Sunday, March 28, 2021

Early Garden

In between rain storms and cold snaps this week, I've managed to spend some time outdoors working on our trees and garden. It's really my wife that has the green thumb when it comes to planting, but I can generally be trusted to pull weeds, spread mulch, and show a little love to our first crop of volunteers.

Although it's only March, there's a surprising amount of growth. For instance, we already have four lettuce plants. True, two of them decided to grow in the mulched paths instead of the beds, but that's just a sign that they're hearty. When they get a bit bigger, and can tolerate the disruption, we'll transplant them to a more nutritious soil.

The kale is also going gangbusters. This may be the first year we've had our curly kale survive the winter, and now that the worst of the cold seems to be over they're sprouting fresh green all up and down their three-foot stalks. If it continues like this we'll be up to our eyes in the stuff by the end of April, which is fine by me. Especially now that I've got a good recipe for kale-and-potato soup.

What else? There's chamomile that has sprouted, and lots of fresh dill. (The dill is not especially surprising -- it's so popular with monarch caterpillars that we let it go to seed every year, and as a result it tends to get everywhere.) The chives are looking very healthy, and we've already picked and chopped some of those. A couple weeks ago I noticed a cilantro plant had popped up, and now there are two of them, jockeying for space among the first dandelions.

Our yellow daffodils are also in full bloom, and we're not the only ones who appreciate that. Yesterday I watched a bumble bee get all loopy on pollen as it crawled halfway inside one of the flowers. Soon we'll have more of both the flowers and bees.

As for the weeding, I've kept up the best that I can, but there's always more to be done. Top priority this year was the ground around our two peach trees, which had become a dense knot of violet roots. I spent a long time digging them up this week, first one root at a time and then finally by skimming off a couple inches of dirt just to try and get everything. Even after all that, when I went to lay down newspaper and garden fabric I kept finding violet roots the size of my thumb. I pulled what I could, but their message was clear: This isn't over.

My dad used to say that if dandelions were difficult to grow they'd be in everyone's gardens. The same could be said about these violets. They have lovely, colorful flowers that all bloom at once, and the effect can be very nice. The only problem is, much like dandelions, if you give them an inch they'll take over. By the time I finally dealt with them they'd crowded out everything but the thistle, and that isn't much of a bargain. I don't want to spend the summer wading through violets and thistle every time I go to check on the trees.

Every year, these things seem to start sooner. Already it feels like the garden has sprung fully alive, but the last frost date isn't until April 25. I try to keep that in mind. There's still nearly a month for a freeze to set in and kill off those early-rising volunteers. In the meantime, however, I think it's best to encourage them.

People Watching

On Wednesday, I went out to meet up with a friend and do some writing. We met at the Athenaeum, a historic building in Indianapolis designed...