Getting in the (Gardening) Zone


Every year sometime between when the sap starts to flow, or before, and when the first tree leaves have burst from their buds to encase the natural world in a layer of pollen and chartreuse leaflets I begin to feel the stirring in my blood.  It must be the same inner sense that tells the skunk cabbage to start blossoming, emitting massive amounts of heat and becoming the first food available  to bears as they come out of hibernation because it certainly isn’t the temperature or a massive amount of daylight.  The days are getting longer its true, but that isn’t what makes me reach for the box of seeds stored for the long winter in the basement.

Normally it just happens one day.  I wake up and feel it.  The it I won’t be able to describe but I hope it suffices to say that it is a knowing that it is time for the seeds to be planted.

Over the years I’ve noticed that this happens right around the new moon.  Years of trial and error in combination with trusty sources of the Farmer’s Almanac and the local garden center have guided me on what to plant when so that now it is in my blood.

I have packets of purchased seeds from the previous year that have yet to be interred in their soil womb.  They come in colorful paper packs with information on propagation and an image meant to entice while showing you what to expect.  Also in that box of seeds  are re-used pill containers my birthright; seeds passed down through seeds savers, saved from previous years, and found in the wild.  The clear containers from the pharmacy, the opaque ones from the med mari facility.  Since neither will allow for re-use they are ideal to store seeds in from year to year.  Mixed is is also a fair amount of Ball jars and plastic snack baggies.

My labeling varies.  Sometimes I include the name of the person who gave me the seeds.  Sometimes I have additional information on a scrap of paper in with the seeds about its provenance acknowledging the value of history. I like to use permanent marker on masking tape on the outside, but even that practice is not standard.  And then sometimes I don’t write anything.  I know at this point the flat seed of the pepper & tomato family and I know that I probably want about 8 of each so all they really need to be is in separate container by variety.  There are others that fall in this label-less category but that I don’t mind sowing to see what comes up.

In my garden there are always volunteers, ready to push themselves out of their slumber.  They typically perform better than the seedlings that I start.  I let them all grow together.  This past year that led to a garden more resembling a jungle.  A bit more than I bargained for when I let those beans and sunflowers come in.  I know that now.  There were other volunteers – borage, plantain, dandelion, mullein, ground cherry, cherry tomatoes, a beautiful flower that I’ve seen in bouquets, but didn’t know initially from its sparse iris-like shoots.

The garden every year seems to be a combination between what I think I want, what I intuit, and what the Earth provides.  In this collaborative experiment we call life it is merely important that I show up.

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