In the spirit of spring, renewal and waking from our hibernation, this will be an entirely un-serious week here, filled with things I love and want to share with you.
Starting with...you guessed it: my garden.
I thought that I would share my humble tips to having a garden that gives you food, peace of mind and eases stress, rather than creates it. I just want to dispel any notion that you need some sort of experience, knowledge, or good sense to have a garden patch.
Unfortunately, the rumors are true: organic gardening (Or any kind for that matter, that just happens to be the kind I practice. There are varying degrees of gardening ease, from round-up to bio-dynamic and back again...) takes a lot of time, so much so that some crazy people have come up with the myth of the 20 dollar tomato to measure it (or the even bigger myth of the 64 dollar tomato). Meaning that the time, effort, equipment and care will end up costing you far more than a bag of seed and a few hours of shoveling.
However, if you don't harbor illusions of grandeur, or value your time quite so highly, a home-grown, organic (if you wish), delicious tomato is something anyone can achieve for the low-low prise of...well, best not think about it. After all, you can't put a prise on a delicious, home-grown tomato, people.
Starting a garden can be rather intimidating, simply because it's a place loaded with dreams. Dreams of fruition, of harvest, of beauty. The very human dreams of making orderly rows out of the chaos that is nature left to its own devices. Or, as the case maybe, not. As a novice gardener I don't feel like I'm in a place to offer a lot of advice, but I will offer this: dream big, plant small. The easiest way to end up with a huge, expensive garden is, to quote R. Kelly, believing you can fly. You can't.
Seriously, so often you hear people saying they're going to start their first garden and it's going to be huge and they'll have everything that grows under the sun in it. While I know that there are people (I know some, they are amazing. I worship the ground beneath their feet. There's beets in that ground.) out there who can pull off a huge garden in their first (or second, or third, or fourth) year, my advice is that you plant only the things you really want, and not the seventeen different varieties of corn that looked so cool in the seed catalogue. (Seed catalogues are like porn, people, it's not like that in real life.)
The first question you need to answer when starting your (first, second, or hundredth) garden is: What does your family like to eat? Vegetables? Good. What vegetables (Or fruits. I hear you can grow fruits. What a weird idea.) do you buy most often at the store? Can you grow those?
Don't think about what you should have, think about what you need. That way you don't end up with giant, tasteless zucchinis, because nobody in your circle likes them, or radishes that sit in the bottom of the veggie crisper all summer, because you were planning to use them for that exotic pie that would have impressed everyone if only you'd made it.
Pick like 5 of your favorites, throw in some herbs and add a couple of oddities, like that crazy corn. Just for fun.
Figure out what those plants need. Light, nutrition, pest control? Can you provide that for less than 20 bucks per tomato?
Okay good. Then go ahead and buy some seeds. (Just remember: seed catalogues=garden porn. Don't fall for it. You'll never have a satisfying real garden life.)
As for tools, in my experience, you only need a couple: A shovel, a hoe, a weeding hoe and a hori-knife. What's a hori-knife? Only the most useful garden tool ever. Now go get one.
You'll also need fertilizer. How about getting some chickens? No but seriously, good fertilizer is key. Did you know you can mix your own to suit your soil? Sounds like chemistry, but since I have no math-brain, I like to think of it as cooking. Plants need a meal and since you're their momma, you need to fix it.
Knowing what kind of soil you have is important, but frankly, if you want to start out with some lettuce and spinach and take it from there, there's plenty of time to get to know your soil next year. Most likely you'll figure it out because something you want just won't grow, no matter how much water and yummy fertilizer it gets.
As a final tip I heartily recommend getting a local gardening book. I got this one and it blew my mind. Figure out when the last and first frost are in your area, and what zone you're in. Then start your seed(ling)s as per instructions. Bam! You're now a gardener.
And next year you'll know more. What you did wrong, how much more you want to do, whether that crazy corn can survive in your zone, or just your yard. That's how you get to the perfect garden, the Platonian idea of a garden that you see in front of you when you close your eyes after looking at seed catalogues ("Porn! Porn! Porn"). Like everything in life, you must work towards it, shifting slowly through the earth. Now you can really fly, Little Grasshopper. Be free and garden.
Like people, our gardens too are all individuals, with a distinct look. I may fantasize of a wild riot of colors and plants, aesthetically pleasing, carefully organized around their companions, but right now it's just a bunch of soggy cardboard and piles of plastic pots.
It's everything I ever dreamed of. Speaking of which: dig my technicolor-dream-catcher? I got it in a little town along the Oregon coast. The key is from an estate sale and they crystal bullet by the lovely and amazing Sadie Rose.
On our way back home, we got stuck in a snowstorm in near the border in Oregon and dipped into a little farm store to warm up. The proprietress looked the amethyst bullet carefully over and asked me if I was a Spiritual Warrior. I told her I guess I'd like to think so. Aren't we all Spiritual Warriors on a quest in an increasingly crazy world?
My trusty side-kick is not much of an Animal Helper, when it comes to tilling and planting. She does do the vole patrol, which has been immensely useful. Voles have done me more wrong than slugs.
Speaking of slugs, I've had to kill so so many as I've taken out the cardboard. I once read of a Buddhist monk who said that when slugs came to his garden he just asked them to leave. I hope that in some future life I'll be able to do the same. It's not very likely though at the rate I'm killing slugs. I'll probably be reborn as a slug. The irony.
If I could only be reborn as a catten-tat, that would make me very happy indeed. They get to laze about in the sun, while others work.
Seriously though, gardening is hardly work on a sunny day like this. There is something atavistically pleasing about planting even the tiniest seeds. Like you're suddenly such a provider.
And in the spirit of full disclosure, I must add that I don't always garden in such dainty garb. Some days it just feels right to wear favorite clothes from some of your favorite sisters. The rubber boots are a stalwart though. If you can't abide them you'll be out of luck in the next month.
Beyond seedlings and garden lust, a sure-fire sign of spring is the return of migratory birds. We spotted both hummingbirds and campers today. I hope for their sake this wondrous weather continues.
My (it's not really mine, but we humans are so territorial) plum tree bloomed a little later this year, thank goodness, since last year we didn't get a single plum.
Coming in from the porch where you've had a beer with your sweetheart, to the scent of plum blossoms and cooking some of your own over-wintered greens, now that's plenty to be blissed about. This has been the best day in a long long time. I'm so happy I could share it with you.
How's your world? Please share gardening tips? Happiness?
Love, light, blessings and pale green things,