Monday, May 01, 2006

Garden Time!

Buds are bursting, birds are singing, and green grass is pushing through the earth. It's springtime in Maine, and that means that it's time to prepare the vegetable garden in hopes for a bountiful harvest this fall. The growing season is short in this part of New England, so it is the prepared gardener who will reap the most rewards from his or her toils.

That, of course, is not me.

April carries its share of frosty mornings, so it's really too early to get much planted other than peas (which I don't grow) and onions (which I do). We had a very mild winter, at least in terms of snow, so there was the opportunity to really get a head start on preparing the soil.

I, of course, did not take advantage of this opportunity. My main excuse, other than I'm trying to do too many things, is that I hurt my back at the end of March, and it wasn't up to the rigors of preparing the garden. See, my 14x20 (or so) little piece of botanical paradise is small enough that I cannot justify using mechanical means to turn the soil. Which means that I spade over every square foot, then I rake in and hoe any soil amendments that I feel the garden needs. This effort takes its toll on my back in the best of times. April wasn't the best of times for my back.

However, I was feeling pretty good over the weekend. Unfortunately, my lack of attention at the end of last fall and the beginning of this spring have me at a bit of a disadvantage. The weeds that I left behind last year have already taken root and started to grow this year. This patch of soil is hardly ready for planting:

The weed garden.
So I set to work with the spade, turning the soil, casting aside as much of the grass and weeds as I could. The work was easier than in prior years. My soil has a high clay content, but I've been mixing in compost and peat moss for several years now, and it seems to be breaking up the big clumps of clay. The work was also eased by the dry spring we've had. In years past, snowmelt and April rains have left a big patch of mud where the garden belongs. This year, things are pretty dry. It's good for this exercise, but a concern for the growing season.

Surprisingly, my back felt fine while spading the earth. For the first 15 minutes or so, anyway. Then it started to balk a little bit. Then a little bit more. As I noted above, this was going to cause an aching back even if I didn't already have an aching back. Still, I carried on for about two hours, and finally the whole garden was turned over. No more grass and weeds, just pure brown earth:

Pure brown soil. Note the challenging afternoon shadows covering the plot.

I have yet to work the amendments in. I will continue to work in the compost and the peat moss, as they seem to be having positive effects. This means next weekend (if the weather is OK), when my back is feeling better, I will make it hurt again. But it's worthwhile to get the uncomparable flavor of fresh picked vegetables, made all the tastier from that satisfaction of recognizing that one's own hard work made them grow.


Blogger Jim said...

I think it becomes increasingly important that we begin growing some of our own food. Mary and I started with a small garden, not much bigger than yours, four years ago.

There's something holistic and healing about tending the soil and cultivating some fresh vegetables.

We were out last weekend, turning our soil by hand and getting the plot ready for another summer growing season.

Likewise, the local farmers, bringing their goods to the town square for purchase is another good thing.

Not to sound to alarmist, but we need to change the way we live, as we contemplate a post carbon mindset, or at the very least, consider the possibility that oil might not last forever.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Whether or not you sound like an alarmist, Jim, is a matter of perspective. I don’t believe that you are being an alarmist, because we have a big problem on our hands. Most of the people who have had their heads in the sand with regard to global warming are now convinced that it’s real. I think peak oil will come into similar acceptance within a few years.

As I flew across the country and back this week, I was able to gaze out the window and have a good look at how much a slave that this country is to the automobile. Like the Dinosaur Blood guy, I was really struck by how much of the landscape is dedicated to the convenience of vehicles – not just roads, but acres and acres of paved parking lots surrounding malls, factories and schools. I had the same thought – “If aliens were to arrive from space, they would conclude that the car is the dominant species on this planet.”

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the US (and the rest of the “developed” world) is going to have to face facts. It’s not going to be pretty.

5:14 PM  

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