Archive for April 2013

in its own time

April 29, 2013

These last weeks, I’ve been daydreaming what I’d find when I could finally quit the city and revisit my garden. Usually I’m able to make a few quick trips as the long dormancy ends and spring’s slow unfurling begins, but not this year. From some 200 miles away, I imagined the rhubarb and asparagus (asparagi?) poking their tender heads through the soil and slowly turning woody in my absence. I remembered the thousand coriander seeds dropped during last fall’s sloppy harvest, undoubtedly sprouted by now. I wondered if the strawberries had survived their first winter. I hoped the apple blossoms would not get nipped by this year’s late, late frosts. I accepted the inevitable march of weeds across the expanses I cleared last fall.

Finally, on Thursday, I made my move, only to discover that my mind had raced ahead of reality, as usual. Spring is only just coming to Otsego County. I had to brush some soil aside to find the pink, furled rhubarb heads. There’s no sign yet of the asparagus, or even the semi-invasive coriander. Since the apple trees are barely budding, there have been no blossoms to nip. Even the weeds are slightly disappointing.

I’d wanted to get the first seeds into the ground as quickly as possible, so the lack of activity seems like a good thing. But once I get a little closer to the dirt, I find that there are lots of things that need attention first. The weeds may be small, but they are already more plentiful than I’d realized. As usual, the earth has heaved up a new crop of rocks, which must be cleared. The creeping mat of daisies is edging into peony territory. And there are pleasant surprises that call for a grateful pause: The wild arugula is back, as is the lovage, sorrel, horseradish. A few “biodegradable” stakes, undegraded so far, can be retrieved and reused. Overwintered parsnips can be dug for dinner.

There’s also cleanup indoors. Most of the remaining storage onions have fed upon themselves to the point of collapse by now; I salvage three and compost the rest. Potatoes, too, have begun reaching their weird tentacles forth as they plan for the next generation; while they’re still edible, many of them will need to go back into the garden in a couple of weeks. A couple of winter squash have succumbed to mold, but 12 are pristine—I’m going to have to work hard to get through those before the garden starts really producing again. (Gnocchi, perhaps? And definitely fewer butternut vines in this year’s garden.) And there’s all the food in jars, but I seem to be making pretty good progress there. The many pickles will get me through the days of beans and rice, and sweet preserves make a nice accompaniment to morning oatmeal.

Yesterday evening, after several days of labor, I was finally ready to begin putting a few things in the ground: bunching onions, two kinds of greens, peas, radishes, beets, turnips. Overnight, a soft rain tamped them down into their clean new beds and created just enough muck to give me the day off. My mind continues to run ahead, but the garden will happen in its own time—as it always does.