Gardening season begins with a spring burn pile. Usually there are plenty of branches from winter tree pruning and windfalls. As elements return to the soil, our hope in the sustainability of life is renewed.
I lit this year’s burn pile with a single match applied to shredded paper. When I went to bed, embers were smoldering. The next day warmth radiated from the ashes even though a light rain had fallen. When the fire depletes its fuel, I’ll rake the ashes evenly over the soil and turn them into it.
I’m ready to garden.
How should I write about the garden this year? What terms should I use? What phraseology is best? What goals do I have for readers, and for myself? What is the lexicon of gardening?
This year I adopted a spreadsheet to track my seed planting, so no need to record that here. There are eight trays of seedlings started in the house. Once the weather breaks, I’ll set up the greenhouse. It is becoming routine. This is a year for recycling everything I can: ground cover, row cover, stakes and fencing. I’m seeking to optimize the gardening space to grow more food we’ll use. Over the last ten years certain plots have become predictable: garlic, tomatoes, greens, and squash. Same way with crops: there are a couple dozen we favor.
There was a sense of discovery in posts I previously wrote. I have come to know most of the crops that grow here, so discovery is mostly over. While being an adherent to a process of continuous improvement, I’m at a level where experiments are each of limited scope. For example, I’m trying San Marzano tomatoes to be used for canning this year. To detail such efforts seems a bit boring both to write and to read.
In college I read British romantics: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Keats, Byron, and the Shelleys. I understand the depopulation of the British countryside and increase in industrial activity in cities. Boring! I keep their books yet I don’t see returning to them any time soon. I seek to engender no romantic fantasy about gardening.
Growing a garden is an economic engine. Whatever I can grow at home is something I don’t have to buy from others. Perhaps the biggest money-saver is vegetable broth made diverse greens. Broth is expensive to buy and cheap to make. The quality of homemade is hard to beat. Once I’ve written about my vegetable broth, though, what else is there to say?
The idea of a kitchen garden needs further exploitation this year. Integrating what I grow and preserve with what we use is an important feature of the process. How many jars of pickles will we need? Not as many as I have been canning. Are we better to make sauerkraut or should we manage excess cabbage in the refrigerator, using it fresh? Based on the amount of old jars of kraut on the shelf, we don’t need to make much of it. Do I need to plant more fruit trees? At my age, whatever I plant won’t be productive soon enough to do much good. There is plenty to be done in a kitchen garden. I’m not sure how much people want to hear about it.
Each day, I walkabout the yard to review daily progress and consider the garden plots and how they should be planted. That process lives in the present and no amount of writing can render it otherwise. I’m not sure I want to write it down. What I know is the brush has been burned. As soon as the weather breaks, I should dig up rows for early planting. Just getting it done is satisfaction enough.