to Greenlife for the express purpose of buying seeds and plants. They carry High Mowing seeds. First quality organic and heirloom varieties. Out in front of the store, there's always two or three tables overflowing with plants from some of our top local growers. Wildwood Farms. Full Moon Farms. Sandymush Herb Nursery. Strange name, eh?
And I needed toothpaste.
I hadn't decided what varieties of tomato I would grow this year. I only have room for two plants, and my Beloved has already requested that I grow three. One standard tomato, one Roma, one cherry. Browsing through the table laden with herbs and flowers and veggie seedlings, a word on a tiny signpost caught my eye: SWEET. Hmm. It could have said SEX and it wouldn't have caught my attention any more firmly. The rest of the sign said "This is a really _____ tomato. If you think you're old variety of cherry tomato is _____, let us convince you this one is _____er." Sun Gold Hybrid Cherry Tomato.
Would that every decision in life was so easy to make.
I bought the Sun Gold, along with a pot of cilantro and a six-pack yarrow. I had already prepared a space for my first tomato, in the upper bed in the back garden. I hadn't quite gotten around to planting it though, before I got a call from Adrianne. "Can Wila come over this afternoon and garden with you?" Oh yes! Wila can come over anytime! There's always something Wila can do in the garden. What could be more exciting than planting the season's first tomato?
What a joy to watch her carefully scooping out the hole! How happy she was to get her fingers dirty! How tenderly she placed the tomato in the ground and pushed the soil around it with the palm of her hand! "Is it planted too deep?" she asked. I told her it was impossible to plant a tomato too deep. If you cover its branches, each branch will sprout its own roots, and many new branches will burst out of the ground. She looked at me like I was kidding her, but then she saw that I was serious, and she laughed. Then we piled mulch all around. Don't let it touch the stem, I warned her. Might get too hot for baby.
I met Adrianne four years ago, but didn't begin to know her until that first summer, I heard her sing "Summertime" (the George Gershwin tune) in a talent show. I've been infatuated with her ever since. No, not quite infatuated. Almost though. Almost.
Suddenly, there are masses of plants popping up everywhere! Flowers bursting all over the yard, perennials smothered in buds, potatoes popping up without warning, onions leaping forth, an avalanche of carrot babies, a flood of alstroemerias . . . an explosion of new growth! Spring has definitely, absolutely, irrevocably sprung.
I've turned all of my beds now, and found them teeming with earthworms -- fat, slimy, intensely happy earthworms. There weren't any earthworms like those in the back when I started gardening here four years ago, just an occasional, or even less than occasional, little puny squirmy angry red worm. For me, the whole point of nourishing the soil is feeding the earthworms. Everything I put in the soil is for them to eat.
I turned the middle bed in the back today. After I'd pulled up all the horsemint and creasy greens, I found three volunteer potatoes, and carefully raked around them, then laid some mulch. A volunteer is a gift from Mother Earth, and should not be squandered. I don't buy seed potatoes, don't have to. I always get plenty of volunteers. Thanks be!
My Beloved Partner is so excited about the lilacs! At last, they are going to bloom. She's waited a long, long time for this. First, she had to get a husband who could "husband" them. Twenty years it took just for that. From there, a mere three years to see these first big fat clusters of pink flower buds on her very own lilac bush.
This year I have officially dubbed "the year of the carrots". I intend to grow mountains of carrots, myriad carrots, magnificent carrots, marvelous tasty crunchy juicy carrots. And they're off to a great start! Just look at this patch, dense with perky little carrot babies.
Twenty pounds right there. Gar-on-teed. By August, at least. I can almost smell that carrot juice!
Next week I will most definitely have to trim the boxwoods, but today I was not in the mood. Instead, I wanted to work on my sculptured plants. My large Rose of Sharon, next to the front porch, I am training to form an arch over the porch entrance. My junipers, at the end of the walk, I am training to form an arch over the walkway. Once I thought I'd have an arbor there, but Beloved didn't favor that idea. In the end, I'm glad I didn't have to uproot those junipers. They are very well established.
Eve ry year I find a prize in the junipers. This year is no exception. Nestled in a cozy, well-protected nook, surrounded by, beneath, and over a tangle of branches and needles, a perfect little robin's nest with three perfect little robin's eggs in it.
Beloved and The Boy have just gone off to the movie store. It looks like the rest of my evening is about to be occupied.
So many good things being born this spring! I'm all kinds of excited!
My business got a new commercial client, a bus tour company. I've never worked on buses before, but apparently they've not been able to find anyone to do what I can do, 'cause they were about a half step over mighty friendly when I finished working for them last week. Took me almost five hours to figure the beast out - only because another tech had worked on it right before me and screwed it up - and when I was done, I had a cordial chat with the owner, ending with (my favorite thing to hear from a client at the end of a job) "thank you here's money".
Groovy. But it gets better. Read on.
I didn't get much gardening done this weekend, I was gone from Friday afternoon to late Saturday night - to Atlanta for a meeting, driving in pouring rain most of the way there and back again. New cliche for driving in heavy rain: "Why it rained so hard, it busted my windshield wiper!" True. I had to pull over under an overpass (much easier than pulling under over and underpass, and drier) and fix it whilst the tractor trailers whizzed heavy fans of rain spray over top of my car.
