Monday, March 30, 2009


This year I've got it bad: a virulent spring fever for planting seeds and gardening in general. I spent most of the weekend in the yard. It was time to use up seeds I'd stashed in the fridge, even those oddball exotic seeds from China (they have a climate much like ours here on the Gulf coast). Also, I bought a few more packets of seeds: two kinds of squash, zinnias, marigolds and green beans.

From the picked-over looks of the seed displays at Lowe's, plenty of other people had the same idea. After all, our First Lady Michelle Obama recently began a kitchen garden on the White House lawn. And on NPR's Splendid Table ("the show about life's appetites") this weekend (my favorite podcast subscription), I heard Lynne Rossetto Kasper commenting on growing lettuce or herbs as a way of economizing. I've always loved growing edibles. The yard is now crammed with small raised beds and containers of herbs and vegetables. The tomato plants I put in four weeks ago are blooming nicely, but I meant to get in a few more varieties and now the space is gone, used for peppers, basil and squash. I have not gone so far as to do away with the lawn entirely; psychologically I need that open green expanse. But I do feel frustrated by a lack of space for more edibles. Corn, for instance! That would be fun, but requires serious acreage.

As I planted a few oriental "yard long" bean seeds along the chain fence between us and a neighbor, an area I'd never tried using before (there may not be enough sun), I had a brainstorm. Our neighbor does not use his yard much except to give his dogs a place to run. He's got plenty of sunny open land, however weedy. Perhaps he would let me sharecrop! And then I had to laugh at myself, getting so carried away with spring fever. Probably the better answer would be to get involved with Urban Harvest. They have some large, wonderful garden plots around town.

Every spring, my gardening hopes get up and do their eternal dance. Then when it gets really, really hot at the start of the very long summer season here, I look back in consternation at my spring delusions. Especially when there isn't enough rain, you end up with a large water bill and some very expensive homegrown vegetables. But I wouldn't trade this spring frenzy for anything. If you've got any kind of green thumb, it's just too much fun not to try making new things grow. I often feel like I have a bunch of science experiments going on, especially growing things from seed. Half the time nothing much comes of it, but it's still fun.

This year may be different; for one thing, I'll have more time. I am retiring from the library in May. One of the the things I love about gardening is how it takes me off the clock. I get so involved, the hours just melt away. There is always something to do, and the necessary actions feel intuitive. Not a lot of brain work is necessary. And oh, how the the body, spirit and soul engage! A friend at church who has been "retired" for two years uses a different word than "retirement". She recommends "re-engagement" instead, which sounds great to me. One of the things I will be amping up my engagement with is gardening. Maybe I'll finally get the hang of this gardening-in-the-Gulf-Coast thing!

Spring comes: the flowers learn their colored shapes.
- Maria Konopnicka (1842 - 1910), Polish poet

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