Wednesday, April 24, 2013

First Forsythia

First Forsythia by Taproot Garden
First Forsythia, a photo by Taproot Garden on Flickr.

There is a “coming-ness” to the garden these reticent spring days. Though the welcomed cycle of April rains has delayed the commencement of ground work, the lingering night frosts and chilly days have not deterred the daffodils and the sudden lemon-burst of yellow from the tiny forsythia we planted last year which stubbornly, unexpectedly bested the drought. It's dogged will to root and now blossom triggers an itching optimism for last year’s other plantings.

Indeed, the adolescent lilacs are sprinkled with bulging buds, and the grove of fruit trees reminds me of a Lamaze class full of swollen bellies. Tulips in the front beds are teasing, and poppy foliage anticipates color not too far distant. So far, the three service berry trees I planted last week during an intermission of sunlight are sustaining their buds and leaves, and the grass is Ireland-green.

In the greenhouse are signs of promise. Casualties notwithstanding -- sprouts that emerged and, for reasons I haven't discerned, withered -- there area shelves of green leaves, and in recent days 65 tomato and tomatillo seedlings moved into larger containers to encourage longer, stronger root systems. There is anticipatory movement itching the soil, as if something were about to erupt. Which of course it is.

But not quite yet.

It is, in the waking of spring, that spellbound reverie of semi-consciousness just beyond sleep but before the clarity and cognition of morning. Thoughts form but remain just out of reach; genius, like a butterfly, near but elusive.

It won't be long before it is all unleashed -- the colors, but also the frenzy of plowing and planting and feeding and weeding, watering and worrying and watching and waiting and, if the vegetable gods deign to smile this direction, plucking and finally tasting.

There is a “coming-ness” still to it all -- even to the salivation at the thought of that first tomato. Not yet, but not too far away.

And then we’ll see.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Entomophily by Taproot Garden
Entomophily, a photo by Taproot Garden on Flickr.

So the neighborhood is going condo. So to speak. The development has its roots in a phone over a year ago from a local beekeeper who was interested in keeping hives on our property. The heat and drought delayed progress -- apparently even bee libido was parched -- but this spring brought renewed interest. Another few phone calls, installation of rough platforms near the back tree line, and before I was even aware of the move, four hives took up residence behind some trees a hundred yards or so north of the garden.

It remains to be seen, of course, what benefit these new neighbors will contribute. At the very least we should be honey-richer. Though I'll not be involved in the actual bee keeping, honey is the rental currency. That, of course, and the entomophily -- the pollination of flowering plants by insects. At the very least the fruit trees should enjoy the attention. With any luck, a few other things in the garden will benefit as well.

In the meantime we are simply enjoying our minor participation in the diversification of the neighborhood. And who knows, we may even learn something. After all, there is something intriguing about the principle of taking bits and pieces of promise from here and there -- the raw materials of creative possibility -- and spreading them around, eventually giving rise to wonders both fruitful...

...and sweet. Maybe all of us could take a page from this play book and instead of resenting the diversity, relish in it instead, and make of ourselves something sweeter still.

Why should bees have all the fun?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Growth Kale

New Growth Kale by Taproot Garden
New Growth Kale, a photo by Taproot Garden on Flickr.
It's too early to know about May's flowers, but April showers are certainly doing their part. The driveway is once again a muddy river, but the rain barrels are full as the planting season nears -- no trivial matter after last year's drought.  After a weekend of short-sleeve days the past few have been chillier and wet, with new possibilities of freezing.  Winter, in other words, has not completely let go, but the grass, we were commenting just this morning, has never seemed greener; the earth, itself, seemingly demanding spring. Muddy they may be, but these are days of new beginnings.

Beyond the greening lawn, beyond the emergent bulbs in the flower beds, beyond even the willowy sprouts peeking up in the greenhouse, the kale quietly asserts its own confirmation. Seeded in horizontal pots on the first of November, and lodged on greenhouse shelves along with collards and scallions, arugula and romaine, the kale has been small but intrepid through the winter months.  Row covering fabric provided the necessary extra level of protection, sparing me the need of a heater.  The more tender lettuces have blessed us with fresh salads despite the single-digits and the blankets of snow, and we have selectively clipped the sturdier braising greens on occasion, but this latter crop has required more patience. We executed a more aggressive harvest for dinner on Easter evening, and though delightful and tasty I rather assumed that would be something of a last supper for the kale.

Watering, then, this morning and satisfying the trip's requisite survey and inventory, I could only smile at the sight of fresh growth. Jagged and bright green new leaves pushing aside the larger pale ones, the kale has gathered its energies for a second run.

Why would I have thought it finished? It is, after all, Eastertide -- the very season of new beginnings in life.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nearing the Garden Stage

There is that moment in an infant’s development when he has managed to crawl, managed to pull himself erect, and even dared to momentarily let go of the table leg, but stands teetering -- caught between the urge to walk and the security of holding on.  As spring lurches, by fits and starts, into reliable presence I feel myself similarly teetering between the greenhouse and the garden.  Anxious to begin in earnest with all the fruit and physicality the soil represents, I recede into the relative security of the sunny enclosure with its neatly lighted rows of sprouting seed cells and the concise sprinkles of the watering can.  Not much can happen as long as the growth is confined there -- but that’s just it.  Once transplanted to the garden, all kinds of things can happen; only a few of which are good.  There are, in other words, opportunity costs to possibility.

Since late February I have been tending seeds -- sorting the packages by germination requirements, sowing on schedule according to need, watering, warming, wooing and coaxing.  It is fiercely loving parenting, this pre-gardening business.  Just this week the last of the seeds went into their cups, and the first of the tomatoes moved up to bigger digs.  

Wispy cumin.  
Recalcitrant eggplant.  
Shy peppers
Exuberant chard.
Puppy-eyed romanesco.
Reticent lavender.

Some have crept -- patiently stretching yoga-like into vertical stem.  Others erupted after little more than a kiss of the compost -- animated by a raw and native joie de vivre.  Some teased -- keeping to themselves in subterranean mischief -- until I had abandoned their prospects, condescending only then to emerge.  Still others are, I am reconciled, stillborn.  By now, however, every time the pups and I open the door and step inside that warm and moist horticultural cocoon the garden’s foreshadowing is plain.  And soon the reality of it -- the perspirational, aspirational, and terrifyingly vulnerable work of it -- will begin.  

Which is what I ache for.  
And dread.
All at the same time.

Teetering in the liminal space between safety and soaring. 
Like so much of life.