Thanks be for my Saturn! With two passengers and gear, I got 36 mpg despite the rain. WOOHOO! I love my car.
I had a wonderful time in Atlanta. Our hosts on Friday night were a young couple, very devoted to one another and to the practice of their faith, deeply committed to their community, accommodating to their guests, kind and generous to their neighbors, just generally a joy to make the acquaintance of. A sure fire way to instill hope for the future is to meet young people like these!
When I got home, there was a box waiting for me from Park Seed Company. Guess what? My blueberries! YAAAY! I unpacked them immediately, set them on the dining room table (we seldom eat on it because it's always cluttered with my crap), petted them and told them how happy I was to see them.
Sunday morning I couldn't wait to get up and outside. The rain had finally come to a end, and the sun was filtering through the thinning clouds. I could feel its warmth even so shortly after sunrise. In the back garden I was delighted to find that the incessant soaking rains had coaxed dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of carrots up through the mulch. It looks as though almost every seed I put down has germinated! In the front, my cream colored tulips were blooming, and I found a patch of violets crowded with deep purple blossoms.
In the front bed, my stand of flame tulips was just beginning to open. They are so spectacular this year! A neighbor passed with her dogs. "Pretty tulips," she said. "Aren't they!" I glowed, too gushingly proud to say thanks. Sheesh.
Over at the end of the bed, I'd prepared the spot for the first blueberry bush, the beginning of my edible boundary. I scooped out a crater in the mound of freshly turned soil mixed with leaf compost. I could feel warmth in the soil, warmth already and it's only the beginning of April!
When I got home from Sunday Meeting, there was no time to garden. We had to hurry up and get ready for a much more important event - the first Sunday afternoon home game for our semi-pro baseball team, the Asheville Tourists! We got there just in time to hear the announcer say that the game had been delayed one hour so the filed could be dried out a little further. Drat! but it was a terrific game. Our guys won it 6-5. The visitors were behind by two going into the ninth, led off with a homer, then got two runners on base with two outs before our big lanky closer ended the rally with a big fat K!
Best of all, who should I run into on the way to the concession stand but my new client, the owner of the tour bus company! We greeted each other, he told me he had an emergency and could I come out in the morning. I said I already had an appointment but I felt sure I could squeeze him in before noon. Later in the game, he came up from his box to our seats in the general admission section. He told me he had season tickets, and didn't use them very much. Call him anytime, he said, and we could use his tickets.
He likes me. My new client likes me!
Finally when we got home, I got a chance to plant the first blueberry.
As soon as it was Spring, I started planting veggies. Almost to the minute! Before the sun went down on Mar 20, I was out in the garden with a little tiny bowl of carefully counted radish seeds (25) and much less carefully counted carrots (100?). Then again last week, on the 25th, another little tiny bowl, another two dozen radishes, another generous pinch of carrots, and suddenly one third of the upper bed in my back garden was planted.
I am all about carrots this year. The past two years I've been rubbing my eyes in disbelief over the size and quality of the carrots I've gotten from the wonderful loamy soil I inherited on this property. Lucky me! Years ago, I'd try to grow carrots in our native rocky clay acid soil, and you know what you get from that? Short, stumpy, split, sour, slow to mature and swift to seed.
But now I'm convinced that I can grow enough carrots to sacrifice huge quantities to make the ultimate beverage, the very elixir of the gods, the most healthful rush I've ever gulped down. Yes, I can! Last year, without really concentrating on it, I harvested twenty pounds of luscious, juicy, sweet carrots. This year, I'm trading half of my sweet potato space for concentrated carrot growth. Fifty pounds of sweet potatoes is enough. I want fifty pounds of carrots. That's enough for, hmmm, 3 gallons of carrot juice.
Worth it. If there's such a thing as thirst in Heaven, mine will be slaked with carrot juice. If there's such a thing as Heaven on earth, it has a garden in it that grows good carrots in abundance.
Carrots are very slow to germinate, but radishes aren't. Hello radishes!
Last weekend I paid a visit to a wonderful locally owned nursery, Reems Creek Valley, just up the road in Weaverville. Lots and lots of eye candy there. Ornamentals, exotics, aquatics, shrubs and trees, and the cutest violas I've seen anywhere. What I really went there for was onions, but I had to get some of those violas. And . . . AND! They had leek seedlings! My darling Lynnora has already requested leeks for this year's garden, so I was thrilled to bring her home two six-packs. They were so freshly sprouted the nursery folks had not even thinned them yet, so I got about fifty individual plants for four bucks. Oh, happy happy joy! AND . . . AND! They had so many colors of lettuce and chard, I almost bought too much.
I held back though. The voice of reason (O cursed voice!) reminded me that I had plenty of lettuce to plant from seed, and chard and kale, and collards for my Beloved, and this year I want to try beets . . . so. So, so, I bought one little six-pack. I got them all planted just before this endless drizzle began. The drizzle is making them berry berry happy.
Happy babies! See those needle thin leeks? I love them! every day when I go in my garden, I pet them and tell them I love them. Even leeks respond to affection. They do!