Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Takes a Step Forward and a Step Backward

 This morning while walking the dogs, I ran into our neighbors, Dick & Gail. We chatted for a few minutes, as you do. We talked about the lovely weather. (It's been really nice for a number of days, temperatures in the lower- to mid-70's, at times sunny, at times breezy, with little periods of rain.) We talked about how we're not looking forward to the weather beginning Thursday, when a prolonged period of below-normal temperatures (even record cold) rain and snow is forecast. They mentioned that they'd seen I'd pulled out the irrigation tubing. They gave me the location of a place in Terre Haute that will recycle any kind of plastic. (Good to know!) I told them that I was surprised to find that the irrigation tubing didn't have soaker hoses at the end, but instead the tubing appeared to be just for ferrying water deep into the garden. They were surprised by that as well, and Gail added, well, the guy who lived here before was (pause) a unique individual. They asked what I planned on growing. And I told them. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, they nodded in excitement. Gail asked if I was going to attempt lettuce. (And here is where the fear began to seep in...) I said yes. They then said that the soil is so clayey, greens and root vegetables have a hard go of it... Dick also cautioned me against growing corn. He said the raccoons just go nuts over corn, if it's sweet corn and not the GMO stuff everyone else grows around here. He said that folks have had to resort to using electric fences to keep it safe. I told them that I couldn't find any evidence of a fence around the garden, and wonder if deer were a problem. They said there's never been a fence around the garden, and other than the coons, they'd not heard of any problems. Dick then told me that because he likes me, he'll let me in on a secret. There's a vigorous patch of wild asparagus at the end of our garden. He said I'm welcome to have some of it, but asked me to save some for him. They both suggested I just burn the weeds on a calm day, and get one of the neighbors to till the garden over for me. They both said folks'll be happy to help. Then they went on their way, walking down the road, picking up stray trash, and I went inside and began to fret.

Clay. From the little bit of digging I've done in the garden proper, I know this is soil unlike any I've ever seen. Thick, full of worms and organic matter. Soil that is obviously alive. It did appear to clump, and is fairly waterlogged, but I attributed that to all the rain and snow we've had. Not knowing what the previous tenant worked into the soil to lighten it up, I'm going to be guessing here. I spent a few hours this morning researching, and gradually talked myself off the ledge. I am planning on planting not in long mono-crop rows, but rather in small (perhaps 10 x 8) areas. Within each area, I plan to plant a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Companion planting. Intensive gardening (planting them closer together to minimize the need for weeding). Ideally with the smaller areas, it will be more manageable for me to work compost, sand, or manure into smaller plots that will need it. For the root vegetables, the herbs, the greens. I am hoping that by breaking up the very large garden plot into a number of small, mixed variety plots I'll make it not only more manageable for me to work the garden, but reduce the amount of weeding, and hopefully confound and frustrate the pests who will surely be working against me. It will also allow me to see which varieties grow better here, which seed companies I prefer, which plant combinations work over others...

So after a few hours, I had regained some of my confidence and hope that this isn't some fool's folly. My largest obstacle right now is turning the overgrown weed garden into workable soil. With renewed hope, this afternoon, I stepped outside with the dogs and we took a stroll through the yard. Kerouac was frustrated that I didn't let him into the woods, but I've picked ticks off him the past two days, and don't want to do it again. I saw a lot of buds: a bush on the edge of the woods, all the lilac bushes, the apple trees, the pear tree... not full leaves, but the swollen ends are turning the barest of whites or greens... And out by the barn, I was glad to see the first two flowers. Both crocus. Both from bulbs I planted in the fall. And voila! Spring! Even as the first wind-blown raindrops from the first of a two-day series of storms that will bring five days of cold weather, I felt the hope of spring. The frogs were croaking. The birds were singing and chirping. The dogs were rolling in the grass that is turning a very definite shade of green. Ah, yes.

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